So much of how we feel and behave is dependent on the weather and climate. There’s a reason why many people get depressed in the winter or feel overcome with Spring Fever in April. Because we are undoubtedly reactionary to the seasons, we can then deduce that art — in this case music — is affected by the them both in its creation but also in how we listen to it.
Often times over the course of the year, I will be listening to a particular album and think, “Wow. This record is really great but it really doesn’t correspond with the way I’m feeling right now.” I will then make a mental note to listen to it again during the season with which I feel it corresponds. But, alas, since I never take the time to write that note down and because I own a great deal of music, the record in question often never gets to see its full potential.
I’ve recently decided to launch the huge undertaking of separating my iTunes collection into four distinct playlists in which every individual album will get a designated season. A project such as this is not without its pitfalls. To say every album in existence, or even in just my personal library, can only correspond with one time of year’s weather and climate is silly, but there are many records that obviously belong to a certain time and place.
The debut from the recently departed Girls for instance. “Album” is distinctly a summer record. Its tones are bright and perky with lyrics about wanting to rent a beach house and hanging out in the sunshine. When its not popping in forward uptempo, its lazily basking in a warmth that can only be associated with 72 degree-plus weather. The band’s third and final record “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” however is more reserved and melancholic — like the end of a cycle. It’s a record that seems to perfectly match the time of year when it was released, September — it being a month that still carries the characteristics of summer but with a fleetingness that becomes more urgent with each passing day, much like the way the record descends from the optimistic “Honey Bunny” to the resigned “Jamie Marie.”
For this project, there will be records that will get placement in multiple seasons as well — “Ágætis byrjun” by Sigur Rós can be just as moving back-dropping your frozen-over neighborhood after a recent snowstorm as it would a balmy stargazing summer night. But all gray areas aside, there are different emotions I personally am looking for in music at different times of the year. There are of course exceptions by the general division I see it goes as follows:
Spring: Optimistic, energetic and bright music. Indie and power pop, E.L.O., “All Things Must Pass,” nostalgic music from childhood, etc. Sub group: rainy day music such as “Darklands” by The Jesus and Mary Chain; “Tigermilk” by Belle & Sebastian.
Summer: Big powerful music. Techno, hip-hop, modern Top 40. Michael Jackson. “Since I Left You.” A lot of Californian artists. Weezer’s blue album.
Autumn: Crisp. Insular. More reflective although not strictly sad music. Post-punk, New Romantic, and the legions of modern artists that emulate that sound. New Order, The Cure, The Smiths, etc.
Winter: Melancholic. Engulfing. Post-rock. Insular music. Singer/songwriters. Grizzly Bear. “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Music that’s just cold in sound i.e. Crystal Castles‘ second record.
This is by no means a full-proof system which doesn’t even scratch the surface of what constitutes a seasonal record, but it’s a general mental guideline as to how I intend to embark on the project. The next time I’m on a walk and want to listen to something that best complements my surroundings, I hope to look in my playlists and find the perfect soundtrack there waiting for me.
Music of course can mean different things to different people. Many times a record will remind a person of a certain time just because it was the period in which they came in contact with it. On the other hand, some records don’t click with people until the time is right. What records do you find to be explicitly seasonal? Are there any albums you only listen to at a specific time of year?