Tomorrow is the first day of spring! The snow is melting, the necessity for wearing every item of clothing you own simultaneously is receding, and it’s still light outside when you leave work (even if they had to arbitrarily steal an hour of your sleep to make this happen). In all seriousness, it’s a lovely time of year, and it needs accompanying music — so here’s a playlist of songs to greet the spring, encompassing everything from Kanye West and Stravinsky to two Australian bands you’ve probably never heard of. Now, go and enjoy the sunshine!
R.E.M. — “The Lifting”
The perpetually underrated Reveal is R.E.M.’s most summery record, and it’s appropriate that opening track “The Lifting” feels like the beginning of that summer. The lyrics are oblique, of course, because Michael Stipe wrote them, and there’s something subtly awful about the idea of being stuck in some sort of self-improvement seminar as the world outside rouses itself from its winter slumber. But even through the window of a conference room, the sky looks beautiful and full of possibility.
Kanye West — “Good Morning”
Our hero at his most uplifting and optimistic, which means this is an excellent choice for greeting a morning where it’s finally not morbidly freezing when you get out of bed. Also contains the legendary “I’m like a fly Malcolm X/ Buy any jeans necessary” line.
Antenna — “Come On Spring”
Largely forgotten Australian band Antenna were based around a short-lived collaboration between local luminaries Dave Faulkner (best known for his work with Hoodoo Gurus) and Kim Salmon (of proto-grunge visionaries The Scientists and Beasts of Bourbon, among others). “Come On Spring” was their first single and best-known song, and it’s a sort of challenge to the new season to live up to its promise of change and new beginnings. (It was later covered by erstwhile Bad Seed Mick Harvey, by the way.)
Johnny Nash — “I Can See Clearly Now”
This has been covered by everyone from Jimmy Cliff to Liza Minnelli, and as a result it’s ended up as the musical equivalent of one of those motivational posters with a black border and a picture of a rainbow or some sort of photogenic African animal. It’s not the song’s fault, though. The original is beautiful, an ode to new beginnings and new possibilities that makes perfect use of the imagery of spring.
Beach House — “I Do Not Care For the Winter Sun”
The spring, however…
Pixies — “Wave of Mutilation (Surf Version)”
You could pick plenty of Pixies songs for this mix — for all their undoubted weirdness and abrasiveness, they had a way with a breezy melody. The surf stylings of this version of “Wave of Mutilation” are the sound of spring incarnate (so long as you ignore the kinda macabre subject matter.)
The Guild League — “Why Wait?” Inner North, the second album by this Lucksmiths side project, is home to some of the best lyrics Tali White ever wrote — and none more so than this song, which manages to combine melancholy and bruised optimism as it looks at the passing of another year: “A whole year, gone by so quick/ Itching eyes and the warm air is thick/ With the dust of plant life in lust/ Wide awake in a sweat ‘cos I just/ Felt the fridge hum through the floor/ Spring’s knocking under the door…”
Karen Dalton — “Reason to Believe”
And, indeed, there is something strangely melancholy about the first stirrings of spring. It has to do with the idea of spring as a new beginning, the fragile optimism of hoping that maybe this year will be better, that things will change — and the flip-side of hope is vulnerability, the possibility of having that hope crushed. This song, by the wonderful Karen Dalton, seems to capture that feeling perfectly: knowing that a lover is lying to you, and yet somehow wanting to find a reason to believe what they say.
The Polyphonic Spree — “Reach for the Sun”
If you can get past the culty vibes, there are few more pleasant ways to spend the first warm morning of the year than sitting in the sun, sipping a coffee (or, let’s be honest, a beer) and listening to Tim DeLaughter, et al serenading the sun.
Stravinsky — “The Rite of Spring”
Seriously, if this doesn’t get you going, nothing will.