Dec. 11, 2020

EP 6: The story behind the song | The Letter Reader

What does it take to break a person? Can they be saved? How does it feel to seek revenge on the world? These are the questions that inspired The Letter Reader, track 5 from Heaven Get Behind Me. In this "behind the song" episode we talk about prison, in its many forms. We also discuss the influence of filmmaker Robert Bresson on the themes and characters that inhabit this track.

As always, we listen to the demo version as well as the final mastered version of the track.

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The Letter Reader

She reads the letters

Decides which ones to let through

Which ones to send home unopened


Some news is too hard to take

Better no words than ones like these

A man can bend, and a man can crumble

It takes a special eye to know

What makes him break in two


Well, there’s a pint in my mattress

And Charlie always prays for suicides

Saved up those blue pills under his tongue

And then he ate them all one night

Heard the ambulance

As it pulled away, driving slow


Just a cardboard box with his suit and his shoes

He came back looking the same way

With that look in his eye

I’ll see you in church he said

I got nothing on my mind he said

Well, I got you on my mind I said

We ain’t getting out of here ‘til it’s time

His time isn’t over

You’ll never see him again


His wife died, then he drank himself blind

Where are you going

I’ll be back soon

Oh, he killed them all with an axe so small

That sank to the bottom of the river

Yes, it lies at the bottom of the river


Close your doors, close your windows

Close your doors, close your windows




A Man Escaped

With the simplest of concepts and sparest of techniques, Robert Bresson made one of the most suspenseful jailbreak films of all time in A Man Escaped. Based on the account of an imprisoned French Resistance leader, this unbelievably taut and methodical marvel follows the fictional Fontaine’s single-minded pursuit of freedom, detailing the planning and execution of his escape with gripping precision. But Bresson’s film is not merely about process—it’s also a work of intense spirituality and humanity.


In his ruthlessly clear-eyed final film, French master Robert Bresson pushed his unique blend of spiritual rumination and formal rigor to a new level of astringency. Transposing a Tolstoy novella to contemporary Paris, L’argent follows a counterfeit bill as it originates as a prop in a schoolboy prank, then circulates like a virus among the corrupt and the virtuous alike before landing with a young truck driver and leading him to incarceration and violence. With brutal economy, Bresson constructs his unforgiving vision of original sin out of starkly perceived details, rooting his characters in a dehumanizing material world that withholds any hope of transcendence.