Saturday, October 08, 2005

Seasonal Music Selection

From when I was five until only just recently, my life has followed a cyclic pattern of two dominant seasons: School Year and Summer. Since graduation I have not known anything more than a long weekend away from work--months off for summer and Christmas are like dreams of youth. As a result, I have again become in tune with the true seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

With the change of seasons, people alter many things about their habitat, their wardrobes, and even their diets. Gardeners make preparations in their flowerbeds before the first frost of autumn; people put away their sweaters at the sight of spring's first robin. I am no different, but my major changes involve the music in my stereo.

Music, like most other art, is influenced by the environment of the artist. This, I believe, is the essence of what makes different music more or less suitable for any particular season of the year.

Summer and winter are the two extreme seasons, while spring and autumn are complimentary transitional seasons. The differences between the extremes are not just in temperatures. Summer is bright, warm and full of energy. Winter is dark, slower, and colder.

Summer - In our collection, Incubus is the best example of a summertime band. They're a group of pothead, modern hippies, and Brandon Boyd has recently dabbled in things political. Their sound is best suited for the bright, warm days of summer, where even the sounds in the air are energized by the sun. It's no wonder that they are a group of surfer boys from California, the land of eternal sunshine.

Other boys of summer from our jukebox include Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Keith Urban, and Andrew WK, although each represents a different aspect of summertime music. Country music is well suited for the everlasting twilight of a summer evening or the easy feeling of a summer Saturday--times like these are where Keith and James come in. The music of Springsteen and Andrew WK embodies the energy and joy of weekend day at the shore.

Autumn - There is no better example of transitional autumn rock than early days Led Zeppelin. A song like "Ramble On" is written at the end of summer, with a mood ready for the transition into things more introspective, but with an energy still ripe with the residual carefree feeling of summer. (Led Zeppelin is a band whose catalog of music included a wide array of rock styles. It is foolish that an attempt should be made to fit them into any one box. As a note of interest, it should not be considered coincidental that Led Zeppelin also produced music while residing in a variety of climates.)

Dredg is a good late summer/early fall band, while I use Counting Crows as a late autumn band with a generous overlap into early winter.

Winter - Winter is the musical season of choice for Becca and me. We find winter music to be more cerebral, more introspective, and generally of a higher worth as art than the work of other seasons. Winter bands dominate our collection.

Coldplay is a good example of winter music. Chris Martin and Coldplay hail from Britain, where the skies are mostly grey, the days are damp and cold, and a day of sun is a day to be cherished. In June or July, their sound doesn't come across as anything more than simplistic but catchy; however, if allowed to develop in the dark, crisp air of a winter evening, their interwoven complexities can tantalize the ears for hours.

Chevelle's music is the same way. In any other season, Chevelle is just three guys playing the same three (really loud) chords over and over. But a road trip on a winter's nite will work wonders to unravel the power of each scream, each smash, each auditory assault.

Pearl Jam comes from Seattle, which is not unlike Britain in many ways. (Discussion topic for later: Almost every great rock band has come from Britain, and the greatest number of American rock bands were formed in Seattle--coincidence??). Seattle bands are the prime examples of environmental influences on music composition. The weather is so dismal in Seattle throughout the year in the northwest that guys started tuning their guitars differently to create a sound that matched their grungey weather.

Matthew Good is from the Great White North, where summer is a merely week of days with temperature in the 70s. Long, cold nights in Canada make for conditions suitable to nurture the poignant cynicism and acute power that are Matthew Good's songs.

Spring – Spring is the season of thaw, new life, and holistic rebirth. Spring music makes the transition from the deeper introspection of winter and it’s frequently darker themes to the joy and energy of summer. By mid-March, I am usually aching for green grass and a warm sun that the spring transition is much more abrupt than that of autumn. All it takes is the first day in the 60ºs for me to break out the spring soundtrack.

Punk rawk is the tried and true selection for the spring season. Each track comes as a burst of life rich with shallow lyrics written by a love-struck high school kid. MxPx, Green Day, and Ghoti Hook collect dust much of the year, but are never caught off guard when they get the call every spring. MeWithoutYou was a welcome addition to the spring genre—they have fit deeper lyrics to a raw energy that bridges the gaps between seasons. Mad At Gravity is another springtime regular.

There are, of course, exceptions. There are the STPs and Audioslaves and CAKEs of the music world that are like little black cocktail dresses and don't even not fit. There are bands like Weezer who have produced albums of polar opposite seasons. There are albums like "Dark Side of the Moon" that mean different things in different seasons. This is a theory, not a universal law of nature.

And so it would be a generalization to say that summer bands are melody-driven while winter songs are deeper and more lyrically meaningful, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

As for me and Bec, it’s no wonder we’re winter music people.