There are three figures that normally come to my mind when Mercury Rev is in discussion. The first being Jonathan Donahue, original member who turned frontman after the band’s original singer left. Next is Dave Fridmann, the band’s bassist and main producer – a man who has looked over album recordings by The Flaming Lips, Spoon, and Sleater-Kinney. Last but not least comes Sean Thomas Mackiowack, commonly referred to as “Grasshopper”, the band’s shades-wearing lead guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. Today’s song “Hudson Line” was written by him, and it is the sixth track on the band’s 1999 album Deserter’s Songs.
Here, Grasshopper sings about having to leave a beautiful city where silver clouds are chased away by satellites and children play with kites and balloons. In contrast to Donahue’s high-pitched and nasally vocals, Grasshopper sings his lyrics with a wistful low whisper, repeating the simple lullaby-like melody in the verses and chorus. Deserter’s Songs is an album of grandiose instrumentation; “Hudson Line” doesn’t stray from that concept, and really adds to it with raspy saxophones and groovy keyboard licks. The vocals end after the second repetition of the chorus. That comes just past the song’s midway point, leaving another minute and a half of beautiful string arrangements and synths.