It hasn’t just been a long December; it’s been a long year. I posted this exactly one year ago today. I had no idea what was waiting for me in 2013. I really do hope this coming year will be better than the last, in so very many ways.
Nobody does sad quite the same way as Counting Crows, and there aren’t many songs by them sadder than this one. Even though it got hideously overplayed back in 1996, I’ve never grown so tired of it that I turn it off. There is something compelling about the forlorn despair in Adam Duritz’ voice. He’s what makes the Crows’ music so interesting. They’re fine musicians, but Duritz’ songwriting and singing bring a depth to what would otherwise be pretty middle-of-the-road pop-rock. Now I don’t wish pain on anyone, but Adam Duritz is one of those artists who is much better when he’s depressed. (For the record, Duritz is pretty open about his struggles with Depression and other emotional/mental issues. He’s had himself under more control in the last few years, which makes me happy for him but sad for the music.)
“A Long December” might be a mediocre break-up song in lesser hands. The lyrics are solid, but not spectacular–at least on the surface. “The smell of hospitals in winter, and the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters and no pearls. All at once you look across a crowded room to see the way that light attaches to a girl.” I always have the distinct feeling I’m missing something with Duritz’ songs, that part of the story is being left out. It’s one of the most intriguing things about his songwriting style: it’s all so intensely personal. You just know there are inside jokes that casual listeners will never even notice, but the people who lived through those times with Duritz hear them instantly. But in spite of the emotional specificity (or maybe because of it), there is room for the audience. Everyone can identify with the resignation and despair here. The winter is long, and it’s just beginning in December, the cold nights looming large, the shadows growing by the second. “I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower, makes you talk a little lower about the things you could not show her.”
But there’s more to this song than heavy piano chords, a melancholy accordion, and a desperate voice. There’s hope and redemption. “A long December, and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.” Maybe he’ll figure it out. Maybe she’ll forgive him and come back. Maybe he’ll get to the ocean next year. The winter nights might be dark and long, but the new year is about to begin, and there’s always a chance things will improve.
Happy New Year to everyone in the blogosphere. Maybe this one will be better than the last.