Traditionally, spring has been a season of rebirth. As the amount of sunlight increases, it brings along new life – featherless baby chickens, the blooming fuchsia pink of a peony flower, an additional amount of daylight to mess around with. Just as the transition into autumn asks us to leave behind unnecessary baggage, to shed certain aspects of our life in tandem with the falling of auburn leaves, the beginning of spring clasps its hands, strolls into view and says, “Who do you want to be? What seeds of new beginnings can now slowly be brought into fruition? What can be renewed?”
However while these questions are important, sometimes it’s not that deep. Ultimately, when winter finally fucks off into the distance, sunshine will be on the way, ice cream vans will reawaken from slumber and crawl toward cul-de-sacs. Forget Christmas, spring is the most magical time of the year. The ball of life has been placed in the centre circle and it’s almost time for kick-off. Fuck the 'Beast from the East', hello warmth! Bring out the shorts and the t-shirts and the beers.
Like most people, I associate certain sounds and music with specific seasons. And when it comes to spring, as much as it’s a season of looking forward, it’s also a time when I’m returning to the songs I loved growing up – the ones heard in that transitionary period when you’re no longer a teenager but not quite an adult, perhaps waiting to take some final exams. Being born in 1992, that cycle for me falls somewhere between Pitchfork’s golden years before they stopped becoming a genuine place to discover new music, the late 00s rise and early 10s fall of Hipster Runoff and the release of that 2012 Tame Impala album before songs by the band became the go-to-Tinder-anthem for guys who ghost after two dates and girls who smoke but can’t roll their own joints.
Taking place somewhere after the 2008 financial crisis but before the decline of politics on both sides of the Atlantic ocean, the music of that particular era exists in a vaguely carefree state. It was a time of chillwave and the vibe generation; of Carpark Records re-releasing an old Toro Y Moi demo album that sounds like Weezer if Weezer took the L Train to Bedford Ave, just because; a stretch of four or five years when bands like Harlem and Happy Birthday came as quick as they left, while records like Beach House’s Teen Dream and the xx’s debut became cemented as modern day classics. Twitter wasn’t a passive aggressive cocktail of irony boys and NRA members; bloghouse remixes and releases were vaguely cool (?!); life was relaxing.
At least that’s how I remember it anyway – a couple of years when everything felt calm and collected. Then again I was between the ages of 16 and 21, a time that seems stressful until real life careens into your bank account and your mind, indelibly leaving its cracks or at least precariously papering over them with overdraft notices, adverts for new housemates and notebooks scrawled with handwritten intentions that life won’t always be this way. And so, as each spring arrives and I look forward, I also peer backward to the music of that time – to repair and replenish and also just to remember a song like this.
Maybe it’s naivety, perhaps it’s the memories evoked by certain songs, but though music seemed to lack the bite, impact or statement necessary of tunes in today’s era (see: Beyonce’s Lemonade, Solange’s A Seat At The Table, Frank Ocean’s Blonde – surely three of the best records of all time, if not the streaming generation) it was still creative and capable of creating meaning. Of course that’s speaking from my experience as a white male living in the United Kingdom, and it is important to note that as well as the record’s mentioned above there are so many more that suggest we’re living in an era of heightened creative genius – one in which music is genuinely forcing conversations as well as pushing artistic boundaries, and that can’t be negated.
However in my own navel-gazing period of looking back on growing up, one that maybe someone reading this also shares, the music produced loosely between 2008 and 2012/3 holds a special place. There’s the Beach House album Bloom, one of my favourites of all time. There’s Wild Nothing’s second album Nocturne, a record so adored it’s part of the reason I had someone give me this tattoo on my birthday last month. It’s not just the guitar music of this time period that I come back to either. Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III and Kanye West’s Graduation generate bold palliative care. Meanwhile Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon and Drake’s Take Care were landmark records; the former included features from MGMT and Ratatat and generated conversation around mental health and rap, while the latter included work from Jamie XX, surely paving the way for the collaborations we’ve heard more recently between James Blake and Kendrick Lamar or the sample of Beach House’s “Silver Soul” on the standout good kid, m.A.A.d city cut “Money Trees”.
Music has changed so much since the admittedly sprawling era I’m looking back on with rose-tinted glasses. Loads of icons passed away, Apple started a radio station, every damn album seems to be twelve songs too long. Arriving after the indie rock revival died down and The Neptunes and Timbaland stopped producing their best beats, the years from 2008 to 2012 are in one way or another their own transitionary period. It’s a time when loads of people were figuring themselves out, falling into the now-dead stereotype of the hipster for enjoying anything from The Cool Kids to sunglasses to Tao Lin to American Apparel to Lil B to The Smith Westerns to coffee – all wildly different things but somehow connected through one easily dubbed categorisation.
Ultimately, I think this period can be seen as one in which people started to become more open. The cross-breeding of “hipster culture” at large opened its participants up to sounds they may not have otherwise experienced and blended them together. And it’s this idea of being more open that also makes me come back to the music of these years each time spring arrives. Because what is spring? It is two fingers thrown to winter but, as much as it’s not that deep, it remains as that traditional time of rebirth. And so back to that question: who do you want to be? I’m always going to choose being open, relaxed, calm. Plus, let’s face it, sometimes it’s nice to get a contact high from all the songs I used to smoke weed to before quitting weed and never touching it again (three years straight!!!).
Here’s a playlist of tunes*:
Spring soon come!
You can find Ryan on Twitter.
(Yes, not all these tunes are from the period mentioned. Sue me)