It’s been freezing, freezing cold here. And as I was walking home from work the other evening a song came on the old shuffle —a song so soufflé-light, with birds chirping and Spanish guitar and a voice as airy as early morning sunlight filtering through the trees— that I momentarily forgot about the ice cold, brutal wind whipping right through me and stinging my eyes.
Spring songs are different than summer songs. Summer songs are carnal, sun-drenched and earthy. They’re a little bit crude, certainly more anthemic. By contrast, spring songs are just waking up to sensuality. They’re quiet, yes, but also quietly celebratory. They, like the fog, come in stealthily, on little cat feet—taking you by surprise, just like the first tiny blossoms of a season that’s far too short to wear out its welcome (as summer often does). The world they paint is new and a little bit magical.
Dean and Britta’s “Knives from Bavaria” is like that. It’s a very strange song. The lyrics are nonsensical, for the most part, but a bit obsessive in the middle there. (Thanks to the repeated refrain: “I love him, I love him, I love him I do.”) Here the production makes all the difference: when I listen to it on headphones it’s almost too rich, a crème brulée with a dollop of cassis at the centre. But I never tire of it —its lushness and heady quality are irresistible, whether it’s the first time I’m listening or the 1000th. Part of this is due to the lovely, sensuous interplay between the two voices (Luna’s Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips —yes, the voice of Jem) —the emotional timbre they hit here is one of cautious ebullience. There’s this tinge of melancholy that inhibits the song from becoming a blithe summer tune. But it’s lightened by marimba (a jaunty, spring-like instrument if there ever was one) and the requisite yé yé “la la la”s. “Send me a rainbow, send me a word,” Britta sings, and I wonder if playing the song over and over will bring a winter thaw that much sooner.
Does such a song really exist, I wonder?
Guess I’ll turn the heat up.
You can watch the video for “Knives” at Dean & Britta’s website. Their album, “L’Avventura” (named after the atmospheric Antonioni film) is available at Amazon and elsewhere; they’re recording a follow-up now. A tour will follow in the spring.