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Listening

Summer Jams for Winter Storms

It was one month ago to the day that I was wondering, “Why can’t it be colder?” Seventy degrees in January seemed excessive. I asked myself, “Where’s that comforting isolation that comes with mid-winter cabin fever?” Without four proper seasons my biological clock goes haywire; my voice gets higher and I grow hair in strange places. Well now it’s freezing outside, and I left my only pair of gloves in a now-frozen bucket of mop water. This needs correction, and the only way it can happen is with some sweltering summer party jams.

» Listen to Shaky Hands at Said the Gramophone


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Ah, who am I kidding? You can’t force your own delusion. Weather is permanent and the only thing you can do is indulge yourself in the moment, which happens to be cold and suffering. Maybe Daniel Johnston has something to say about suffering? Let’s go ask him.

» Listen to “My Yoke Is Heavy” by Daniel Johnston


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That clanky piano sound always makes me think Daniel Johnston writes his songs in some cold, abandoned warehouse that he’s been squatting, surrounded by dirty rags and biker mags. After seeing the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, I’m reminded how much more he seemed like just an average kid living with his parents. He was just the one that took the extra effort to record everything he did. Still, I like to believe that all art is made in cold, abandoned, industrial squats. It makes my lack of creative output seem like a sacrifice for warmth. And then I can listen to the bitter sounds of the Flesh Eaters to keep myself distracted.

» Listen to “Agony Shorthand” by the Flesh Eaters


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Peter, Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks” is definitely of the moment, but not much of a winter song. Possibly summer or fall, but with a whistling melody like that, it’s more likely spring. Chances are they wrote it in spring, recorded it in summer, mastered in fall, and released it sometime thereafter. Assuming a non-Chinese Democracy recording schedule like that, who knows how any seasonal jams get played at the right time? Do they all sit on it for half a year? Or are most seasonal jams spur-of-the-moment creations? Did Nelly have a vision and make the necessary calls to put “Hot in Herre” on the radio within a month of writing it, or was his inspiration actually a house with a faulty thermostat in the middle of winter—and not the mid-summer heat?

» Listen to Peter, Bjorn & John at Feed Me Good Tunes


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Deerhunter is another example of that disconnect of music inception to music dispersion. They sound like the dizzying psychedelic trance of a mid-August day at the state fair, yet the album just came out this month. (And who knows when it leaked?) This might be good, but I can’t listen anything resembling Spacemen 3 while it’s cold outside. It’ll remind me too much that Post Punk Junk is shutting down. Maybe Deerhunter’s swirling echos can conjure PPJ back into existence.

» Listen to Deerhunter at Gorilla vs. Bear


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Then there are songs that work in any temperate climate or tundra. Play the Ethiopians in mid-April and it’s like they wrote the song about balmy, moderate temperatures with some clouds in the sky. Play it in February and it’s gray skies and gray slush on the bottoms of cars. Drop the needle in fall and they adapt.

» Listen to “Owe Me No Pay Me” by the Ethiopians

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