The Dude abides, but The Dude apparently has trouble dozing off, now and then. And why not—The Dude is a perfectly average, empathetic human being. Sometimes we all have our issues, tossing and turning at night.
Nobody was quite expecting it this week when actor Jeff Bridges announced a surprise album called Sleeping Tapes. Our own initial reaction at Paste would likely be summed up by a word like “bemused,” as we imagined the 65-year-old Bridges puttering around his home and recording this project after being struck by an errant whim—perhaps in a dream. Perhaps in the shower. Regardless, it sounded like an amusing undertaking: An album that Bridges recorded essentially all on his own, filled with ambient noises, soothing sounds and folksy little story snippets delivered in the actor’s rich, sonorous voice.
And so, curious exactly what format the tracks on Sleeping Tapes would take, I started listening to the introduction. And then an odd thing happened. I kept listening. 20 minutes passed. I kept listening. 40 minutes passed, and the album was over. I listened to it all in one go, which is the last thing I expected to happen. As it turns out, Sleeping Tapes makes for unexpected, oddly compelling listening.
It’s the weirdness that makes each track stand out, and also the easygoing feeling of familiarity. Listening to Sleeping Tapes is like instantly becoming Bridges’ best friend. It’s like being his brother, up late in a conversation over good scotch, well past midnight. It doesn’t feel like there’s a second take on the entire recording—in fact, it doesn’t even feel like he thought of them as “takes.” It’s simply … soothing. It’s genuine, with all profits going to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. It’s more genuine than anything else I can think of that will be featured in a Super Bowl commercial this year, as Sleeping Tapes apparently will be in an advertisement for Squarespace.
But perhaps you don’t have time to get caught up in all of Sleeping Tapes right at this moment: In that case, let us show you a few of its kookier moments. These are five of the most random, serene, charming or just plain weird moments in Sleeping Tapes.
The abrasive drone of “Sleep. Dream. Wakeup.”
The first track following the album’s introduction might be the weirdest and least sleep-inducing one of the bunch, a largely discordant and disquieting collection of hisses and buzzing drones, as Bridges’ tinny, heavily modified voice mutters “SLEEP. SLEEP. SLEEP.” Not the album’s most effective moment, unless Svengali-like commands are what work best for you in relaxing. More than anything, it reminds me of Tom Servo occasionally commanding characters to “SLEEEP!” on various episodes of MST3k.
Bridges includes his nonplussed wife on “Good Morning, Sweetheart”
This 89-second track consists of Bridges, apparently early in the morning, sitting down at the kitchen table and coyly inquiring if his breakfast-preparing wife, Susan, might want to share “some nice, relaxing sounds.” She’s not even sure what he’s doing—this is apparently the kind of thing that happens on a regular basis in the Bridges household—until she presumably sees the recorder and asks “Are you making the tapes?” He eventually talks her into sharing a few seconds of humming by rationalizing that “somewhere, someone on the planet is trying to sleep.”
Bridges holds court with preschoolers on the content of their dreams
The track “See You at the Dreaming Tree” would appear to take place at a playground or daycare—somewhere with lots of very young children running around, yelling and cavorting. We join Bridges in mid-conversation with several kids, as he asks them about the most fun dream they’ve ever had. “Ummm…I’se a pirate,” one volunteers. Bridges asks how the dream went: Were you sailing on a ship? “I was running from a ghost!” the child replies.
He then briefly tells the kids about something he would share with his daughter when she was young: “I used to meet my little girl Isabelle, in our dreams. I would say ‘I’ll meet you at our special tree,’ and we would meet there and fly around the tree.”
Bridges mentions his overactive bladder and fetches you a glass of water
Here’s the entire, seemingly stream-of-consciousness dialog of the 53-second track “A Glass of Water.” I can’t even explain why I find this enjoyable, but I do.
“...Alright, you comfy? You want a glass of water? Here … grunts Yeah, water … we need water, although I don’t know if you’re like me, you drink some water before you go to bed, you’re gettin’ up a couple of times during the night, but that’s okay. It’s nice to get up in the middle of the night, the way you pass the window, you see the full moon out there … sighs … On the way to the toilet you’re noticin’ the patterns on the rug—it can be a good experience—anyway, umm, I uh … I got off the track here. Uh … why don’t you get cozy, cozy for some bedtime stories.”
Bridges narrates an 11-minute vision quest through California’s Temescal Canyon
“Temescal Canyon” is by far the longest track, and it’s also my favorite. It begins with the crunching of booted footsteps, as the listener realizes that we are walking along with Jeff somewhere outdoors, exploring Temescal Canyon alongside him. We know this because he talks to you like you’re there, narrating the sites along the way in a slow, patient style that suggests perhaps you’re his young child. Or perhaps you’ve been seriously depressed, and this is his way of cheering you up. Either way, it’s soothing. The voice of Bridges is completely in control of your experience, and you are content simply to be led. You feel safe and well looked-after.
As you go, Bridges begins to narrate some eccentric sights. Another hiker is seen further down the path, and Bridges speculates on whether the stranger’s name would be “Jim” or “Neil,” because there’s apparently only two choices here. “Hello, Neil!” he booms cheerfully, before happily noting “Oh look, see! He enjoyed that wave and waved right back—he must be a Neil.”
A little further, and another, odder sight: “Oh look up there … it’s a stray dog, staring up at a tree. And next to the dog—look at that!—there’s a pretty nice-looking office chair. I’m gonna go check it out.” Seconds later, Bridges returns with the office chair in tow, assuring the listener not to worry, he’ll carry it himself.
As the walk progresses, Bridges is progressively authoritarian. He tells you to sit in the office chair and listen to a stream. He commands the listener specifically to listen to certain, repeated sounds: “Listen to the train for a while.” All the while, it’s still sprinkled with dreamlike absurdity: After skipping rocks at the stream, Bridges casually remarks “Wait a minute, these aren’t rocks … they’re Spanish doubloons. They must have come here from the Con-quiss-ta-dors who used to live here. You and I are rich, man! But okay, let’s get moving, we didn’t come here for doubloons. We came here to fall asleep.”
Wasn’t that perfectly pleasant? That’s just how it goes, traipsing through the mind of Jeff Bridges for 40 minutes. As linked above, you can listen to all of Sleeping Tapes for yourself here. As Bridges wishes the listener in the intro: “I hope they inspire you to do some cool sleepin’, some cool dreamin’ and some cool wakin’ up.”