This summer we moved out of Minnesota. For the past six years I lived in several residences across Minneapolis, one of which was the only place I’ve lived longer than a year since leaving my parents’ house (three whole years in that attic on Pleasant Avenue!). Laura is from a suburb of the area, so her connection goes back even further. Of all the things we loved about the city (books, parks, beer, fall, close friends, dog and baby origins) a huge part of the life revolved around enjoying music. Thankfully some artists have put their love of the city into song. If you know Minneapolis, tell us which one you like best. It may just depend on the season…
In this first contribution, Lucinda Williams outlines the Minneapolis that makes up the bulk of the year, and a good chunk of my memories. It’s a lonely love song where “snow covers the streetlamps and the windowsills.” That’s a view I can recall from several top-floor apartments, where the world was white for months. She sings that she “never got around to this bitter winter” as acoustic and slide guitars accompany her wavering voice. The winters are indeed hard to accept–you just survive them. In the song, a companion has left Minneapolis, and the narrator longs for the “spring’s virgin buds” but is wrestled back down by the “black clouds that cover up the sun again.” For all the dismal imagery, it’s a sweet tune as well as sad, cathartic instead of angry. I imagine listening to it while waiting for a downtown bus during a snowfall, headphones tucked up under the stocking cap. It would also pair well with red wine.
How to forget that day in Minneapolis? Leap headfirst into summer. There is a collective amnesia that sets on the city after the snow melts, and all the outdoor festivals, water sports, and lively sidewalks keep residents blissfully forgetful of the few months previous when they were cursing the very ground they walked on (because it was buried under ice). Mark Mallman’s song speaks to this new warm season. “How could anybody protest city life?” he asks, the amnesia upon him. This is his anthem for his favorite spot in the Central time zone, where summer means a party is possible. A consistent beat leads into the rhythmic keys that Mallman crafts most of his songs around. The pace never slows through this reflection of youth and homecoming. The first time I heard this on The Current I was crossing an intersection on 26th Street in uptown, and although I was older than twenty, I still loved how the song connected this part of the city with a trip to First Avenue. Plenty of summer nights saw me biking or busing to and from the venue, in “the city that river splits.” So if they had asked me, “are you satisfied?” my summer self would know how to answer. I never minded sweating it out in those small stuffy apartments, the city just outside.
Winner: So two songs for two seasons, about one schizophrenic locale in the Midwest. Which tune sums up the watery city best? They each fit their calendar months so well. Right now I can easily recall the recent summer, yet some wet chilly days will soon lead into winter. The streets and dwellings of my Minneapolis were defined so much by each of these environments. I think I have to give the bout to Mark Mallman, ’cause all I ever wanted was Central Time. Even Ms. Williams could shed her sorrow with a summer song like that.