In recent weeks glimpses of warmer weather have begun to surface, signifying that Spring is now upon us. As the days grow longer, a changing of the seasons reminds us to focus on fresh starts and new beginnings, and in an attempt to beckon the warmer weather to stay a little while longer, I find myself immersed in the following albums. The projects listed below represent not only a blossoming of the natural world around us but also a search for growth within ourselves as we reflect on the past winter months and welcome the brighter days ahead.
Released in 2003, each track on Dear Catastrophe Waitress is infused with an infectious brightness, making it perfect for this time of year. The album feels like a true masterclass in instrumentation with its unexpectedly large orchestral arrangements – from the intense strings and brass on the title track ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ to the organ on ‘If She Wants Me’. It presents the listener with a multitude of strange stories from baseball players to inappropriate bosses. But lyrics shine on songs like, ‘Asleep On A Sunbeam’ with its praise of nature: ‘All I need is somewhere I feel the grass beneath my feet / A walk on sand, a fire I can warm my hands’. Every track feels contagiously hopeful thanks to the band’s sonic choices, making it the ideal companion for brightening up any rainy spring afternoon.
Flock of Dimes’ Head of Roses is an album that has been in heavy rotation for me since its release last spring. It’s layering synths, harmonising with singer Jenn Wasner’s warped vocals which feels surprisingly comforting and even more so amongst the intermittent distorted guitar solos. It’s an unusual mix that provides an escape from the mundane and instead offers up ideas of self-reflection and loneliness, as perfectly captured on ‘Price of Blue’ as she sings: ‘Alone behind the eye of your electric stare / Reflections in your mirror I’ve become.’ The third track ‘Two’ offers a reprieve from the distorted sound and instead presents itself as a catchy synth-pop anthem lingering on struggles of “independence and interdependence”, as Wasner toldPitchfork last year. Tracks like ‘Walking’ and ‘Awake for the Sunrise’ perfectly situate the album in springtime through Wasner’s connection between emotional revelations whilst amongst nature, with the former’s lyrics on seeing ‘the light of the morning with an aching in my chest’. Wasner’s lyrics call on us to find peace amid solitude and to ultimately accept that the most important person in our lives can simply be ourselves – a message that remains pertinent as we ease out of the winter blues and step into the coming season for a fresh start.
Inspired by life in the Hebrides, Bunyan wrote her 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day on the wonder of the countryside and whilst living in nature. Having learnt Gaelic songwriting traditions, Bunyan creates an album of beautiful folk music, full of penny flutes, string quartets and melodies inspired by the nursery rhymes of her childhood. The world of nature comes alive in her songs, exploring country life in ‘Diamond Day’; ‘Just another field to plough /…Just a sack of seed to sow’, or the changing of the seasons on ‘Swallow Song’: ‘And there’s an oak leaf turning green into brown / And there’s a pine so proud of her evergreen gown’, making it a perfect soundtrack for an escape into the countryside.
Although the band hasn’t produced any new music in two decades, The Sundays still harbour a collection of devoted fans, including myself, who view their past projects as worthy of cult-classic status, including their 1997 album Static And Silence. The album relishes in its sonic diversity, from the brit-pop inspired ‘Cry’, to the understated ballad ‘When I’m Thinking About You’, in which band member Harriet Wheeler’s voice shines in its final harmonies. Tracks like ‘Summertime’ with its eager brass section firmly plant the album in a world of warmth, but ‘Leave This City’ signifies somewhat wintery sentiments with its lyrics on ‘January Days’ and ‘Scarecrow Trees’, making the album more appropriate for the transitional season of spring. Wheeler cements the album’s focus on transformations and fresh starts in the opening lyrics of ‘I Can’t Wait’- just as ‘a still life calls for change’, we see the approaching spring as a period of transitional growth and hope for the future.
On her 1970 debut solo album, Come To My Garden, Minnie Riperton exhibits genre-defying talent, with its tracks taking influences from soul, gospel, jazz and more. It feels as though spring is entangled with every song, as Riperton explores themes of love and loss through the world of nature, like on the opener; ‘Les Fleurs’. Its instrumentation helps to set the stage for Riperton’s poetry, with its expansive arrangements perfectly spotlighting her iconic voice, exhibited best on ‘Whenever, Wherever’, making use of her five-octave vocal range as her harmonies create an angelic presence. Tracks like the titular ‘Come To My Garden’ feel as though we are stepping into a glorious paradise, with Riperton urging us to ‘Come to my garden / Let the stars fill your eyes’, serenading us into the sunnier days to come.
‘When we lose our connection to nature / we lose our spirit, our humanity, our sense of self’, exclaims an ominous voice at the start of the song ‘Hard Drive’, the third track from Cassandra Jenkins’ 2021 project An Overview on Phenomenal Nature. Throughout its short but sweet seven-track run-time, Jenkins reaches deep into her own psyche, whilst simultaneously giving a voice to others, who repeatedly tell her to ‘Jump in the water / It cures everything’, as heard in ‘New Bikini’. Although based in New York, Jenkins seemingly brings the world of nature to the city, from ‘Speeding up the west side’ to ‘The sky replacing the land with air’ as the landscape of urban life blends with the wilderness against the foreground of Jenkin’s struggles with heartbreak and mental health. Full of lush saxophone and synths, simple melodies and even spoken word, the album transports the listener to a separate world in which we can be alone with Jenkins together, leaving us to linger on our own struggles and faults too.