Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hem: Music for the End of Summer

There are some ephemeral things that anchor us to a specific place and time.  Scents are definitely one of them; when I first went away to college, I took an empty bottle of my mother's perfume with me so that I could feel like a part of home was in New York.  And every time I pass a boy on the street who is wearing my ex's cologne, I instinctively glance around to see if he's near.  Music - ah, now music is especially contextual.  Even in the midst of the moment, we ground ourselves with and in music.  It provides a framework for what we're feeling, giving us words and melodies to enunciate what we're experiencing and throwing out a lifeline of shared understanding.

I must admit that I first discovered Hem in the most mundane of ways: one of their songs was featured in the series finale of Brothers & Sisters a few years ago.  I downloaded the track - My Father's Waltz - and then more or less forgot about it until I moved back to DC a couple of months ago. Then, at exactly the right time, it came up on my iTunes shuffle, and I was mesmerized.  The song caught me in the crook of a melancholy spell, a stretch when I felt torn between two countries and two homes and two families.

forty years since you washed ashore
carried out of the sea
on the mast of a man o' war
that once brought you to me

throw your overcoat over a chair
and lay all your lazybones down
may this night keep you here
till tomorrow

It was exactly what I needed to hear.  The whole album, Eveningland, is just as hauntingly beautiful, and, as I explored the rest of their music, I felt myself slipping into such a reverie.  It centered me - it seemed tell me that it was okay to be a bit untethered because the music would cocoon me until I was ready to figure how where and who I was.

Below is a playlist of my favorite songs from their albums - I hope they bring you much comfort, too, as we move into a new season.


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