DJ Julia's Retrospectacle - April 2019
by Julia Schaefer
It’s everyone’s favorite time of year, when winter releases its stranglehold on us and seasonal affective disorder retreats back into the basement! Having just experienced the first 80° day in a good while, Retrospectacle is celebrating with songs that are perfect for warmer weather and the change of seasons.
British chamber pop group The Divine Comedy tackles the real issues on this one. As beautiful as springtime can be, the mild weather and gorgeously blooming flowers are always accompanied by enough pollen to make you wish it was still winter. Grab your Zyrtec and take a listen to this brassy little number about celebrating the weather despite the menace of seasonal allergies. Foppish lead singer Neil Hannon walks the fine line between corny and tongue-in-cheek with this particular lyrical persona, who beseeches the listener to “Laugh at the tears you're crying / smile while your head explodes / You don't have to take this lying down / so blow your nose, baby”. Whether you listen to the original track from debut album Promenade, or the re-recorded version with its extremely silly video, Hannon's reedy voice suits the song perfectly and it’s great fun. Bless you, Neil!
T.S. Eliot famously wrote in The Waste Land that “April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory with desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain”. Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid took a page out of Eliot’s book for this song - the hard-driving guitar and the grim intonations of love and loss set April as the backdrop for a terrible heartbreak. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, especially compared to some of TJAMC’s harder stuff. I’d place “April Skies” somewhere between the Ramones and the Beach Boys in terms of grit vs. gloss.
In fairness, this song isn’t strictly about spring, but stick with me! I think it’s a perfect match for the season. Synth-pop pioneers Pet Shop Boys have crafted a three-minute masterpiece that is jubilant, cheerful, and everything else you’d associate with springtime. At the forefront of the track are triumphant piano and horns with a peppered-in synth line in the intro that sounds almost like Morse code. The lyrics are a celebration of all the exciting feelings that come with falling in love - the third verse has the speaker proclaiming he feels like “taking all [his] clothes off / And dancing to the Rite of Spring”. (For those not up to snuff on their early 20th century ballet, the Rite of Spring is an avant-garde work by Igor Stravinsky. Due to its scandalous choreography and score, its debut performance in May of 1913 nearly caused a riot. I’m sure that the onset of warm weather makes many feel the same way.)
Originally written for a 1959 film of the same name, this song was the closer on Scott 2, his second solo work and my personal favorite. Although singer-songwriter Scott is well known for his challenging later work, he interprets the songs of others marvellously. Orchestrated by the great Angela Morley, "Come Next Spring" opens tremulous, breathless - evoking the sun rising over dew-drenched treetops - and then Scott brings the house down with his powerful baritone. “Come next spring / When all the world is new / And fresh / And green / And fair...”
Scott Walker’s untimely passing in March of this year leaves me a little verklempt when it comes to talking about his work. Still, I try to listen to “Come Next Spring” every year around the time that the days get a little longer and a touch warmer - this year, it carried extra meaning.