With lyrics like "The way that she brakes when she steers / The lengths she will go to are taller than her gears," the first track on the Sean Michael Dargan Band's new EP, Feel Good Hit of the Summer, sounds like a love song for some feisty, scrappy, vertically challenged young woman. In actuality, it's a love song about an old Volkswagen van.
"I have a thing for VW vans, especially diesels, and this song is a paean to one of my favorites: a 1982 4-speed Vanagon which had been converted from gas to diesel. It was yellow and white like the VW bus in the movie Little Miss Sunshine. Mostly, though, it was a rusty old basketcase of a van, and I loved it," says Sean Michael Dargan, the band's frontman, who you may also recognize from The Kissers, The New Handshake and The Whiskey-Lash All-Stars.
Without this revealing tidbit from the artist, you might think the vehicle in question was some kind of flatbed pickup truck, not the token vehicle of hippies. In other words, there's a current of country music running through the tune. It's a subtle current, though -- one that's more reminiscent of Freedy Johnston than Fred Eaglesmith, with a strong pop hook at its center.
Appearing on Dargan's forthcoming full-length album Snap Your Fingers & Stomp Your Feet in addition to the EP, "Little Miss Sunshine" uses a pretty standard pop-song formula to charm its way into your ears, but it does it well. After starting up with a few notes that might fit into a song by Heart or even the 1985 hit "Voices Carry" by Aimee Mann's band 'Til Tuesday, it quickly eases into a breezy tempo and a major-key melody that sticks to your brain like grits to your gut. To this the chorus adds a slick serving of backing vocals, creating a lush and dreamy interlude that's even harder to shake.
Dargan says that the song's a favorite at the band's live shows for these very reasons.
"It doesn't even take an entire chorus before the crowd learns it and sings along," he says.
An MP3 of "Little Miss Sunshine" is available in the related downloads section at right. More music by Sean Michael Dargan is available on his MySpace page. The songwriter and his band will perform the song live at an EP release show at the High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, September 2.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.