(Jessica Lea Mayfield at Glasslands in Brooklyn, March 30, 2011)
Earlier this week it was in the 30s. It’s still in the 30s-to-40s and the next couple of days are going to be rainy and gross. So this post, like this week’s recipe, is some wishful thinking: Maybe drinking enough springy beers will make the cold go away?
I wrote a few words about five songs that get me in the mood for spring, and my friend Bret Stetka, who writes about food and drinks for Time Out New York, Metromix and MSN.com (he also has a doughnut blog — yes, a doughnut blog), paired them each with a beer that complements the music and the mood, and explained why they work together.
THE SONG: Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Blue Skies Again”
21-year-old Ohioan Jessica Lea Mayfield made one of my favorite albums so far this year (Tell Me, released on Nonesuch and produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach), and this is one of its best tracks. It’s about getting over heartbreak in the context of the seasons changing from winter to spring.
Key lyrics: “This heart of mine/ Is ready for the spring/ Open up my window/ Winter bird, take wing”
THE BEER: Saison de Lente (The Bruery; Placentia, CA)
Saisons are made for spring, literally. They were first brewed by Belgian farmers in the winter for spring and summer consumption, and they’re far and away my favorite style of beer. They tend to be light and refreshing, yet spicy and full of flavor and Jessica Lea Mayfield’s ode to spring calls for the The Bruery’s Californian twist on the style (complete with a pink psychedelic Easter egg on the label). The beer starts with a somber sour foundation, much like the song’s moody intro. Then it blows wide open — a crisp, effervescent refresher perfect for Mayfield’s breezy, springy chorus: “Suddenly I can see blue skies again.”
THE SONG: Big Star, “In The Street”
Most of Big Star’s music feels best during the warmer seasons, but “In The Street” in particular perfectly embodies spring, with lyrics about hanging out with friends and driving around aimlessly with no worries.
THE BEER: Estate Homegrown Ale (Sierra Nevada; Chico, CA)
This song calls for a big, bold West Coast IPA — something with energy and intensity, but also a drinkable, major-key disposition. Sierra’s Estate Ale is aggressively hoppy and pleasantly bitter, the beery equivalent of Alex Chilton’s awesomely squawky screech. And the simple, nectary fruitiness holding it all together? Cowbell!
THE SONG: The National, “Apartment Story”
The National have never been known for their happy-go-lucky disposition. This one is about sinking into a winter depression with the idea that once it hits spring, everything might get a bit better.
Key lyrics: “Tired and wired we ruin too easy/ Sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave.”
THE BEER: Arabier (De Dolle; Esen, Belgium)
The National require something a bit darker and moodier than the usual spring sippers. Something brooding but slightly optimistic. De Dolle’s Arabier is a strong pale ale with an earthy, funky dark side and a dreary, rainy day haziness. But loads of bubbly carbonation and a bright citrus flavor hint at sandals and sunlight.
THE SONG: The New Pornographers, “The Crash Years”
The New Pornographers are the quintessential sunny-day band, thanks to A.C. Newman’s affinity for bright, multi-voiced choruses and Neko Case’s reedy wail. “The Crash Years” takes the cake, though, mostly because of its umbrella-filled music video. Directed by Sammy Rawal, it shows an aerial view of meticulously-choreographed pedestrians walking through a cobblestone courtyard pushing strollers, riding bikes, carrying ladders and walking under umbrellas.
THE BEER: Bräu Weisse (Ayinger; Aying, Germany)
Here I think we need something crisp, upbeat and approachable to match the band’s sharply-written indie pop. There also needs to be big payoff in terms of flavor, and despite that aggressive umlaut over the “a,” this bubbly hefeweizen is Pornographers-perfect. It’s light, citrusy and super spicy. Plus the idyllic German cottage on the bottle seems like a relaxing place to stay come spring.
THE SONG: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, “Walking To Do”
This song is, in part, about making things happen on your own instead of waiting for religion to provide all the answers, but it’s also simply about living life and working through whatever gets thrown your way — which is a perfect attitude to have at the start of a new season. It’s also about walking, which is a lot easier to do after snow is gone! It’s one of my favorite Ted Leo songs, and one of his most energizing.
Key lyrics: “And if we stay on our feet, we’ll make it in our own time/ And though the road has got some steep climbs, I believe we’ll be fine”
THE BEER: Jack D’Or (Pretty Things; Cambridge, MA)
Ted Leo’s brand of straight-ahead indie rock, with its sharp Elvis Costello confidence, generally puts me in a good mood. As does Jack D’or, another perfectly springy saison. It’s dry and crispwith big spice, just like Leo’s high-energy treble-rich tune.