96. Song No. 1,188: “Blue Diamonds,” The Long Winters
When I Pretend to Fall, 2003
I cannot believe that in the almost six months I’ve been doing this that this the first time I’ve written about The Long Winters — probably one of my top-five bands and absolutely a desert-island one — but I suppose “Blue Diamonds” is the most apropos way to pop that cherry.
At some point in 2002, I think before I finally and gratefully put high school behind me, Barsuk Records (what is probably the greatest indie label ever) put out a compilation album tellingly titled Treats. I bought it for the Death Cab tracks; I fell in love with it for the endless musical riches it gave me. All-Time Quarterback (a Death Cab side project unfairly denied the same fame and acclaim as Postal Service), Kind of Like Spitting, Nada Surf, The Prom, Rilo Kiley, Sunset Valley and John Vanderslice had a song or two on there that inspired all kinds of long-lasting loves. If there was ever a compilation that could pass for a mixed CD I’d make myself, it was the aptly named Treats.
(There is probably a story worth exploring in how browsing through Barsuk’s current roster feels kind of like revisiting your college campus a decade later and being keenly in touch with how out-of-place you now feel in the first place that actually felt like home despite its intrinsic impermanence and your better judgment, but I’m blaming that lingering ish on this year’s Spotify Wrapped forcing me to confront that, jesus god, the aughts really do dominate my listening habits. I could also indulgently whine about how badly I miss new Long Winters material after 14 years since their last album that I somehow dragged my remarkably musically incompatible husband to Soho one January years ago to hear frontman John Roderick perform Putting the Days to Bed in its entirety, because there was no way I was missing the novel opportunity to witness apparently their last full-length and my favorite album in a whole new way. It sucks when your favorites stop making music, you know?)
“Blue Diamonds” was as solid of an opening track for Treats‘ treasure trove of tunes as it would be for When I Pretend to Fall a year later, and I was instantly hooked. (“Stupid,” also from The Long Winters’ forthcoming 2003 album, was the compilation’s penultimate track and further proof that this was a band worth checking out.) It is playful, a little snarky and catchy as hell. And I am just eternally delighted by the mental image and implied storytelling in and around the line “I stand up and toast the TV for getting it right.” The whole album is just as compellingly upbeat and, with a shockingly few listens, comfortable in the way well-worn and frequently revisited albums are.
Plus, the liner notes smell like crayons, which tickles something my lizard brain inexplicably digs.
As far as I’m concerned, The Long Winters can do no wrong, and I love that that’s been true for as long as I’ve been aware of how incredible they are, all because “Blue Diamonds” decided to be the most auspicious musical introduction ever.