“Claire” by Matt Pond PA

128. Song No. 1,869: “Claire,” Matt Pond PA
Emblems, 2004

Some bands, like The Prom, can claim entire and incredibly specific swaths of time. Other bands, like Matt Pond PA, seem to be indistinguishable from the foundation the entirety of my musical taste is built on, to the point where I could have sworn Emblems (the album that escalated things from just enjoying MMPA to Matt Pond still reigning as one of my top-three favorite contemporary musicians—I mean, have you seen my Spotify and Last.fm 2020-in-reviews?) came out waaaaay earlier than the last week of my sophomore year at college. But I guess I just listened to it so much I wound up cramming four years of playing time into half that space.

I love this album. I love this album so freaking much. Its two-years-earlier predecessor The Green Fury is why I closed out my high school experience with a deepening love for Matt Pond’s music (it helps that the January-issued album sounds like summer to me, independent of its gleefully gratuitous use of crickets that still delights me when the winter blahs have settled in a little too comfortably), but it didn’t grab me like Emblems did. I owe a lot of that to the way both this song and “Lily Two” instantly announced themselves as two of my favorite songs from the first play.

Where “Lily Two” is an early-album head-bopping stroll through a catchy assurance that there is no doing wrong if its titular addressee keeps being just who she is because every day is a new chance to get it right, “Claire” feels more like a anthemic call to action in the album’s latter half, albeit a little more ambiguous than its album-mate and a little less upbeat than its melody. Stark lyrical difference aside, though, the two songs are inextricably intertwined for how they both emerged as my favorites with twin fervor, mostly because I loved how they sounded.

I still can’t figure out if I have a favorite 17 years later but I do know there were a handful of lyrics to “Claire” that I scrawled everywhere to rid them from my soul. They’re not especially profound but I felt them deep in my soul every time I passively but hopelessly crushed on anyone who seemed to exist on diametrically opposing terrain or I needed to be reminded that life, like water, moves of its own volition and goes where it wants to go.

Memories, too, meander on their own terms, and I wold love to know why the very first image this song invokes is some snippet of a college evening when I was positively effusing love for it to friends in the campus dining hall—there are so many different places we travelled together and silences it filled and surfaces its lyrics covered over the years, so what made this one stick? But there’s also something magically transportive about an album I still love from a musician I still adore being so cemented in a time and place that held so many happy memories for me and being able to summon them in such tangible, vivid clarity that it feels like I could reach out and pull myself back to that place.

For all the songs people talk about getting ruined by bad memories and worse people, there are so many that are just dripping in wonderfully warm moments that deserve to be preserved in the happenstance of a musical association that sings of their wonder and carries those homey nuances in its notes every time you revisit it. And “Claire,” you do it perfectly.

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