Monday, March 02, 2009

Songs for March

Somewhere west of Nashville, I-40 expands to six lanes.  The land undulates slightly and little hills overlook the road, resembling those that border Nashville and checker middle Tennessee.  Traffic picks up.  "Oh," you think, "I'm in Nashville!"  

But you are not in Nashville.  You are thirty-five miles from the westernmost edge of the greater Nashville area.  The highway narrows back to four lanes.  Traffic remains steady.  You slow down.  You aren't there yet, and the remaining thirty-five miles will be the slowest, longest, most annoying of your life.  They will last longer than the tedious 164 miles that proceeded them.  They will make you curse your fellow highwaymen, your imperfect memory, and your god.

The month of March resembles those last thirty-five miles.  By February 28, we're ready for spring.  Winter is over, spring has sprung, bring on the sunshine, forget gloomy days, let's find a meadow and watch people frolic for crying out loud.  And, especially if you've lived in the South, you're conditioned to believe that winter ends with February.  These are the things I tell myself, anyway, and the reasons I hate myself when I'm annually wrong.

Facts about March (at least in Nashville):
1) It is not spring.
2) It is not winter.
3) It is cold (kind of).
4) It is mild (sometimes).
5) It does not come in or out like a lion.
6) It does not come in or out like a lamb.
7) It does come in and out like a crotchety geezer, one foot in the grave, one foot in the bathtub, temperamental but never dynamic, inconsistent but never interesting.  
8) It is a stagnant and tepid puddle that you can't jump over.  
9) It is probably the worst.

It will be periodically warm.  Maybe that makes you want to go to the beach.  Maybe the beach warm but not warm enough if the wind's blowing.  Maybe the water's still frigid.  It will be occasionally warm enough for something somewhere to occasionally bloom or flower, then cold enough to kill it mercilessly.  It will piss tepid rain enough days in a row to give you constancy, at least, only to vary with a petulant thunderstorm.  It will fluctuate so much in temperature that nobody can possibly remain healthy.  It is not the end, and it is not the beginning, but thirty-five miles of garbage that you just have to endure on this, your drive to better weather and happier times.

But, there's March Madness!  And occasional sunlight!  And St. Patrick's Day!  When you think about it, March isn't so bad.

So, here are 31 Songs for March, songs that celebrate life's unwanted middle-grounds.  These are songs that sound like a false front, fickle and premature and overdue all at once, like something that should be over but isn't yet.  So strap on the headphones, put on a parka and flip flops, grab the umbrella and the sunscreen, hurry up and wait with these, the...

Songs for March!

1) Weezer "Only In Dreams"
As previously stated, my version of March doesn't come in like anything, other than the 29th day of February.  "Only In Dreams" is a sad song, but has considerable momentum.  It's going somewhere, at least away from February.

2) Jack White "Never Far Away"
Sunny and optimistic, but facing a steep climb.

3) Stereophonics "Getaway"
I get the impression Brits have several months of March.  They get it right.

4) My Morning Jacket "Where to Begin"
Why does March sound like mid-tempo alt-country to me?  The melody climbs beautifully in the second verse, trying to get over the hump.  I feel its pain.

5) Johnathan Rice "End of the Affair"
Something that should be over by now but isn't yet.  Sunny harmonies bely a bad ending.  

6) Teenage Fanclub "Nowhere Going"
Redundant prettiness from a band that specializes in redundant prettiness.

7) Phish "Waste"
While "Never Far Away" (#2) searches for relief, "Waste" just wants to hole up and wait the whole dern thing out.  Who am I to argue?

8) Radiohead "No Surprises"
Celebrating tedium rather than fighting it.

9) Band of Horses "Window Blues"
See #4.

10) Beach Boys "Caroline No"
One of pop's best refrains, it's sweet-hearted, gorgeous, and a constant denial.  Like March, it's a let-down, but it lets you down easy.

11) Son Volt "Too Early"
Sounds like spring but talks like winter.

12) Black Crowes "Wiser Time"
See #4.  Easy-going, tolerable, occasionally fickle, sometimes sunny and always pretty in a "enjoy it at the moment but forget it later" kind of way.  Quintessential March.

13) Bob Dylan & the Band "You Ain't Goin Nowhere"
By mid-month, it feels like we aren't.  Still, the arrangements are warming up.

14) Wilco "Forget the Flowers"
See #4.  Also appropriate when another cold snap kills every bud in sight.

15) Scott Miller "Long Goodnight"
This is a wonderful song, bittersweet, in a stark (but not necessarily uninviting) setting.  I also have some March-related memories attached to it, so it'll always make the list.

16) Black Keys "All You Ever Wanted"
Probably the best song I heard last March. It lulls you into a false sense of security, then erupts.  


17) Dropkick Murphys "Sunshine Highway"
Ah, St. Patrick's Day...an oasis of frivolity in a desert of lame.  

18) White Stripes "300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues"
Rain imagery?  Check.  Mid-tempo and kind of dull?  Check.  

19) Big Star "Daisy Glaze"
A slow and pretty dreamstate transforms into a beautifully defiant guitar riff. The kick-drum lead-in at 1:51 announces new momentum; everything that follows is the sound of spring coming, a corner being turned.  

20) Beatles "I Need You"
Mid-tempo, melodic, and sunny, but still feels off-kilter.

21) Stone Temple Pilots "A Song for Sleeping"
Early spring can sound like a lullaby.

22) Donovan "Colours"
Hey, look, it's Coldplay's "Yellow"!  And wouldn't you know it, roses were red in the 60's!  And violets were blue!  And sugar was sweet!  Sure, "Colours" fits the sound of the season (it's a great sounding record, and a pretty melody), but I don't have to be happy about it.

23) Josh Ritter "Wolves"
Ah, that's more like it.  

24) Cory Branan "Love Song 11 (Secretly Enamored)"
A song about the end of something.  It sounds like midnight to me.

25) Lucero "Ain't So Lonely"
It gets darker but sounds happier as it goes.

26) Kings of Leon "Trani"
See #4.  Fun fact: this is Dylan's favorite KOL song.  Fun fact: this Bonaroo clip from 2004 features "Trani" and white boot dances.  That's all.

27) Ryan Adams "Chin Up, Cheer Up"
See #4.  Finally, though, we're entrenched in bright arrangements and upbeat melodies.  

28) Wallflowers "If You Never Got Sick"
Ah, the joys and pratfalls of codependency!  

29) The Strokes "The End Has No End"
Something about the muted tones and fuzzy sounds of Is This It reminds me of early spring.  

30) Pearl Jam "MFC"
Off Yield, the ten year-old record I wrote about last week.  This song--about a car--is made for driving, ideally when the weather's finally warm and you want to be anywhere but here.

31) Counting Crows "Rain King"
Leave it to the Counting Crows to tie a nice neat bow on such a weird month.  "Rain King" is sad, optimistic, indignant, superficially sunny, rhythmically temperamental, all while juggling an extended rain metaphor.  If there's a more quintessential March song out there, I haven't heard it yet.

Maybe y'all can change that, though--what are your Songs for March?  Anyone out there love this false front of a month?  What am I missing?

Sliding out of reverse,
CM

***NOTE: If you'd like to sample the Songs for March, head on over to my playlists on Facebook's iLike and listen away!  Be forewarned, however, that copyright restrictions prevent actual Beatles songs from being on iLike right now.  So there's a karaoke version of "I Need You" on there.  So, awesome.

2 comments:

TownCharacter said...

Any thing from Woodstock Mountain: Music from Mudacres, 1974, espcially "Bluegrass Boy" (John Herald) and (the original) "Killing the Blues" (Roly Salley).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0012A0LKG/ref=sr_f2_album_10?ie=UTF8&child=B00129RVPK&qid=1236008768&sr=102-10

ross k. said...

Yep, March is the big fake-out. Suckers think it's gonna be warm--try again in a month, when it rains for two weeks. Good call on "Only in Dreams." Awesome song. You know what song is so oddly similar is the Foo Fighters' "February Stars." Same long, slow, quiet build-up followed by table-throwing ass-kickdom. I'll add that one to the pile.

"An oasis of frivolity in a desert of lame" is maybe the best metaphor you've ever written. If you wrote a Gatsby, that would be your "long white cake of apartment houses."

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