Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Songs for September


It's the month I've been waiting for. It's the month I really want when I need warm weather in March. It's summer's kept promise, it's the payoff for August, it's the end of the dog days and the beginning of fall. It's the month so good, I ranked it #1. Here's what I said at the time:

"If March is the worst of both worlds, September's the best: it begins with the lingering heat of summer, it ends with the slowly-falling temperatures of fall. It has all the remaining energy of summer but the renewed exuberance of a new school year, a new football season, a new everything. September's the time when things start to happen, the payoff from the overlong waiting game of summer, the beginning of the end of the year. I swear (in Nashville anyway), you can feel the energy pick up September 1st. And while it's got all the perks of fall (weather, football, girls looking their best, amped-up music releases, etc.), it's got the bonus of being first. As it's happening, you can still look forward to the next months and all implied greatness therein. There is no downside to September.

Unless you're a UT fan. In which case your season's probably over by Week 3."

I wrote that in April, when fall seemed as far away as the Olympics. Now I'm writing from Hillsboro Village, on August 26, and the sun's going down, and it's the end of a cloudless day, but it feels like dawn.

Now, thirty songs about possibility, promise, expectant energy, fire, vitriol, fervor, and the last great payoff. Thirty songs about new storylines, new loves, heightened senses, a fresh, better, more memorable season. Thirty songs about the months you'll want to revisit next winter, and five winters from now, the songs you've been waiting for.

Thirty Songs for September!

(Plus the one iTunes Random Pick.)

Sacred Harp Singers, "Idumea"
Like this song, there's something intangible about the eve of fall--it swells up, and bowls you over.

Paul Simon, "Boy in the Bubble"
It sets the stage as well as any.

Josh Ritter, "To the Dogs or Whoever"
And we're off. September is so all-encompassing and jam-packed it's in constant danger of derailing. Then a familiar refrain takes shape, renews its structure, and it races on.

The Hold Steady, "Stuck Between Stations"
I'm a pop music fan. I need a melody. I need a singer. But sometimes, the Hold Steady are so good, so undeniably powerful, I don't need the melody. The band says it all.

Cory Branan, "Miss Ferguson"
From the band who says it all to the man who does. Arguably Branan's most famous song, "Miss Ferguson" is Episode 1 of a new old story. It's the opening chapter of a season-long relationship. Like the two people involved, the song is incapable of holding back.

Counting Crows, "Angels of the Silences"
Remember when the Counting Crows could do this?

Gin Blossoms, "Lost Horizons"
The first of many Gin Blossoms appearances this fall. Maybe I'm crazy, or maybe this is entirely related to my own history with the Gin Blossoms, but no other band from the 90's feels more entrenched in the fall. Their entire catalog feels like the offspring of Zeus and a gold leaf.

Scott Miller, "Goddamn the Sun"
A jaw-droppingly tight vignette from another fall favorite. The song borrows equally from REM and John Donne, is beautiful, and forceful, and inspired. "My window creeps across my wall" alone merits inclusion.

North MS All-Stars, "Drinking Muddy Water"
The third song you want to hear on Gameday.

Wilco, "Kingpin"
Usually, if Jeff Tweedy allows himself a moment of pride or confidence, it's undermined by irony, sadness, or general pessimism. "Kingpin" is a noteworthy exception, and better for it.

Band of Horses, "The General Specific"
Find a quiet road, find a cool breeze, roll down the windows, hit play.

Ryan Adams, "Firecracker"
Something about the harmonica has always felt autumnal to me, so "Firecracker" gets bonus points. But really, it's the song's tone that does it: even when it's desirous, it's at ease. It's comfortable. It's happy. It can take or leave her. It convincingly saves the angst for later.

Teenage Fanclub, "Ain't That Enough"
My introduction to Teenage Fanclub was hearing this song in my brother's car one September. I never stood a chance.

Old 97's, "Question"
Very specific, very goofy memory attached to this one. Still, it sounds like fall.

Ole Miss Marching Band, "Dixie"
The first song you want to hear on Gameday.

Billy Bragg & Wilco, "Airline to Heaven"
Arguably the best cut from the Mermaid Avenue sessions, this song takes a Guthrie song to an even higher place. It's soaring and infectious and sounds like gold.

Tom Petty, "Free Fallin"
Speaking of soaring and infectious and sounds like gold... Some things are cliche for a good reason.

REM, "Radio Song"
If for no other reason than the sheer exuberance during the opening line. For someone so obsessed with the "end of the world," why does Michael Stipe make it sound so good? The song, like the season, is undeterred.

The Wallflowers, "The Difference"
A band entrenched in late fall, "The Difference" is their deceptively sunny exception. It invites complication and races right past it.

Magpies, "Picture Me In a Love Song"
Yes, it's a beautiful song, and yes, its jangly guitars and doo-wop rhythms fit the month. But it's the brilliant piano-work during the outtro that strikes the right, ambivalent chord. A bittersweet song that's much more sweet than bitter.

Lemonheads, "Into Your Arms"
A different version of the story told in "Kingpin," but here the sweet-sounding blues is replaced by suspended chords and sunny melodies.

Nirvana, "Son of a Gun"
Heady memories attached to this one. Moving on!

Pearl Jam, "I Am Mine"
I first heard this song in late September, 2001. Pearl Jam had played a benefit shortly after 9/11, and debuted this new song written in its wake. The bootleg quickly made the internet rounds. Even though the song didn't appear on record until the next spring, I'll always associate it with September.

Green Day, "Wake Me Up When September Ends"

Kings of Leon, "Slow Night, So Long"
Once the days start getting shorter, and the air gets cooler, this is the sound of the beginning of your night.

Lucero, "What Else Would You Have Me Be"
A song with so much anthemic energy, every second has a thousand possibilities. The song not only enacts that feeling, but celebrates it.

Rolling Stones, "Loving Cup"
Only "Like a Rolling Stone" features better key-work to start a song. Something about the melody--and the performance of the harmonies--feels like fall. It doesn't sound like home; it sounds like coming home.

Pawtuckets, "She's Gone"
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Pawtuckets' Dogsbody Factotum is the best alt-country record you've never heard. My life was forever improved by my introduction to it one August. "She's Gone" was on constant rotation by September. It is, exactly, the sound of lost love at the beginning of the year's end.

Big Star, "September Gurls"

My Morning Jacket, "Anytime"
September doesn't ease into any conclusion. It doesn't stop to consider itself in a moment of sober melancholy. It doesn't take a breath. It turns up the volume and dares October to follow.

And the iTunes Random Pick:
White Stripes, "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." Hmmm. Aesthetically off, thematically perfect. Touche, Machine. Touche.

What about you? What are your Songs for September? Hit up the comments!

Words only got in the way,


Michael said...

Easy easy easy.

"Walk around" - Cory Branan


Michael said...

Forgot my bit:

The song is goofy, high energy, and relaxing all at once. That's September to me.

Chris Milam said...

Awesome, awesome pick. Long a favorite of mine, and I'm very glad that song got released somewhere.

It's a great call for September, too. There's a point at the beginning of the school year where this song:
1) Gets the energy of a new relationship
2) Could literally detail the new relationship

You like the girl, you're bumming around campus, you're texting, you're making 1000 plans, you constantly feel a little high, and in all the headrush it's enough just to take a walk. Even non-events are events with the right girl.

Nice on, Michael!

me said...

September When It Comes from Rosanne Cash's Rules of Travel album is actually a duet with her dad, Johnny Cash. She wanted to make her own way and never did any songs with her dad until this one a few years ago. It's about looking back from the autumn of your years. Or at least to me it is. And the line "I cannot be who I was then, in a way, I never was" is really just perfect to me.

also...I canNOT believe you haven't been pimping tonight's show more. tsk tsk Milam. tsk tsk.

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