Having just helped my best friend of 16 years move halfway across the country, things that remind me of college are feeling a little more jagged and waterworks-worthy than usual, and this song apparently falls under that category now. The live album being recorded just outside Philly, where she and I both routinely hung out and caught the East Coast legs of tours when we didn’t feel like schlepping all the way up to New York’s vastly preferable venues, kind of snags at the edges of my low-key grieving soul and isn’t helping me get through just one fuccin day without bursting into tears as the reality of my best friend no longer living 10 minutes up the road rudely sinks in.
But the whole point of this blog is exploring the emotions and memories that have attached themselves to music and, much like how absolutely everything we listened to both on the road and while driving around her new home city is now infused with some overpoweringly bittersweet associations, anything that sounds at all like college lands a little differently (at least for now, and who knows how long this will be dragging itself into the hazy, undefinable future) because feelings are just as mutable as everything else in a living world filled with breathing, evolving relationships.
I probably wouldn’t’ve ever listened to Matt Nathanson if not for that one random college concert he played on my campus, but his earnest singer-songwriter persona, easy humor, endless affability and catchy-as-hell songs drew me in almost immediately,
And the “SEC got me ‘laid'” shirts that played off his recent hit absolutely helped, because I have always been a sucker for humor’s lowest-hanging fruits. I finally unearthed mine and was horrified to realize that this happened in my sophomore year and NOT my junior year like I had thought for years, and now all my memories are thrown into chronological question but, hey, I’m a chaos junkie anyway. But also, to further suggest that my vice-masticated memory is the absolute worst: Why does it look two different Matts signed my shirt?
Beneath These Fireworks, by virtue of having three years on At The Point (which was released right before I graduated anyway), sounds like college in a way few others albums do. It is hopeful and heartbroken, raucous and reverent, confident and cowed, and it absolutely feels like every dorm room I played it over and over again in. It covers the same ground my college experience did, from the highs to the lows, while flawlessly mimicking the same amazing-overall impression college memories leave me with.
“Curve of the Earth” remains one of my favorites from the album. It is so compulsively sing-alongable because it perfectly straddles that sweet spot between slow and up-tempo songs, and the live version uses timing and acoustic instrumentalization (or lack thereof) to really hammer the point home. Its message—how easily the big things can be cast into doubt and taken down by death from a thousand smaller cuts; how you can only give so much of yourself to someone who’s unwilling or unable to match your full-hearted affection—both resonated with and destroyed me. The relationship with the right-person/wrong-time high-school sweetheart I loved more than I knew how to express in anything even remotely resembling a healthy way would come to an unceremonious but devastating end just a few months after I first heard and immediately fell in love with this song, which was a big part of understanding both my own failures and how my immaturity compounded them to sabotage years of quietly desperate pining that led to things finally seeming to be on the right track when I decided to hop off entirely.
For as many songs and albums that’ve carried associations so intense that I still have a hard time facing them, I’m really glad Matt Nathanson’s tunes have escaped that damnation. He’s not an artist I come back to terribly often but he is one I’m always happy to revisit when I do. Even now, as difficult as it is to accept that the best friend who made so much of college and everything after so meaningful and enjoyable and memorable isn’t just a quick drive and impromptu plans away anymore, “Curve of the Earth” and both sets of its littermates are incredible, beautiful reminders that there’s no need to fear personal connections that will eventually change because the constants that matter will always be there in their own ways, no matter how time and perspective seem to alter them throughout their temporarily unrecognizable transitional phases.