“As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden / The wounded flowers were dangling from the vine.” As usual, it is the words that seize your attention first. “Ain’t Talkin’,” the last song on Bob Dylan’s deceptively mellow-sounding new album, “Modern Times,” places the listener in a landscape of sweet decay, as handsomely ruined as Dylan’s sixtysomething voice, populated by sick mules, blind horses, a missing gardener, nameless foes, some woman, and the walking, weeping, brooding, ironically smiling singer. The vocal line is threadbare: it consists of just five notes, the ancient pentatonic scale. But it is the unswerving sureness of the musical choices—guitars twisting like vines around plain chord changes, an intermittently keening cello, a steady pulse like dripping water—that holds you mesmerized. The protagonist seems to be searching for some sign of hope in the apocalyptic garden, and, at the last moment, he finds it: after eight minutes in the minor mode, and a sighing reference to the “world’s end,” a moonbeam falls in the form of a glowing major chord.
You can listen to "Ain't Talkin" and, amazingly, any other Dylan song you're in the mood for, here.