Musical Geographies: The Midwest

The Midwest, much as I sometimes forget it, is all around me. Chicago is not the sole destination. It stretches out in all directions, vast and flat. But with our recent talk of Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri, it seems about time for a musical geography of the Midwest.

“Pink Houses” – John Mellencamp

Overused, certainly, but it would be a crime not to include it on this list. The straightforward rockiness of it mixed with the barely contained bitterness says a lot about the Midwestern character.

“Fuck You Aurora” – Alkaline Trio

When I was a kid, Aurora was known for two things: one, Wayne’s World, and two, it was where everyone’s cousins seemed to live. It’s technically a suburb of Chicago, but it’s far enough out that those of us who lived a little closer thought of it as the boonies.

“Minnesota, WI” – Bon Iver

Against my better instincts, I’ve been won over by Bon Iver. It’s a lot like my relationship with Wilco. I want to hate them, but then I get caught by a song I don’t know, and I say, “Oh, this is good, who’s that?” Used to be, it was Wilco. Now it’s Bon Iver. Fine, then, I give up. This is a good song.

“Free or Dead” – Atmosphere

The Midwest is good driving territory. You can go forever without running into any pesky mountains or oceans to get in your way. As a bonus, most long-suffering Midwesterners, like the protagonist of this song, have something or other to run away from.

“Light Pollution” – Bright Eyes

There’s no direct references to the Midwest in this song, but between the band’s Nebraska roots and the bleak life portrayed, I figured I’d round it up to “Midwest.”


One thought on “Musical Geographies: The Midwest

  1. I’d like to add “Champaign, Illinois” by the Old 97s, it being the location of my alma mater.
    And Sufjan Steven’s has devoted an entire album to each Illinois and to Michigan. That’s as far as he got into some alleged “50 states” project. That would get old fast anyway.

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