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A Downcast 'Discussion,' with Stumbling Drums

Nina Nastasia draws on turbulent, unsettled emotions.
Nina Nastasia draws on turbulent, unsettled emotions.

The track may be called "Our Discussion (of the Matter)," but the narrator of Nina Nastasia and Jim White's gorgeously turbulent song is mostly having a conversation with herself. She and her lover seem to be having a lovely time; "your hands hold on the railing as we glide across the bay" brings to mind a romantic boat ride, perhaps. But the singer is torn: "I might leave tomorrow to feel the joy of a new start," Nastasia sings, later adding, "I don't believe in the power of love / I don't believe in the wisdom of stone."

Nastasia, who's been making DIY singer-songwriter records for more than a decade, has one of those sadly downcast voices that's perfect for such sentiments; even her gentle guitar picking seems forlorn. But "Our Discussion" is far from standard-issue coffeehouse fodder. Nastasia's partner on the song — and on the entire You Follow Me album, out next month — is drummer Jim White of the Australian instrumental band Dirty Three. Instead of simply keeping a steady beat, White thumps and bumps around Nastasia. His drums sound like someone stumbling drunkenly down a hallway late at night, and they only enhance the unsettled emotions in play. Like that other guitar/drums duo The White Stripes, Nastasia and White know how to make the most of simple musical tools.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

This column originally ran on July 23, 2007.

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David Browne
David Browne is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and the author of Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth and Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Spin and other outlets.