January Through December Part 2: May-August
By Mark Carpenter
March 11, 2012
Hello again. This week, part two on Clinton Charlton’s ambitious project, January Through December, for which a song was composed and recorded for every month of the year 2011. For this segment, I will cover the months May to August.
May: “The Last Dance”
In his writeup on this song on the site, Charlton says that the composition was based on the recent purchase of a ukelele, in a terrific example of a new instrument spurring a creative leap. This song was an attempt at writing a tune in the style of Tin Pin Alley, but the result has an affecting despondency that seems very personal and distinctive. Another fine song which subtly evokes the month of May to these ears. Something about the jauntiness of the ukelele suggests a spring idyll, but the melancholia calls to mind the evanescence of spring weather in Canada, versus the overpowering strength of the winter winds. May is the month when, as warm as it can get, it can still seem like we’re just barely keeping the winter at bay. “The Last Dance” seems haunted by such feelings.
June: “Not One To Complain”
This plaintive track, another solo performance, is a tender rumination on a dead relationship. The title says it all; the tone here is not miserabilist, but rather wry and accepting. Winter is on its way out!
July: “Beaten Heart”
In contrast, July’s entry is about giving up, going “down for the count”when your heart is broken. Here, Charlton utilizes the failed boxer metaphor familiar from Simon and Garfunkel and others, and he does it most effectively, with possibly the most indelible melody of the set so far. The arrangement is carefully layered, with record-scratch noise at the beginning accentuating the bruised despair of the song. Sad but strangely uplifting.
August: “Lead Me On”
This one is partly about August, as the lyrics explicitly address the feeling of loss at summer’s end, as Charlton says in his writeup on the track. The haunting coda, “…the daylight is fading,” says it all. An enigmatic lyric about the end of things, supported by a gorgeous arrangement, this is another Charlton song that demonstrates how the most beautiful songs are the sad ones.
That’s all for now. The third and final part, September through December, will be posted later this week. Again, here’s a link to the site: http://www.januarythroughdecember.com/
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