Courtesy of the artist
The wistful tone of Willie Nile's "Hear You Breathe" nicely complements the music's plush, soaring exultance.
The wistful tone of Willie Nile's "Hear You Breathe" nicely complements the music's plush, soaring exultance. Courtesy of the artist
Song: "Hear You Breathe"
Artist: Willie Nile
CD: The Innocent Ones
Briefly tagged as a "Next Dylan," Willie Nile first emerged in 1980, as he paired a singer-songwriter's lyrical sensibility with a heartland rocker's swagger, like a corn-fed Graham Parker. Thanks to label troubles and apparent indolence, Nile's output was limited to four albums — all well-regarded — in the 25 years leading up to 2006's powerful Streets of New York. He's still got a scrappy, scruffy tenor, and he knows how to a bait a hook.
Nile's ragged, earnest charm shines in "Hear You Breathe," and balances out the song's lush, Sgt. Pepper's-style pop sheen. Nile's multi-tracked vocals are perhaps the most impressive element of this beautifully produced track: They bloom into choirs, wander off in the background, chase stray lyrical threads and join in a round. Together, they pack a powerful symphonic punch, but their beauty is mussed up nicely with noisy lead guitar — particularly during the first verse, when Nile sounds as if he's playing a rusty screen door.
Nile infuses the song with bittersweet yearning: The hope in the chorus — "to hear you breathe" — is awash in nostalgia, not possibility. His lover has "gone off to some other world where gates are made of pearls," leaving him wishing he could see her again. That wistful tone is nicely matched by the plush, soaring exultance of the music, but also grounded by Nile's distinctive, vaguely punk-fueled guitar work.