St. Vincent

St. Vincent

An optimistic Friday post for y’all:

Certain people, places and things just bring out the best in you. Have you noticed that? Certain friends make you want to be better friends to your other friends. Certain activities inspire you to draw from wells of courage and generosity that you aren’t normally able to draw from. President Obama likes to quote a related turn of phrase from Lincoln’s first inaugural address — the “better angels of our nature” line — and while the original context may have been Civil War-level heavy, I encounter simple, everyday applications of the sentiment all the time. Music’s a great place to look.

I didn’t get too heavy into St. Vincent’s 2011 album Strange Mercy when it came out, but I have a hell of a reason to do so now. A music-loving work friend posted the album’s eighth track, “Champagne Year,” to Tumblr this week, and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to give it a proper listen. It’s a gorgeous song — serene, with an impassioned undertow that pulls at you throughout, and you aren’t given the title lyric until the song’s almost over. But when I finally heard Annie Clark sing that last line — “But I tell ya/It’s gonna be a champagne year” — a very specific type of optimism hit me.

I don’t know if you’re a big New Year’s resolution person. I tend not to be. I like the idea, but it never occurs to me to think one up until I’m asked if I have one, and by that time it feels like it’s too late. But here’s the thing — new years start every single day. It may not always be New Year’s Eve, but each day provides a perfectly good opportunity to make a change.

I was in Atlanta a few Octobers ago with Mrs. YHT visiting her brother, and something about that trip made me want to quit eating fast food. Maybe it was that we’d just finished our first year of marriage, and I wanted to be a better, healthier husband going forward. Or maybe it was going to nice restaurants with my wife and her brother, who were raised in a household that shunned “the Scottish place down the street,” as they jokingly called it growing up. Whatever it was — I started a new year then and there. I cheat every once in a while (who walks out of a NASCAR race and doesn’t immediately eat a McDouble?), but by and large, I’ve held firm.

“Champagne Year” reminded me of that type of movable milestone. Of the permanence of possibility. The narrator may “make a living telling people what they want to hear,” but reinvention is always a single decision away, no matter what the calendar says. The same work friend who posted the song is getting ready to relocate, and while I’m sad to see her go, that willingness to embrace change inspires me to do a better job of shaping my own life to my liking. I hope the better angel that St. Vincent reawakened in me stays with my friend as she steps into an exciting, new chapter of her life.

Listen to “Champagne Year” below and click here to buy Strange Mercy.

St. Vincent — “Champagne Year” [Spotify/iTunes]

2 thoughts on “St. Vincent

    • That’s kind of you to say. Thank you.

      I do wonder if I’m reading the song correctly — like maybe the narrator doesn’t necessarily want to stop telling people what they want to hear. But I suppose that an impression derived from a single, powerful line can — in a vacuum of knowledge about what the songwriter intended — be just as meaningful as (or even more meaningful than) the rest of the lyrics. Maybe?

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