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Scene Selections: April showers

, , , , , , and | Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jackie Junco | The Observer

Weather-wise, South Bend was spoiled at the start of this month. Over the Easter weekend, for example, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping — I even wore shorts! But as the month has meandered on, the clear-eyed possibility of spring has slowly been replaced with its edgy alter ego: the price for summer. 

The tri-campus community has been rained on and greyed out for much of the previous week; temperatures have dropped from the heights of the low 80s to the drudgery of the mid 50s and as we collectively hunker down for the month-long home stretch that leads into finals, our spirits are starting to dip. After all, the only thing worse than having to do homework on a bright, sunny day is looking up from your textbook at a bleak, boring landscape that seems just as depressed as you are.

When faced with this kind of an emotional crisis, some people seek reprieve in peppy, cheerful music or movies with happy endings. But not Scene — not Scene kids. At Scene, we wallow in our misery. It makes us feel alive. And all jokes aside, we believe there is value in art that makes us cry; what is that, if not the human condition?

So for this week’s Scene Selections, we’ve thrown together a short list of “sh*t that makes us sad.” That title wasn’t fit to publish, however, so instead we’re calling it “April showers” — a snapshot of the “entertainment” we save for a rainy day (literally).

We’ll be back next month in higher spirits — “April showers,” after all, is only half of the phrase. But until then, sulk with us. Sad boi hours are here.

 

“u” by Kendrick Lamar

Aidan O’Malley, Scene Editor

My admiration for the Grammy-winning, platinum-certified Pulitzer Prize recipient and rapper Kendrick Lamar knows literally no bounds. You can listen to a Kendrick Lamar record, and then you can LISTEN to a Kendrick Lamar record. His body of work demonstrates a depth and diversity incomparable to most of his peers; his songs are emotionally and intellectually compelling, with great hooks, fire beats and an unparalleled lyrical complexity. Lamar can hype you up, but he can also dial you down, and his songs about racial injustice, addiction and mental illness offer insights that are hard to come by anywhere else in the rap game.

My favorite album of his, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” is all of these things, but its sixth track, “u,” is particularly focused on the latter two topics. It is also one of the darkest songs to come from the acclaimed musician. It opens with screams; as an improvised saxophone begins to bleed in, Lamar repeats, “Loving you is complicated.” And as the song develops, we come to understand that this “you” is no third person — it is Kendrick himself, railing against his faults and his failures. 

There is a somewhat abrupt shift about halfway through; housekeeping literally bangs on the door and begs Lamar to open up. When his voice returns to the track, it’s anguished. In this second half of the song, Lamar doesn’t rap so much as he weeps, occasionally taking a big, ugly slug from a clinking glass of alcohol. It’s a harrowing piece. But it’s also essential.

 

“The Fairest of the Seasons” by Nico

Willoughby Thom, Associate Scene Editor

“Now that it’s [April] / Now that the [semester] has landed at the end … I want to know [will it rain, or do I need a coat] / And maybe try another time / And do I have [an exam that I am] forgetting?”

“Now that I’ve finally [realized it might be raining,]” my hopes for a warm end to the year are slowly going away. “I want to know do I stay or do I go” to class or just Zoom in, anyway.

“Yes and the morning has me / Looking [out my window] / And seeing [the weather app] warning me / To read the signs / carefully.

“Now that [April is] here / Now that I’m almost not so very far behind / I want to know do I stay or do I go / And maybe follow another sign.”

“Do I really have [this] song that I can ride on?” Indeed, because it’s a sad tune to accompany these April showers. Even though April showers bring May flowers, springtime is one of the fairest of the seasons of them all.

 

“Little Women” (2019)

Maeve Filbin, Senior Scene Writer

Greta Gerwig knew what she was doing when she gave us Jo March’s “I care more to be loved” speech, the attic monologue that’s been seared into my memory and every International Women’s Day post. Louisa May Alcott knew what she was doing when she wrote: “Women, we’ve got minds and souls as well as hearts; ambition and talents as well as beauty and accomplishments; and we want to live and learn as well as love and be loved. I’m sick of being told that is all a woman is fit for!” Saoirse Ronan definitely knew what she was doing when she delivered the line, “But I’m so lonely,” with eyes shining like panes of glass. 

Before she can explain herself fully to her mother, Jo’s breath hitches a little, catching on the confession that suddenly tumbles out of her: “I want to be loved.” Once she finds her words, Jo bristles with barely-contained frustration, her words insistent and urgent. She’s articulate and intentional, refusing to live as an object of affection and choosing instead to pursue a career and her personal success. Then, with a great intake of shaky breath, we see how she’s aching. 

“But I’m … I’m so lonely.”

Gerwig, Alcott and Ronan must have conspired to make me experience self-awareness in an AMC theater, something that can be so personal and so public. I was not the only audience member crying and blowing snot into my sleeve, but I was definitely the loudest.

 

“April Skies” by The Jesus and Mary Chain

Sarah Kikel, Scene Writer

The guitar riffs are danceable and the melody is upbeat, but “April Skies” is a moody piece of melancholy. 

The first single from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s sophomore album, “Darklands” (1987), “April Skies” depicts the apprehensiveness of a dissolving relationship. Danger pervades the changes, as frontman Jim Reid sings, “Hand in hand in a violent life / Making love on the edge of a knife / And the world comes tumbling down.” 

In the song, hope and redemption are paired with darkness and conflict. Though rebirth is sought, disintegration must precede. The characters are troubled — oscillating between staying and leaving — and the dialogue becomes muddled between them before ultimately deciding, “And there’s one thing / I couldn’t do / Sacrifice myself to you.”

The imagery is stark and the weather isn’t sympathetic. Reid sings, “Sun grows cold / Sky gets black / And you broke me up / And now you won’t come back / Shaking hand, life is dead / And a broken heart / And a screaming head.” The guitar chords sound haunting; the background vocals seem like they’re suffering; and yet, the beat is lighthearted — maybe this is the most heartbreaking of all.

“April Skies” is stunning, but it always leaves me in an emotional wasteland, half-expecting a shrouded figure to descend down upon us at any moment. I guess I feel the same about this April.

 

“Manchester by the Sea” 

Nick Brigati, Scene Writer

Ever since “Manchester by the Sea” was released in theaters, I have tried again and again to get my sister to watch it with me — but to no avail. It seems every time I suggest the film for movie night, her response is always the same: that it is “too sad” or “depressing.” And despite the fact that my sister has an unwarranted aversion to the majority of the films I try to get her to watch, for once, I can’t blame her. With a running time of 137 minutes, “Manchester by the Sea” is two full hours of tissue blowing and gloom-faced Casey Affleck that will leave you emotionally exhausted once the credits finally roll.

Set in the dreary New England town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, the film centers around depressed janitor Lee Chandler, who upon hearing of his older brother’s death, returns to the small fishing town — only to learn that he was named his nephew’s legal guardian. Lee’s homecoming brings back past demons from his life with his estranged wife, Randi (Michelle Williams), which provide further insight into the character’s constant bereavement. When his past is eventually revealed (which I will not spoil here, to save the suffering for your viewing), it culminates in a harsh realization that Hollywood seldom depicts: that some griefs are so painful we can never fully overcome them. “Manchester by the Sea” may not be the most rewatchable movie, but it is the perfect film to watch anytime you are feeling blue.

 

“Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine

John Clark, Scene Writer

It’s no secret that spring has a scientifically-backed reputation for being the horny season — something that, according to Du Lac, should have little to no implications for the behavior of students at Notre Dame. Despite the unrealistic and toxic standards of the administration, biology carries on for most of us students. I, like most others here, was raised Catholic, so I was taught that the purpose of sex is procreation and must occur within the sanctity of marriage, the basis for Du Lac’s regulations. 

A few years back, John Mulaney had a stand-up bit in which he reflected on the consequences of being raised Catholic, describing a “strange look of shame and unhappiness I have in my eyes at all times, especially after sex … [That] was all forced on me at birth.” While I wouldn’t trade my Catholic upbringing for the world, there’s a truth in his words to which I think many folks who were raised Catholic can relate. Adulthood for Catholics entails the discovery that there isn’t a necessary correlation between sex and love, and many of us struggle with the cognitive dissonance between our own drives and what we were raised to believe, especially in the spring. 

My Bloody Valentine is a band known for, among other things, singing a lot about sex, and they hone in on the idea of sex without love on a number of tracks on their transcendent 1991 opus, “Loveless.” My Bloody Valentine explore the ideas in their lyrics with much more detail in the accompanying music. For example, in the opening track, Only Shallow, there’s a fairly stark contrast between the ethereal verses and the refrain of rhythmic, wailing, otherworldly guitars. In terms of musical ideation, I always interpreted the verses as capturing the bliss of sex in the moment while the explosive refrain is a reflection on the whirlwind of regret and shame that can entail sex without love. It’s the sonic representation of the crashing together of bodies between two people who don’t necessarily care for one another. The entire album features predominantly melancholy reflections on love, sex and the various intersections and divergences between them, all accompanied by a trance-inducing sonic odyssey. This spring, if your Catholic guilt has got you down, or you’re having a rainy day, treat yourself by giving “Loveless” a spin.

 

“evermore”

Lexi Kilcoin, Scene Writer

I was never the biggest Taylor Swift fan when I was younger, so her new “Fearless” album isn’t that much of an exciting spectacle for me. However, when “evermore” was released earlier this year, it became my scapegoat from the pressures of stress and anxiety. 

I’ll admit that Taylor has music for every mood. She got me through my angsty teen phase (“Everything Has Changed”), she got me through my first break up (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”) and of course, I plan to listen to her when I turn 22 (we all know this one).

“evermore” has gotten me through some of the toughest days I’ve had this year. Whether you’re feeling that twinge of revenge (“no body, no crime”) or feeling nostalgic (“seven”), “evermore” has you covered. There’s nothing better than listening to “champagne problems” on full blast in the shower while simultaneously being sad about your life. 

I highly encourage anyone who’s going through a tough time to look up a Taylor Swift song, because I guarantee you there will be a song that matches your exact mood — and don’t forget a package of Oreos.

 

“It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind” by Alex Turner

Nia Sylva, Scene Writer

Despite the ostensibly cheerful opening notes of this acoustic tune, there’s something unavoidably hopeless — or, at the very least, pervasively bittersweet — about “It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind” as a whole. 

Maybe part of it is the track’s stripped-down production. Most listeners (myself included) primarily associate Alex Turner with the heavier rock stylings of his main vehicle, the Arctic Monkeys. But “It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind,” written for the soundtrack to 2011 indie movie “Submarine,” has Turner unplugging his guitar and quieting his previously “shouty” voice to a more melodic near-whisper. 

This sense of comparative quiet manifests itself as a sort of contemplative yearning. In the song’s first verse, Turner compares the journey toward heaven (i.e., the way one moves through life) to a nightclub with a “queue” that ends up being “shorter” than expected — thereby asking listeners to consider the fleeting nature of existence and suggesting that a person can hurtle toward the end of her life without even knowing that she’s running out of time. And the song’s sentiments don’t exactly get any more positive from there; indeed, Turner’s subject is apparently both wasting her days and finding herself rather stuck (hence the notion that “It’s hard to get around the wind”). This dual sense of rushed movement and inability to get to one’s destination makes everything feel, frankly, a bit useless. 

As I listen to Turner strum his guitar almost gingerly, as he gently recount his subject’s “low … energy” and almost desperate attempts to start something new while experiencing “sabertooth / multi-ball confusion” (whatever that means — I’m not going to pretend these lyrics aren’t incredibly opaque), I find myself, like her, wanting to “shriek / until [I’m] hollow” at the prospect of moving through time and growing older. “It might not hurt now,” warns Turner, as he plays the song’s final chords, “But it’s gonna hurt soon.” Thanks to you, pal, it already is.

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About Aidan O'Malley

Scene Editor, Aidan is.

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