Rhythm & Views


I am not a morning person. It takes a while for me to process the morning; coffee helps, as does the right music. But finding the right morning record is a delicate procedure; the songs have to be subtle enough to ease my consciousness awake, and loud enough to kick the neurons into gear. Lately I have been waking up with Portastatic's The Summer of the Shark, and I have to say, my days are more fulfilling, my brain more actively awake, because of it. Whoever said all you need to start your day off right is a bowl of Cheerios and a banana had yet to experience what it's like to have Portastatic for breakfast. What follows is an account of five days waking up with The Summer of the Shark.

Day One: Monday. Drag myself out of bed at last possible minute. Actually, more like fall. Must remember to get vision checked. Trudge to the CD player, put on new Portastatic record. First song, "Oh Come Down," begins slowly, with just guitar, and Mac McCaughan's, high-pitched, scratchy and a little out of key voice, just warm enough to be just this side of male. Vision begins to clear. By mid-song, I'm busily washing all the dishes from the weekend, and I'm out the door to work on time without forgetting anything.

Day Two: Tuesday. I wake up before the alarm, looking forward to listening to The Summer of the Shark again. Beginning to really like the second song, "In the Lines." Note lyrics: "I got this woman on the phone, wrong number, well even she starts crying. She says I hope you find your friend, I get lots of calls for him, I hope he's fine." Sparse, sad, hopeful. Listen to entire record; it's very reminiscent of the kinds of songs on Superchunk's last record, Come Pick Me Up, except a little less put-together, which is typical of a Portastatic record; since Portastatic is Superchunk frontman McCaughan's solo project, the records go to interesting places, forgoing ultra-production for experimentation (see De Mel, De Melno, McCaughan's Brazilian-influenced EP).

Day Three: Wednesday. Skip right to "In the Lines." Think theme of record is finding those you care about and holding on, especially in times of questionable future outcomes. "Swimming Through Tires" fairly brilliant: Note lyrics: "Ice flows overhead, melting, unstable, I will be with you when I am able." Trombones add nice element of river, city, kind of like the sound of trains and ships. Song stuck in head all day, but in a comforting way. Question: How does one swim through tires at the bottom of the Hudson?

Day Four: Thursday. Lots of references to New York, mixed with less urban images (bugs, rivers, palm trees). Different versions of home? Found vague Sept. 11 image: "I do not need another gap in my life, when there's teeth missing in the sky downtown, that's where the smoke rises lit up at night." (From "Chesapeake.") Feel silly writing "vague Sept. 11 image." Upbeat organ moves song along, "Until you see that you are making your own fate."

Day Five: Friday. Notice more aquatic imagery: "Hey Salty," parts of "Drill Me." Only song not keen on is "Paratrooper"; sounds too much like an end-of-album song (very quiet), but then "Hey Salty" is actually last. Notice that I have not made reference to how my day actually went due to listening to record since Day One; perhaps because thinking so much about record I fast-forward through the grogginess? Ah, the power of music.

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