Hello Lemonwire readers! I hope everyone’s Monday was swell. Today, we’ll be looking at another song perfect for these last few days of spring that we have left.
Yesterday, we looked at “The Rain Song” by led Zeppelin, which used the seasons as a metaphor to chart the arc of a relationship. Before yesterday, I had maybe listened to “The Rain Song” a handful of times. But reexamining it in a new light helped me remember just how good it still is.
Our song today is “Spring Snow”, by Vampire Weekend. It also uses seasons to comment on a relationship, but in a slightly different way. The most significant difference we’ll see between it and “The Rain Song” isn’t Vampire Weekend’s use of different musical techniques like auto tune, but rather a stark contrast in tone.
But first, let’s see what Vampire Weekend has been up to lately.
“Spring Snow” is the penultimate track on Vampire Weekend’s new album, “Father of the Bride”. The recent release (which came out May 3rd), is Vampire Weekend’s fourth studio album, and their first project in the past six years, following 2013’s “Modern Vampires of the City”. It is also the band’s first album since multi-instrumentalist and producer Rostam Batmanglij left the group. While the album itself is incredibly diverse, it does sustain a pattern of contrasting dark lyrics over a bright, spring-like mood.
While it debuted at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200, it has since been bumped by Logic’s recent release, “Confessions of A Dangerous Mind”.
“Spring Snow” is a bit of an odd track, to be honest, but not for Vampire Weekend. It balances minimalism through the verses with bombastic energy in the auto-tuned, lyric-less chorus. Even though they have different melodies, I couldn’t stop thinking about “Lost In The World” by Kanye and Bon Iver. Still not the biggest fan of auto tune.
Besides the (in my opinion) needless use of auto tune, “Spring Snow”‘s unique rhythm gives the song most of its energy. The piano melody is bright and clear, which contrasts nicely with the subtle synths panning in the background. But there’s also a trace of darkness within the music, almost mournful.
As the title suggests, the lyrics to “Spring Snow” center around an unanticipated cold front. As any Midwesterner will tell you, it isn’t a rare occurrence. In fact, in Indiana, it’s almost guaranteed to snow at least once sometime between March and May. When you’ve grown up with this pattern, you learn not to get your hopes up when you see the first ray of sunshine after February.
The lyrics to “Spring Snow” incorporate this dynamic, but subvert expectations by turning it on its head. Let’s start with the first verse to see how they do this.
“The snow fell last night
Your flight couldn’t leave
Come back to the bed
Let’s take this reprieve”
In this opening stanza, we’re given the context, and are told directly what the song is about. Two lovers about to part ways are given one more day together by a stroke of luck resulting in unsafe travel conditions. Instead of being a symbol of death, this late winter weather is seen as a gift. Further evidence of this interpretation can clearly be seen in the second stanza.
“It felt like the end
The end’s been delayed
You’re here in my arms
So what should I say?”
These lines simply flesh out what we already know, and merely provide a bit more evidence that we’re on the right track. Most importantly, we learn in this stanza that this isn’t a temporary trip, but a permanent end.
Another telling stanza comes in later in the song, but nails down the subversion taking place.
“The snow slows them down
If just for a day
But here comes the sun
Those toxic old rays”
The third line here calls to mind “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles, while the last hits you with the punchline. This isn’t a song about how spring is the season of love and how winters are lonely, but exactly the opposite.
While the music is fairly upbeat, the last words of “Spring Snow” reveal it as a facade. A man trying to force himself into being happy after losing love.
“Trains start to move
Bells start to ring
The seasons we had
Don’t mean anything”
And if you think about the music like that, then I guess the use of auto tune actually makes a lot of sense. A voice that isn’t capable of sounding jubilant enlists the help of editing software, and still doesn’t sound that happy. And by the end of the song, we learn the reason why.
That wraps up our discussion for today. We’ll be back tomorrow.