For the final post of 2007 we’re looking to the new year. Ten songs which review the year gone by and anticipate the next. I don’t like New Year’s Eve much. I resent the pressure of having to have a good time as time hurtles forward another digit closer to the year of my death. Bah! Still, don’t let me spoil it for you. And look, Ma, no U2!
Death Cab For Cutie – The New Year.mp3
The song that kicked off the stunning Transatlanticism album (the title of which I dedicate to the British music writer Robin Carmody) so brilliantly. Will you feel any different at 00:01 on January 1? I think Death Cab are due another album soon, which gives us a good reason to be welcome 2008 with some anticipation. I hear a new album by Postal Service, which features Death Cab singer Ben Gibbard, is on its way, too. And last night I listened to Nada Surf’s new album Lucky, out on February 8, on which Gibbard guests. Lucky deserves much buzz; it’s a very fine album.
District Six – New Year.mp3
Go to any New Year’s Eve party in Cape Town’s coloured (mixed-race) community, and you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid this song from the hugely popular and deeply moving musical District Six. The eponymous area was a large working-class suburb on the foot of Table Mountain, on the edges of the city centre, populated mainly by coloureds, one of four main population groups by which people were classified under apartheid. In 1966, the apartheid regime decided that District Six was a slum — which it was, seeing that the white rulers had little interest in developing and upgrading the area. By the mid-70s, District Six had been cleared, and the inhabitants of this close-knit community were removed to ghettos far away from the city (while huge swathes of the area are still vacant today!). Some of these new ghettos were cruelly named after District Six landmarks, so as to drive home the humiliation. District Six – The Musical captured the life in District Six, and its demise, with great humour and heartbreaking pathos. “New Year” illustrates the party spirit in the community. With its blend of global musical influences, the song is representative of the traditional sound of the coloured community (though most would probably rather listen to hip hop, R&B or jazz fusion).
Hello Saferide – 2006.mp3
The wonderful Annika Norlin wakes up on New Year’s morning and already knows it’ll be “another shitty year”. She makes resolutions (” I will learn a new word each day. Today’s word is dejected”), chief among them, “there’s you”. “I’m going to be with you. I haven’t told you yet, but I’m going to be with you.” Oh, I think I’m in love with Annika. (more Hello Saferide here)
K’s Choice – Another Year.mp3
For some, the new year promises another cycle of being in a rut, which in itself can be a soul-destroying comfort zone, as Belgium’s finest observe. “You’re not sick, so you can’t heal. But I wonder do you feel the need to cry: ‘I’m out of here’?” Sarah Bettens’ smoky voice rarely sounded better than on this track. (more Sarah Bettens here)
The Weepies – Not Your Year.mp3
Not your life, more like. The Weepies have a good way of putting into words the vague unhappinesses of life. “Movies, TV screens reflect just what you expected. There’s a world of shiny people somewhere else, out there following their bliss, living easy, getting kissed, while you wonder what else you’re doing wrong.” (more Weepies here)
Maria Taylor – Leap Year.mp3
Well, 2008 is a leap year. So this song gets included on strength of its apposite title, even if it has little to do with the coming 366 days. The excellent Maria Taylor actually does make reference to the seasons in this touching song, from 2005’s 11:11, about a relationship that is somehow stuck. (more Maria Taylor here)
Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne.mp3
Apart from the title, seasonal reference and the strains of Auld Lang Syne in the fade out, this has nothing to do with the forced jollities on December 31. In fact, there is nothing jolly about this apparently autobiographical encounter between Fogelberg and his old school girlfriend whom he meets by chance and they trade their stories. He finds that they could be great together if not for circumstances and unloved architects. The final line is quite wonderful. Sadly Fogelberg died a couple of weeks ago, putting to rest my briefly running gag of “fogelberging” as an euphemism. (more Dan Fogelberg here)
Mindy Smith – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.mp3
I really like Mindy Smith, but I’m uncertain about her Christmas album. Is The Man trying to turn her into Norah bleedin’ Jones? This standard has been recorded by many great singers, as well as by the likes of Diana Krall and Vonda Shepard. Mindy’s version has a lovely torchsong jazz arrangement, and as always her voice is lovely. The problem is this: here she sings the tune; on her originals (and her stunning cover version of “Jolene”), she lives the songs. (more Mindy Smith here)
The Walkmen – New Year’s Eve.mp3
Brilliant piano riff, great drums, and wonderfully alcohol-soaked vocals in this 2004 indie song about…er…a break-up? Adultery? Alienation in a relationship? Not a song to play after the corks pop.
Abba – Happy New Year.mp3
Among all these not terribly jolly songs, Abba deliver the right note of cautious optimism and anticipation. Life’s a bit shit, but, hey, let’s say Happy New Year, because things might get better. Here’s hoping it will, for all of us. Happy New Year everybody, see you in 2008.