You know that annoying desert island question you’re never prepared to answer, the one that always makes you look like an idiot because you can’t name one album you would take with you in a Castaway scenario? It doesn’t matter that you can’t answer not because you fail to think of a single album worthy of the question, but because the answer changes depending on the given day – you still look like a chump. Nick Drake’s 1972 release Pink Moon is one of those listen-for-eternity albums.
There’s something special about the unassuming beauty of the album. Recorded when he was 23, over two late-night studio sessions with only sound engineer John Wood present, the album lasts only 28 minutes that feel like a lifetime of imparted wisdom. His lyrics suggest doomed insight beyond his years, and he wanted this album to be him more than anything; to strip down the full string sound from his previous releases and just let his guitar speak for itself.
By the time he recorded Pink Moon, his last completed album, he’d stopped doing interviews or even live performances—they terrified him. There’s something so pure about an artist who is so afraid of the spotlight—someone who feels it so necessary to produce the art, but wants so little to do with the fame that comes dragged along, like he couldn’t help but let these songs pour out of him, that it was his duty as a human being to let them out into the world. Not that Nick was ever successful in his short life—a fact that likely contributed to his premature death. What Drake left behind though, were three finished albums so timeless it’s scary. I swear the piano in that song is from 2009. Is this Jose Gonzalez? No it’s not. And no, it’s not.
I could go on and on about Pink Moon—the way his words seem to literally dissolve into the guitar strings on “Road,” that it surprises you every time. The way “From the Morning” makes you feel, without fail, like you’re saying bye to an old friend. How the one-two punch of “Which Will” and “Horn” is the best pacing of any album, ever. The fact that “Pink Moon” is the first song on the album —first song! The way that it perfectly sets the mood to your heady nighttime drive through Anywhere, Earth. Or the way that it almost makes me wish I lived a more oppressed life and had grown up in the 1960s, if only to hear this album in person, to be sure it was recorded by a real human being; that it’s not a gift as old as Adam and Eve, left here personally by God. I’ll stop myself with this last one—the way his voice sounds so close, so close to your soul, that sometimes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, he could be playing from the room next door.
Heath Ledger once wanted to make a biopic about Drake, but with so little known about so much of his life, Ledger decided he’d have to take too many liberties in the storytelling, a predicament he felt was too great a risk to the singer’s legend. It’s startling how similar their fates, both such young artists-turned-corpses due not to an aversion to life, but a disappointment that came from wanting more out of it. There’s a funny story that depicts just how aloof and compartmentalized Drake’s life really was: the majority of his friends reportedly met each other for the first time at his funeral. What the hell kind of poetic life do you lead for that to be possible? It tells me more about Nick Drake the person than any full-length biography ever could.
What I’m asking is that you treat yourself this weekend—go into your room, close the door, clear your head; put on your headphones or turn up those speakers. Fuck, take off your socks if you want, doesn’t matter—just listen to this album, really listen to it, and let it talk to you. Behind that door, you can pretend you’re anybody from any time—it won’t matter, you’ll still feel the same things. And that—well, that’s music.