Monday, October 27, 2008

Week 22: "In Ohio On Some Steps" by Limbeck

In honor of the rapidly approaching election, I decided to choose a song with a swing state in its title. “In Ohio on Some Steps” is a track from Limbeck’s nearly perfect 2003 album, Hi, Everything’s Great.

Limbeck hails from Orange County and creates music that combines elements from alternative country music (see Week 21 in the 52 Songs in 52 Weeks essay project) with a mellow pop feeling that fits perfectly with their Southern California roots. On recommendation I picked up Hi… when it was released and instantly fell in love with the record. Their follow-up, 2005’s Let Me Come Home, failed to capture me in the same way and I lost interest in the band.

Limbeck’s songs are often geographically focused. “Honk + Wave,” the first song on Hi… ponders complex feelings about an ex-girlfriend and what would happen if he happened to see her again by chance. The chorus includes the line, “The only thing I really want to know… is, if we drove side by side on a highway in the Beehive State, if we could honk and wave.” Other songs on the album talk about losing money at the casinos in Kansas City and driving home from a show in Tucson. Limbeck does not neglect their local geography with multiple references to highways and Southern California.

One of the things that makes Hi, Everything’s Great so fantastic is that the band quickly followed it up with the release of Hey, Everything’s Fine. Hey… contains the exact same songs that are on Hi… only it is an acoustic version recorded at a house party in Southern California. Being able to listen to the studio and live version of the album more or less side by side helps to fill in and enrich my own appreciation of every song on the album. If a song didn’t catch my interest on Hi…, it did on Hey… Having the ability to listen to different arrangements of each song gave me greater insight into their music.

No song of Limbeck’s is more geographically interesting than “In Ohio on Some Steps.” A slow-paced song, augmented by organ, “In Ohio” tells the story of a house party that goes late into the night. There the singer meets a woman named Emily who seems to be from either Wisconsin or Virginia (both swing states as well) and describes the all-night coming and going from this house. People come home late and leave early for work.

“In Ohio” has an almost dreamlike quality, a sense of geographic disorientation. At the same time the singer is calm and seems to be ensconced in a state of bliss (or sleep deprivation) that borders on transcendence. The singer sits out on the steps of this house in Ohio, watching the early morning rain, and feels great.

“In Ohio” ends with a repetition of the closing line, “Someday, you’ll end up in Ohio.” The line is beautifully sung with the assistance of female backing vocals. It is a line not to be taken literally. Rather, it is a way of saying that within some vast geographic (or life) disorientation you discover moments of peacefulness and comfort.

Here’s a video of Limbeck playing “In Ohio on Some Steps.”