Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, California
We could all just be morons. We could all be blind morons for not seeing it, most of the time. We should be able to look out and see colors - even the gritty, frosted white of salt on a frozen road, or the side of a car - as brilliant to behold. We should be able to hear birds squawking up in the trees above us and not only worry or grumble about the possibility of getting shit on by one of them. We should be able to stifle our sadness at a funeral for someone who lived to a rip old age and did so much, even if they meant the world to us and we'll miss them like crazy. We should understand that they, like us, only wanted the maximum days they could get to play with, and if they weren't short-changed, they loved and were loved greatly and didn't hurt too much, they got it all - everything that there is to get. We should be good with watching the spring come back to the land, after a brutal winter. We should be wise enough to not speak too much and to smile and hug readily.
JT Nero and Allison Russell, who make up the core of the Chicago-based group Birds of Chicago, seem to appreciate the little things and the bygone things. They write these picturesque songs that still deal with desperate love and the hardships that you don't have to find. They will always find you, but then you just need to find a way to quell them. All it usually takes is a dash of the bright side. It takes slicing that first ripe tomato from the summer garden. It takes drinking in a night full of friends and food and deliriously joyful talking. It takes knowing that all of this madness is beautifully meaningful - the sleepless nights, the crying, the laughing, the losing and the winning.
When Russell sings that "the years floated by like cotton seeds and now the long-legged two-stepper turns 73," she sends the words out and onto a breeze, along with those cotton seeds. It's a wonderful way to capture how old age can feel if you've gotten the most out of it. The song, "Galaxy Ballroom," feels like a place that you'd like to ascend to when your earthly waltz has come to an end. Nero and Russell make rainy and sunny days feel exactly the same - like treasures.