In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, since it’s “Love Week” here at The A.V. Club, we’re picking our favorite songs we’ve put on mixtapes.
Dirty Projectors, “Stillness Is The Move” (2009)
There’s a certain vulnerability to making a mixtape that can be pretty terrifying to a perpetually anxious person. It’s essentially saying, “Here’s my best attempt at looking like I have good taste, please don’t laugh.” I’ve spent hours mulling over my music library trying to put my best foot (ear?) forward, but a song I don’t have to put much thought into is Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca single, “Stillness Is The Move.” It’s the perfect earworm for a mid-mix stunner: Distinctly weird and catchy as all hell.
Just at the mention of the song’s title, that signature guitar loop begins running through my head. It was—and still is—a bit jarring at first, piercing right through the sauntering backbeat and forcibly nestling into your brain. Amber Coffman’s voice chimes in, not to subdue, but to complement the guitar. The cooing vocals never harmonize with David Longstreth’s angular riff; they both push forward, weaving in and out of one another in a beautifully imperfect manner. At the conclusion of the second chorus, the guitar takes an extended breather and that’s when, lyrically, the track brings out the big guns: “Where did time begin / Where does space end / Where do you and I, where do you and I begin?” It’s no coincidence that Dirty Projectors uses a quieter moment to ask these head-spinning questions of existence. While the rest of the song feels as if it’s constantly pressing forward to an “even higher mountain,” this is the moment of stepping back, taking stock, and pondering the point of it all.
Longstreth and Coffman have said that the song was inspired by a viewing of Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire, which (among other things) tells the story of an angel who gives up his immortality to experience human love. It’s an absurdly heavy subject to tackle, but “Stillness Is The Move” distills the film’s themes into a realization that connecting to another human is, in essence, what actually makes us human and, therefore, finite. That’s a weirdly romantic notion, as well as a jump in logic I’ve found my overly analytical brain making time and time again. And that’s why I get so worked up about making a mixtape in the first place. It’s a small gesture, but a connection nonetheless, and one that can be utterly nerve-wracking.