Back deck chillin’ with Michael Kiwanuka

Certain albums, artists, and songs convey a magical mood that I like to call “Back Deck Chill”. Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush is a classic Back Deck Chill album. Jack Johnson is an artist who almost always fits in the BDC genre. Last year, Wilco recorded a BDC anthem with the track “One Sunday Morning”.

The obvious application fits; this is music to listen to while chillin’ on the back deck.  But it’s more than that.  This isn’t necessarily party music, though you could be back deck chillin’ with friends.  And you don’t have to have a back deck to back deck chill.  A patio works fine.  Or a front porch.  Or a cafe table somewhere.  It could happen at the beach, in the mountains, on a hammock, or even a comfy chair with a good set of headphones (though I believe it works best when a good view of the outdoors is included).  It could happen with a cold beer in your hand in the dead of winter, or a hot cup of coffee on a mild Summer morning.

You see, Back Deck Chill is more about atmosphere than just setting.  But the music is critical to the vibe.  Its got to be simple, soulful, often folksy, with just the right amount of introspective melancholy.

British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka has recorded 2012’s definitive Back Deck Chill album, and one of the year’s best, period.

Home Again is certainly folksy, but delivers mostly with its bluesy, modern soul sound.  The opening track, “Tell Me A Tale”, intros like an old Van Morrison song.  Then the blues horns kick in, sounding like they were borrowed from an early 70’s detective drama, accented all the while by the playful fluttering of a dancing flute.

From there, the songs gently sway from track to track, lulling with slow, soulful hooks and simple, introspective lyrics that create the ideal soundtrack for some back deck chill.  These songs are almost to easy to love!

By the time I reached track four, “Rest”, Kiwanuka’s opening lyric, “Close your eyes…” lead me to do just that.  It was practically hypnosis.

“Bones” sounds like it was written for Ray Charles.  I actually wondered if it was a cover of an old Charles song that I just didn’t remember (it’s not).

Though it’s hard to pick a best song in this collection, the one that created the most strangely intense memory for me is “Always Waiting”.  It’s unquestionably beautiful, and a little bittersweet (which also fits the Back Deck Chill mold).  I was sitting outside of a Starbucks yesterday, back deck chillin’ with this album.  I was deep in the mood, eyes closed, probably even swaying a little to the groove.  I’m sure it was awkward for the other patrons.  “Always Waiting” is so ridiculously pretty, especially in the vocal hook when Kiwanuka stretches the word “sooooooooooo”.  In that moment, I became keenly aware of the mysterious and wonderful beauty in even the dumbest things around me.  I was deeply moved by the way the McDonald’s flag was waving in the breeze across the parking lot.  In the moment, there was no connection to the restaurant.  Just an appreciation of the way the deep red, mixed with a small amount golden-yellow from the arches, rolled in gentle waves through the breeze.  It felt like I stared at that flag for a few minutes, though I know it was probably only ten to fifteen seconds (because that’s as long as I could go before being slammed by the realization that I was staring with heavenly awe at a McDonald’s flag).  And while I know it’s weird, I’m greatful for that experience!

That’s what the back deck chill can do to you.  It takes you from where you are to a place almost otherworldly.  It’s simple and beautiful and thoughtful.  It can be born from sadness, but it is not a sad experience.  It’s a positive thing.  It may not be immediately transformative, but it can get you thinking about transformation.  It’s spiritual.

Your Back Deck Chill soundtrack may sound a little different from mine, but I highly recommend Home Again by Michael Kiwanuka as a good starting point.  I’ll have to bounce back another time with a good Back Deck Chill playlist.  In the meantime, let me know what you BDC with.

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~ by themattmorrisshow on May 30, 2012.

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