Honest, It’s Allergy

Spring has arrived in Evanston for good and sure, so the bags under my eyes have expanded like collapsible luggage coming home from a long vacation. And I’m liable to be wiping my eyes constantly, as the itching and weeping kick into high gear. I suspect the culprit is the cottonwoods that surround our house like a federal SWAT team around a hostage-taker’s hideout. So although the school year has worn me out and various strains vex me, if you see me crying, it’s really just the pollen. I think.

Either that, or I’ve just listened to one of the songs in the recent AV Club column about “songs that make us cry.” I’m notoriously sentimental about songs (and to some extent, about movies); Margaret and Pippa roll their eyes when they hear my voice catch during hymns or when I’m singing along to the stereo. The AV Club column hits many songs that have that effect on me, whether because they actually evoke sadness or (contrariwise) a particularly profound note of joy.

The eighteen they name in the column actually aren’t that moving bei mir (I admire “Veronica,” but it doesn’t make me cry — that I remember). The comments, which I haven’t worked all the way through, do highlight a number of weepers. “Dry Your Eyes,” by the Streets, was one that jumped out early. Sufjan Stevens’s “Casimir Pulaski Day”; Bruce Springsteen has performed a number of touching songs, including “Rosalita,” “Thunder Road,” “Prove It All Night,” and more. The commenters foreground “Makes No Difference” and “Tears of Rage” by the Band. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York.”

What would I add? Laurie Anderson, “Strange Angels,” definitely. Tom Robinson, “1967 (so Long Ago)” (the version from the Secret Policeman’s Ball album). Among the numerous Bob Dylan songs one might nominate, “Buckets of Rain” does it for me. Billy Bragg, “Must I Paint You a Picture?” I can’t even listen to Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit,” though I make myself from time to time. I mentioned Belle and Sebastian a few days ago; “She’s Losing It” strikes a very poignant chord with me, and Dar Williams scores with both “As Cool As I Am” and “What Do You Hear In These Sounds?” (though again, her work offers an embarrassment of riches). The “Cry No More” setting that Emma Thompson sings in Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. Charles Mingus’s version of “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” If I have to pick one performance by John Cash, it’s “Down There By the Train.” And sappy a sentimentalist as it makes me, “Naked As We Came” by Iron and Wine, and “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes.

One that no one else would name for a moment is not even a song; it’s the theme music from the Albert Campion series on the PBS Mystery! program. I was chatting with Nate about it earlier this week; it’s an exquisite miniature, combining a cheery Edwardian setting with a bittersweet counter, beautifully arranged.

I’ve heard Counting Crows’s “Hard Candy” a few times lately, and it’s impressed me more each time. It doesn’t make me cry, but it puts together the elements of high-impact rock in a remarkable composition. Again, bei mir.

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