My Top 1000 Songs #265: Emma Blowgun's Last Stand

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Don't let the oddball song title fool you--"Emma Blowgun's Last Stand," off Beulah's 1999 When Your Heartstrings Break, is a sprawling yet enchanting little pop song with grand ambitions. The San Francisco-based band didn't get quite the same attention as other Elephant 6-related acts like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel, but their second LP is packed with sophisticated, Beatlesque baroque pop, with "Emma" in particular making a run at multi-layered spectacle.

The song takes its sweet time getting started, with a long percussion & keyboard prelude. The slow, mesmerizing build-up pays off; some two and a half minutes into the track, the snare cracks and a boisterous horn section launches into a winning hook. Finally, frontman Miles Kurosky checks in, his opening line--"Goodness knows it's been a wonderful run"--celebrating either the song's lengthy lead-in or a life well-lived. The rest is mythic poetry, messy and vague but seemingly onto something about sin and sanity. "The trinity saves, but three is a crowd." Sure, why not? And those horns sound great.

Somehow they pull it off live: