A Personal History of Music, Day 24: “Calling All Angels,” by Jane Siberry
Posted on June 24, 2022 Posted by John Scalzi 7 Comments
Sometimes you connect with a musician for only one song or one album, but that connection, when it’s made, is a strong one. I feel that way about Jane Siberry; most of her oeuvre is not for me for various reasons, but then there’s When I Was a Boy, an album-length mediation on life and what surrounds it, before and after. It turns out that this was extremely my thing, or at the very least, Jane Siberry’s take on it was my thing, none more so than the song “Calling All Angels.”
I actually connected with “Calling All Angels” before the album it is on, because it was part of the soundtrack album for Until the End of the World, a science fiction film directed by Wim Wenders. The movie itself is a bit of a mess, but the soundtrack is magnificent; Wenders went to a bunch of musicians during the production of the film (it came out in 1991) and asked them to imagine where music would be in 1999. Uniformly the answer from these musicians was that would be in a dark and moody place (thus the later irony that, when 1999 actually hit, it was the realm of boy bands, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera). In this collection of dark moodiness, “Calling All Angels” was a contrast and counterpoint: It was moody, but that moodiness was ultimately hopeful. The song is better integrated in When I Was a Boy; that album was all of a piece.
I think it’s interesting when you have such a small window with an artist. Jane Siberry’s other work is excellent, it’s just not something I connect with or come back to in the same way that I came back to When I Was a Boy. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; it is what it is. I’m glad we had that particular moment, and I treasure it.
My all time favorite song. This version is wonderful, but there are two others I’m especially fond of — the Wailin’ Jennys (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6Y6p-BRIaU&ab_channel=politicalsailor), and the scene in Six Feet Under when a group of women sing it as an impromptu eulogy around their friend’s corpse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y93Uk-Z8RRc
Just chiming in to say that that entire soundtrack is magic, from REM’s “Fretless” to Talking Heads’ “Sax and Violins” to Depeche Mode’s “Death’s Door.” That music is the glue of the world, Mark.
This is definitely the best song in the soundtrack album (followed closely by U2’s title track). I got the album before seeing the movie and the excellent music in that album gave me high expectations for the film. Unrealistic expectations, as it turns out. Although I wouldn’t personally call the movie a hot mess, I would say it was ambitious and yet it failed to meet those ambitions.
For a moment there, I thought you’d taken a turn to the doo wop, ’til I realised I’d misremembered the title.
Oh, I remember hearing this!
I came here to boost the Until the End of the World soundtrack, but Tanis beat me to it so I’ll just second everything she said.
Chacun son gout, but “Everything Reminds me of my Dog” ranks right up there.