Recently, I visited a friend’s backyard. Sometimes the breezes in Queens are chilly or too gusty, but this day the air was refreshing. I laid my head back on the twisted iron chair and the sun glazed over me. It only took a minute before I traveled back to countless vacations my family took to South Carolina while I was growing up. Though I’m not a fan of reliving childhood trips, usually lost in the heavy seduction of a newly flowered NYC this time of year, it’s nice to be anywhere else at the moment. The balmy humidity. Trees decorated with moss like frivolously thrown lace. The omnipresence of cicadas, their buzz both soothing and hazy like white noise.
These vacations weren’t always ideal. There was plenty of family drama and fighting. But it was the curious moments outside that made them appealing. Even more so now as I sit in a concrete backyard with no option of temporary paradise. The sun feels good, but only for the moments when I’m lost among the waves somewhere else in my mind. Before the shade moves in and I have to adjust my chair, reminded that the beaches are closed for the foreseeable summer. For now, my own memories are my luxury.
Similarly, Chicago singer-songwriter Morgan Powers decodes the significance of her memories. On her recent single “Bugs In A Jar,” the title track of her forthcoming album, her natural surroundings manifest a pensive nostalgia. At the beginning, the sky paints her companion’s face her favorite shade of sunset. She’s then thrown into a memory of trapping fireflies as a child. “But they couldn’t breathe and they had to get out,” her voice low like heavy eyelids. A poignant lesson for her own personal growth, an anecdote for expressing her own feelings in fear of being caged by them. “So I let them fly, now I finally share/What I’m thinking about so you know that I care,” she sings. Powers is accompanied by lush acoustic guitar plucks and a foggy background shimmering with nocturnal lo-fi static.
It’s not a surprise that warm, folky, mostly melancholic music has been an attraction lately. It’s nice to be still to; it’s comfortable to cry to; it feels natural to be vulnerable in its presence. Yet, what draws me to “Bug In A Jar” is Powers’s illustration of time’s passing. She reflects on her ignorance as a child and how her choices back then are miles away from what they would be now. “Now I wouldn’t dare keep bugs in a jar/I’ll just watch them with you/While we lie in the dark,” she sings on the final line. For Powers, her memories expose how much she’s matured, no longer a child trying to trap the beauty around her. Instead, she lays down, reminisces, and then savors what’s in front of her.
Morgan Powers is releasing Bug In A Jar on May 22.