“Cemetry Gates” — The Smiths
The jaunty pop tune is airy and upbeat, with shiny acoustic guitars and quick rhythms, Morrissey sarcastically lamenting “another dreaded sunny day/ so I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates.” The warm weather depresses the maudlin singer, which drives him to meet a friend at the Manchester cemetery to talk about literature and muse about the past. Like many Smiths songs, however, the central message is about following your dreams. Spring comes from within. There will always be detractors and philistines. And winter.
“This Tornado Loves You” — Neko Case
There are lots of tornados in April and May. New Pornographer founder Neko Case uses the cyclone as a metaphor for star-crossed lovers in the 2008 song “This Tornado Loves You.” She laments the loss of love in all of the places around her. The lost of the youthful and passionate spring. The loss of the lover is too hard to bear, and she still misses “how you’d sigh yourself to sleep/ when I’d rake the springtime across your sheets.”
“Springtime” — Leatherface
The English punk band Leatherface ruminates on the wonders of spring as a metaphor for the past on the 1991 song “Springtime.” At the opening of the song, singer Frankie Stubbs growls nostalgically, “There’s a little bit of springtime in the back of my mind” amidst rumbling drums and edgy guitars. The fascination with the past helps one through the dark winter. Spring reminds us of the many things left to experience.
“The Boys Are Back in Town” — Thin Lizzy
“The Boys Are Back in Town” is what everyone thinks of when Thin Lizzy is mentioned. In the past 35 years, sporting events and frat parties have been graced with its ’70s-style rock and metal guitar dueling. “Boys” is a feelgood song about the pleasure of drinking with friends and good music, noting “the nights are getting warmer/ it won’t be long til summer comes.” Spring gives us hope of warm summer nights and the fun to be had. This writer will be performing this Irish band’s rock song at the Casbah in Durham on Thursday to celebrate St. Patty’s Day. Come out and celebrate the boys playing that cool guitar riff you know you love.
“Moonless March” — Aloha
The uptempo indie band Aloha structures songs around driving rhythms — keyboards and melotrons in the foreground aside distorted melodies. Their 2010 album Home Acres features a song about longing for change. Just like winter fading to spring, “We are ready for the light/ in everyone’s eyes they are bracing for a fight/ on this moonless night.” By March, the cold nights seem oppressive, but know that each year the seasonal dance is the same. “My di rection is a figure 8… back to you I’m always on my way.” The song can be read as a personification of life’s seasonal changes.
“Sunshine” — Filthybird
North Carolina’s own Filthybird ends its first album with the moody “Sunshine.” The choppy time signature and rhythm clashes beautifully with Renee Mendoza’s soaring and ethereal melody. She croons that she’s “been waiting for the sun, for the sun to shine/ but it just keeps getting darker.” The subject is caught in an emotional winter, yearning for the spring that never seems to arrive. The repetitive chorus is caustic with distorted guitars, heightening that panic — that sinking feeling that winter will go on forever.
“Good Day Sunshine” — the Beatles
1966’s Revolver marked a more solidly rock direction for the Beatles. The short “Good Day Sunshine” has Paul McCartney reveling in the joy of warm weather. He sings, “When the sun is out/ I’ve got something I can laugh about/ I feel good, in a special way/ I’m in love and it’s a sunny day.” He equates feeling good with a beautiful woman, a nice warm day. Not much in life better than warm love.
“Month of May” — Arcade Fire
On their Grammy award-winning album The Suburbs, the Arcade Fire explore the implications of growing up a suburban, disconnected child. On the track “Month of May,” Wil Butler curtly sings that the month of May is “a violent thing/ In the city their hearts start to sing./ Well, some people singing sounds like screaming./ Used to doubt it but now I believe it.” Any police officer will tell you warming weather brings out more activity and crime. In this Ramones-style rock song, the realities of city life awakened by spring awakens hibernating desires, both good and bad.
“Beercan” — Beck
Slacker-genius Beck Hansen broke into the mainstream with his major label debut on 1994’s Mellow Gold. Ditch the single “Loser,” and groove along to the catchiest track on the album, “Beercan.” The poppy rock song features Beck’s signature stream-of-consciousness hodgepoge of lyrics, homemade sounds and bizarre samples (including a creepy breakdown featuring Care Bears). Plus, there’s a gospelinspired keyboard outtro. The mildly funky, largely hilarious track explores the joys of drinking and partying, living the life of youthful bliss.
“La Costa Brava” — Ted Leo
Spring gives us a break from the cold and lifts our spirits in bad times. On the emotional center of Ted Leo’s fourth album, Living with the Living, he sings, “You know that waking up from the daily blues/ waking up to the daily new ain’t nothing strange.” The retreat gives a chance for energy to come back and do your best. And that finding that resonant spring gives strength to solider through the seasons.