Sunday, August 23, 2009

#130. 'I see you from the inside out'


Heartbreak is a tricky thing to convey in song. The natural tendency is to convey heartbreak one of two ways: through self-pity or through violent catharsis. Both of these schools of thought have lead to some great music, more in the latter case than the former even though self-pity is much more prevalent in heartbreak songs, but some of my personal favorites fall into neither category. Just as an example, Seam's brilliant break up album The Problem With Me has a dignified, resigned tone to it's most devastating moments (the 'don't tell me you know, I know' section of "Sweet Pea" for instance) that gets to the heart of the emotion without falling into either the 'poor me' or the 'fuck you' side of things. It's always a joy to hear a song or album so emotionally vulnerable that conveys it in a way that's not what you expect, which is about half the reason why "Jacknuggeted" is on this list.

The way that "Jacknuggeted" sums up the heartbreak at its core is devastatingly simple, and delivered in a matter-of-fact way that makes it much more resonant. It boils down the whole relationship to two lines: 'I met you and then it fell apart/now I'm nothing more than a broken heart.' Really, that's all you need to say to convey the sadness of it, no need to over-describe or dwell on it, just say it and move on. The song doesn't wallow in the melancholy of that line, hell Dan Snaith undercuts it by using a backdrop of hand claps and sloppily strummed acoustic guitar to give the song a genuinely uplifting feel.

In a way "Jacknuggeted" is the most incongruous song on Up in Flames, a melancholy little 4-minute diversion from the much more celebratory ranks of the other 9 tracks. It's a testament to Snaith's production abilities that I never get any sort of cognitive dissonance when it pops up, as the song, for all its melancholy, manages to not sound out of place. If "Young Bride" was a good example of the way arrangements can elevate a number into the ranks of the essential, "Jacknuggeted" is a good example of the ways production can do the same. Once again, we've got a very simple song, almost a campfire sing-along level foundation with simple vocals and loosely strummed acoustic guitars. The ways that Snaith takes that and turns it into a minor masterpiece of psychedelic electronica probably look odd on paper, adding in what sounds like a distant string section filtered through a gauzy haze, that organ swell as the song transitions into its chorus, the slightly out of nowhere outro that owes more to Aphex Twin than anyone, but in context they all work incredibly well to turn a simple littel ode to heartbreak into some class A material for the 00s indie cannon.

Coming up tomorrow: A song that nothing could ruin, not even The O. C. and retroactive autotune hate.

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