Features, Friday Night Dinner Discussions

Motion City Soundtrack’s Even If It Kills Me: A Discussion

One fateful evening in 2012, kismet pulled Reina and Gauraa into a porch conversation about Bishop Allen. They realized, despite having grown up 8,657 miles apart, they had listened to the same records, subscribed to the same podcasts and shared the same pretensions. Separated by distance again, the two have decided to pull all the stops necessary to preserve their insular culture of staying in and overanalyzing music. You can read their first dinner discussion here. Tonight, Reina and Gauraa cancel their plans to discuss one of the records that brought them together, Motion City Soundtrack’s 2007 release, Even If It Kills Me.

mcs

Gauraa: Before you ask, I didn’t cancel any plans this week. Well, alright, I pushed back a dinner meeting–but, you know, anything for this album. To make any other plans would be immoral.

Reina:  I purposely left my calendar open for this. How could I not? A night of talking about one of my favorite albums with my favorite person? I’ve got a bottle of wine, a box of tissues, and my best friend on the line. What more could anyone ask for? But ok, enough about me. Do you want to attempt to explain our affinity for this particular pop punk release?

Gauraa: Even If It Kills Me and I established a close friendship in my early teens. For the longest time, it was kind of like having a secret favorite book–I knew it would hold less weight if I were to acknowledge its personal importance out loud, so I preserved my enthusiasm, letting it hole and corner inside of me for the next decade instead. Even If It Kills Me wasn’t just any other pop-punk album, though. I mean, there were times it almost seemed like a modern-day take on Schopenhauer’s philosophy on relationships. The album follows a neurotic boy, understandably in his early twenties, trying to grapple with life. He falls in love prematurely, profoundly, carelessly, wholeheartedly, and somewhere along the way, too late, he realizes he loved too much, depended too much, and let someone take control of his happiness. He forgot about all the things he once dreamed to do. By the end of the album, when the notions of everlastingness and idealistic romance are strained by misery and restlessness, panic and loneliness, the boy finally matures into a man, letting all his past relationships inform the person he is evolving into–slowly slurring over the bitterness and misfortune and disappointment and loneliness he came to know–and eventually falling into a wholer, sculpted, dimensional love. He gets married, to a woman who quotes a lot of Annie Hall and shaves her legs with Ginsu knives nonetheless, and has a baby girl he wishes would grow up to be like her mother. He ultimately unpacks the boxes he’s left untouched for the past twelve years, and comes around to the list of things he never finished. By the time you finish listening to the album, you feel bound to this character. You feel like you’ve known him. I mean, you have, in a way–you listened to him have conversations in half-time, watched him haunt the halls of medicine, witnessed him climb the walls for oxygen. You were there with him on the nights he stayed up late, ordering non-stick frying pans off pre-paid television infomercials, wondering whether he was in love with his best friend all along. You watched his relationships, essentially his whole life, turn to shit. And then you watched him turn it around again. Your relationship with this album buds into an even closer friendship as you yourself grow up and begin going through the same emotions. And slowly, cruelly, you lean in too close to the narrative, which slowly begins to inculcate a desire to possess someone as wholly as love possessed the boy on this album. It becomes somewhat of a smouldering need. It’s hard to explain, really, the personal relevance of a 2007 pop-punk album, because people tend to belittle the genre, but if music can shape your perceptions, your notions and expectations of love, then I don’t think an outsider dialogue holds any water at all. I mean, look at me: obviously, obviously, I still tend to get very emotional when the subject of this album is broached. To me, Even If It Kills Me gets the paradox of being human. It understands not wanting to be left alone, while somehow still reflexively pushing people away. It understands having a million words race through your brain, yet not having a single word to say. It comprehends the geometrical progression of anxiety, the sheer irreverence of self-soothing. It’s the stuff poetry’s made of. I suppose that’s why, even though this album had been the foundation of our friendship, the spark behind this column, the soundtrack to too many dreary, teary Greyhound journeys, I struggle verbalizing the hold Even If It Kills Me has on me. I still can’t explicate why I need this album so desperately. It’s embarrassing.

I know you feel strongly about this album too, Reina. Can you try to explain why?

Reina: There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe the love I have for this album. And I’m not nearly eloquent enough to start to make sense of all the things I feel when I listen to these songs. But I’m gonna try. I think this was the first album that I ever knew about before it came out. By that I mean that up until that point, I never followed bands closely enough to keep tabs on when they would be releasing their new albums and anticipating their releases. I remember seeing the music video for “Broken Heart” on YouTube, shortly after I started the 8th grade and found out that my crush had started dating a girl over the summer. It was my first major heartbreak, but this song helped me put the pieces back together and resolve to aim higher and do better than an 8th grade boy who didn’t know I existed. I listened to “Broken Heart” every day until the album came out and then I spent every day listening to the album, trying to make sense of the grown-up love, life, and loss Justin was singing about. Next year it will be 10 years since this album came out and I can say that in those 10 years I’ve slowly started to understand what it’s all about. To me, it’s about survival. It’s about the challenges that love, life, loss, and everything in between present everyday and your ability to overcome all of it. Even though you might stumble and feel lonely, and want to give up, you just have to get back on track and get used to it. It’s about knowing that no matter how shitty you feel and how entirely hopeless life might seem, you’re not the only one that feels that way. It’s about loving fully and letting life tear you apart, and letting it fix you, just to do it all over again. It’s about being optimistic through the sad and lonesome times and always striving to be better, even if it kills you. I’m lucky that this album found me before I had to face high school, and that I had it as a sort of a crutch throughout college. I’m lucky that I found a friend that understands just how important this album is. And I’m lucky to be here tonight to indulge in my favorite past time with my favorite person.

“Fell in Love Without You”  

Profound Genius annotation: A coup de grâce is a death blow, specifically one intended to end the suffering of something severely wounded. For the singer, this is finding out his lover doesn’t love him back anymore, something that he says would’ve made for an okay story, but not a particularly grand or important one, downplaying its significance from the future proposed by the chorus.

Best lyric: “The coup-de-grace that set me off/ Would’ve made for decent fiction”

Gauraa: Ah, the polite brutality of young, unrequited love. The thing with this song, is that I can see someone listening to this album in 2016, getting turned off by the goofy lighthearted synths on the track, and dismissing Even If It Kills Me as your average 2007 Epitaph release. Don’t get me wrong, I love this song, I think it makes perfect sense on the album–infatuation multiplies into passionate, unreciprocated love, etc.–but because I feel there’s so much to this album, I can’t help but feel as if they could’ve made a better first impression with the opener.

Reina: I know exactly what you mean. I think that might be part of the reason they opted to use the acoustic version for the music video. To make it more… accessible? To an audience that might be turned off by the in-your-face synth pop punk aesthetic. It kills me that they started the album with this song, because though I love this song, I know that it has probably kept many a soul from diving deep into this album.

Gauraa: The acoustic version used in the music video doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, it’s fine for an AOL session (those were still a Thing in 2007, right?) but it still seems very patchy, instrumentally, to put forth as a single. I find that the synths work for the song, because the song it itself is kind of young and lighthearted, but I find that it sells the album a little short.

Reina: The synths do work well for the song. It almost reads as a kind of fanfare to announce that this album isn’t going to be as sad as the last one. But I do agree that it sells the album short. It doesn’t fully capture the delicate balance of being lonely but hopeful that the rest of the songs seem to radiate.

“This Is for Real”  

Profound Genius annotation: This deals with emotional suppression and he’s finally letting it out or something along those lines.

Best lyric: “For a physical challenge, I’m notoriously bored”

Gauraa: Picking off where “Fell In Love Without You” left us, “This Is for Real” takes it a step further. The song is, at its core, a boyish promise, a plea: “This time I mean it/ I’m coming clean, please don’t let go…This is the best thing that I’ve ever had for real.” He feels saved by this girl, falls in love deep enough to get clean, the violins swell, etc.

Reina: I just love this song so much. I love the words that he chose like “I thought I would let you know” and “I’d prefer that you keep it” and the overall nonchalant tone of the verses, if that makes any sense. Like you said, it’s boyish, the way a young boy might be straightforward about the things he thinks. Everything comes out as a statement, rather than a question or anything remotely unsure. All he knows is that this is for real, and that’s all that matters.

Gauraa: I just have to add that if you’re listening to the album for the first time, give it time. It gets better, it cuts deeper. As enjoyable as “Fell In Love Without You” and “This Is For Real” are, they’re (purposefully) adolescent compared to what follows.

“It Had to Be You”   

Profound Genius annotation: He still loves the girl, however, and is fearful that she will find out that his love lies in some middle plane where it’s enough that he doesn’t feel comfortable just being friends – but not enough to tell her.

Best lyric: “Do you feel a certain sense of synergy between yourself and me?/ A kind of macabre and somber Wondertwin type of harmony?”

Gauraa: Do you ever think about happiness, Reina? Like, how much of our lives do we truly spend truly being happy? Simply content, wanting to do nothing? The rest of our time here is spent feeling bored, messed-up, lost, lonely, examining the times we’ve been happy and trying to investigate what went wrong. And that’s what keeps us moving, really. Those are the same sentiments that serve as catalyst on this album. The boy finds himself experiencing time here, really experiencing the treacherous passing of time, gaining distance from relationships. He’s been lonely for a while now and it begins to eat into him. He finds himself recalling the memory of a past romance: “Late last fall she ended it all and moved to who-knows-where/ Just like that, she vanished and packed and never even called.” He then begins to wonder if his friend, who has been with him all along, who gets him entirely, who could potentially get wrecked “on pop tarts and sex and see the Taj Mahal” with him, would evolve into something more: “Do you feel a certain sense of synergy between yourself and me? A kind of macabre and somber Wondertwin type of harmony?” It’s a cruelly cliched scenario, not dissimilar to Ethan Hawke’s predicament in “Reality Bites,” but it’s kind of universally sad as well: “All this time and everything’s changed but I still feel the same/ All good things eventually end and get washed down the drain/ What a disaster it would be if you discovered that I cared/ A little too much for friends but not enough to share?” Three songs into the album, and the boy is already removed from the sort of recklessness that propelled “Fell In Love Without You.” He begins to hypothesize the ending even before it begins. It’s true, isn’t it? Youth allows you to trust openly, to take chances. As you grow older, you begin to protect yourself from getting hurt. You begin to close people off because you think you’re beating them to the punch. Loving as an adult becomes, in a way, all about unlearning the hurt, unlearning that “all good things eventually end.”  

Reina: Jesus Christ. This fucking song. Do you remember that one night our freshman year of college, right after I broke up with my first *serious* boyfriend? We stayed up all night talking about this album and we spent so long sorting out our emotions to this song.  To answer your question, Gauraa, I do think about happiness from time to time. But when I do, I associate being happy with our late night talks about life and love and music and lyrics and albums like this one that carried us through the good and the bad. And even if just for a moment, I forget that I’m lost, messed-up, bored, and lonely.

Gauraa: For what it’s worth, Reina, I still spend a lot of time sorting my emotions to this song. When he sings about the girl who vanished and never even called, the hurt seems so excruciatingly palpable that it immediately sends me back to that night in 2013, when we felt we were too old to be fussing over the details of a 2007 pop punk album, but we didn’t care because it was all that related us in need. A boy I cared deeply about vanished, and never even called. I could feel every ounce of that tearing heartbreak as Justin Pierre achingly sang, “just like that she vanished and packed.” Just like that. Like it was the most inconsequential thing to the heartbreaker. But I believe our macabre and sombre Wondertwin type of harmony, perfectly in accord with this album, saved me that night. Saved us that night. And when I revisit that night today, I no longer think about the boy who vanished; I think about us, sitting on the floor of my freshman dorm, listening to this album as we wept quietly, our sadness binding us to each other, making us happy again. Like a revised memory.

Reina: Thank God for you. For us. I don’t know what I would do without you or this album in my life. The line “It seemed like a dream, a beautiful scream, that echoed forever and made us not afraid to feel a thing/ And after it ends, we’ll try to be friends/ They say that what doesn’t kill us makes us who we are” always hits so hard. I remember lying on my bed in my dorm room listening to this song on repeat until it made me cry because my world was falling apart and it felt like this album was the only thing keeping it together. Justin Pierre was saying everything that I wanted to say but couldn’t get out. In my head, and a little bit in my reality, I was the boy in the song. My first real boyfriend ended it all and moved to who-knows-where, and never even called. But then I met a boy and we had a Wondertwin type of harmony, but I insisted that we weren’t right for each other. I was so afraid of falling for him just in case he didn’t fall too. And while I don’t necessarily feel like a fool for letting that one slip away, the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to realize that what doesn’t kill us really does make us who we are.

Gauraa: Truly.

“Last Night”

Profound Genius annotation: A song about an imminent break-up. It’s sung like scenes from a story.

Best lyric: “Her cat was clawing the floorboards just outside of our door/ The panic begins

I searched the whole damn apartment from ceiling to carpet/ No sign of the things she used to own”

Gauraa: This song breaks my heart. It claws into the irresolute inbetweenness of relationships, when waiting for things to sort themselves stems an endless, urgent panic which clouds your consciousness. Things for the boy don’t work out, once again. The girl packs up and disappears, her cat forebodingly claws the floorboards outside her door. He turns to self-medication. It’s tragic, and it’s tragic because we, as a people, unwittingly reduce love to a sport, a competition where we’re keeping score. And it becomes frustrating, knowing that you’re not the only person in a relationship, that you don’t have control, that you can’t stop the other person from walking out on you, putting a “to be continued” tag on a conversation. You feel in limbo without a proper ending. The exchange tends to leave you skeptical, haunted by self-doubt.

Reina: I don’t think I’ll ever get over the line “I’m too tired to play pretend.” I know that feeling all too well. Relationships are exhausting, especially when you know that things are falling apart, but you’re trying to brush it all under the rug. It’s the most heartbreaking thing to be so worn out just trying to exist in tandem with another person, that you can’t even manage to feign happiness or pretend that things are ok.

Gauraa: As taxing as it is to play pretend, at some point or another in a relationship, you tread the distance between what is said and what is felt. Words, by their very nature, are lies. They’re not enough to express how you feel. And they’re not nearly quick enough to find their way to your tongue. Having a conversation and regretting what is said in the morning, when you’re able to navigate through your memory only to realize what could’ve been said instead, that’s the worst. And it’s inevitable. I think that’s why we relate to this song like we do. We’ve been there, too.

Reina: I hope I don’t wake up tomorrow to realize what I could have said about this album but didn’t.

Gauraa: Me, too.

“Calling All Cops”

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “Suffer all teens and dramamine/ The coast is not yet clear/ Every continent has chaos”

Gauraa: I love that this song follows up “Last Night.” It’s sort of an ode to the inescapable carelessness of humanity, “our wild affairs,” as he says. I feel like it’s the perfect kind of playground philosophy that pours out of you when you’re coming out of a relationship. That “everything just falls apart” phase, when, after extrapolating all kinds of nonsense, you truly begin to believe that everything inevitably turns to shit: “When I’m awake I make the same mistakes they made/ When I’m awake I can’t escape.”

Reina: It’s like he’s coming to terms with the fact that everything just falls apart. He’s fully aware that his wild affairs have caused a whole lotta wreckage and the person he thought he loved is toxic, sending sickness through the atmosphere recklessly. Something that I love about this album, and actually all of MCS’s albums in general, is their ability to hide sad lyrics in a happy sounding song. Like this song, for example, has such a positive and sweet sound, but when you actually think about what he is saying in the lyrics, it’s all very sad. Similar to how My Chemical Romance made morbid topics like death accessible to a wider audience, I think Motion City Soundtrack makes it easier to think about and talk about not being ok, whether it’s about heartbreak or depression.

Gauraa: I’d have to agree. Motion City Soundtrack have a tragicomic sensibility, akin to how My Chemical Romance dress up a song about repentance in rock’n’roll. I think it’s kind of like a defense mechanism. Being sad about life and death, the wreckage of our wild affairs is only going to tuck us deeper into the depths of our despair. Who can risk that?

Reina: And a big part of learning to navigate your way through life is being able to laugh, even when you’re lonely and miserable. Because it’s easy to give up and get buried in your own sadness, but it’s much harder to try to see the positive and be optimistic when life is pushing you around.

“Can’t Finish What You Started”   

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “It doesn’t make a bit of difference if you start what you can’t finish”

Gauraa: There’s a pattern here. The Great American relationship cycle, if you will: you fall in love, you get hurt, you hesitantly try again, you get hurt yet again, your heartbreak spurns misanthropic musings, you feed yourself some self-preserving philosophy that taints all past relationships, you become bitter and your bitterness makes you harder to erode the next time around.  I believe this song arrives somewhere between the last stages of that cycle.

Reina: Yet another song about your world falling apart. I wonder if “I’m just waiting for my world to fall apart” is considered a valid excuse for not finishing things that I start? There have always been two things that I really like about this song. The first being that the last time he repeats the chorus, he changes from “I thought of all the things I’d like to say” to “So sick of all the things I’d like to say.” I always thought that summed up the situation so well, that after continuously starting just to stop, you would get sick of yourself. I know this is probably a typical songwriting technique, but I think this a particularly outstanding example of when it works. The other thing that I always liked is how at the very end of song he cuts himself off before he finishes his sentence. As if he can’t even finish a sentence he started explaining that he can’t ever finish what he starts.

Gauraa: I mean, I get it. I really do. I experience these severely existential bouts from time to time where I wonder what’s the point of starting or finishing anything, really. What’s the point of sitting down every week and pouring through an album, the point of searching for the right words? It all seems–no, it is–inconsequential. But, what else can we do but finish what we start? Wait for our world to fall apart? I think this concept ties in very well with the last track, “Even If It Kills Me.” It goes to show that we’ll never understand the point of anything but it’s in our nature to go on, to get back on track. Be it tomorrow or twelve years later, we eventually come back and try, however successfully or unsuccessfully, to finish what we start.

Reina: How is it that we can have the same thought but you are able to articulate it so perfectly and eloquently? I identify fully with the line, “You’re too afraid to face the outcome,/Quite likely, you’re a failure.” That’s probably the main reason why I, and everyone on this planet, can’t finish what we started. But you’re right, we continue on with our lives and get back on track time and time again, the same way we keep starting things that we can’t finish. And maybe someday we’ll get it right, but somehow it will all work out.

Gauraa: You’re too kind. And amen.

“The Conversation”

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “So can you tell me if I’m crazy or confused?”

Gauraa: Well, here’s the overdue break-up song: “I know the timing isn’t great/ But these things, you just can’t plan.” What really kills me is that he still loves the girl. I mean, he ends by saying, “Don’t ever change the way you are/ I’ve never loved anyone more” but you know he doesn’t mean it in a “You rock! Don’t change! Have a great summer!” way. He sincerely means it. “I had a pocketful of dreams/ And I gave them all to you/ And now I think I want them back.” I think this song is about getting buried underneath the person that you love–giving everything you have to them, until there’s nothing left of you. It’s like that Cure lyric from “Just Like Heaven”: “I stole the only girl I love and drowned her deep inside of me.” It’s scary how you can lose your mind, your dreams, yourself in love. As if there weren’t already other things to look out for.

Reina: A long time ago, there was this girl on YouTube who had covered this song and from what I remember, it wasn’t a super high quality cover, but at the end of the video she started crying and I think that’s the first time this song really hit me. Up until then, I looked at it as this sad ballad that was just thrown into the album to keep it interesting, but that cover really made me listen closely to the lyrics and hear what Justin Pierre was saying. It’s so different from all of MCS’s other songs and it’s so gut-wrenching because it’s this boy finally deciding to do something to take care of himself, but it comes at the cost of leaving his love behind.  Like you said, it is scary how you can lose sight of who you are when you’re in love. There’s nothing worse than waking up one day to realize that you don’t like who you’ve become in a relationship. Being “too tired to pretend” seems to be a recurring situation in this boy’s life and, well, all of our lives I think.

“Broken Heart”  

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “So much to say, but no words to convey/ The loneliness building with each passing day/ You never get used to it/ You just have to live with it”

Gauraa: So, here we are. The last stage of the Great American relationship cycle. And it’s self-aware at that, too, kind of like it’s mocking the human capacity to restart, reprogram: “I’ll start this broken heart/ I’ll fix it up so it will work again/ Better than before/ Then I’ll star in a mystery/ A tragic tale of all that’s yet to come/ Fingers crossed there will be love.” The song strategizes ways to overcome heartbreak (see: devising brand new looks, new disguises, cheap thrills) only to go back and realize that we’re human, and despite how hard we try to dehumanize ourselves and separate ourselves from love, the loneliness builds with each passing day. Eventually, we all love again. We all get our hearts broken again. It’s inevitable. You never get used to it, you just have to live with it.

Reina: It never ceases to amaze me how simply and effectively Justin Pierre is able to describe the moments when you can’t articulate what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. And that happens a lot in MCS’s songs, there’s always “so much to say, but no words to convey”. I love how he flip flops from saying “But I’m getting used to it./You have to get used to it” to “You’ll never get used to it./You just have to live with it.” It’s as though he got so carried away telling everyone that he’s getting used to it and getting over it, that one day he woke up and realized that he never really will get over it. It’s kind of like the five stages of grief, but the five stages of heartbreak where denial, anger, and bargaining are replaced with pretending you’re ok with it, telling everyone you’re over it, then breaking down and realizing you’re still sad about it. I think we’ve all had our fair share of “I’ll destroy this useless heart, I’ll fuck it up so it will never beat again” moments, but I think we’re better and stronger for it. They say what doesn’t kill us makes us who we are.

“Hello Helicopter”  

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “No one gives a shit about the things they do/ We all waste and consume, destroy and ruin everything we touch/ It’s easy not to think when you’re not told that much”

Gauraa: I think with “Hello Helicopter” we’re on the second phase of the cycle. It’s kind of like “Calling All Cops” in terms of misanthropic musings, isn’t it?

Reina: It is! I’ve read that this is something of a “laundry list” of things that bum out Justin Pierre. This I also feel is a place we’ve all been before. Where you’re already so sad and feeling hopeless and all of the tragedy and bad news just bums you out more. We’ve spent many a night just complaining about all of the things that bum us out. “Are we ever gonna get it right? Are we ever gonna start making sense and stop pretending that we care?” What a good question, Justin.

Gauraa: I’m going to sound old and bitter when I say this but god, it’s so true, especially in light of today. It really irks me to see everybody, no matter how apathetic they are in real life, attach themselves to every tragedy on social media.

Reina: Totally true. It actually bums me out more to see people pretending to care about something. Maybe only misanthropes like us can appreciate this album. Hah.

Gauraa: Maybe. But I feel like everyone’s been a misanthrope at some point in their lives. Don’t you feel particularly misanthropic when you’re a couple months out of a relationship? When you’re past the immediate hurt, past the first wave of anger, and you begin to feel jaded and see a different, murkier shade of reality. I feel like that’s when you become most receptive to this sort of larger, societal indifference. It’s when you begin to take everything personally. I mean, that’s where this song’s coming from, no? Even its title “Hello Helicopter” kind of seeks some sort of reasoning. It’s seeking assurance, or a promise of meaning, from someone watching closely from above.

Reina: And the closing line too, “Hello Helicopter, are you listening?” kind of drives the point home. As though even that someone watching closely from above doesn’t care anymore.

Gauraa: As though God or someone god-like has been affected by human indifference.

“Where I Belong”   

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “I can’t stand the thought of losing/ Sentences and every island of words”

Gauraa: It’s chaos in the courthouse! The boy, with a mended broken heart, tries again.  

Reina: “This is where I run out of words to describe how I’m so damn hurt.” Our boy is at a loss for words yet again. I think it’s commendable that the boy tries and tries again despite knowing how it’s probably going to tear his world apart. But then again I think that’s part of being human. We never quite learn, no matter how many times we get burned.

Gauraa: I think we do learn. It just takes a while to realize that the key to getting by is to unlearn and begin again. A part of us wants to protect ourselves from getting hurt but the other part wants to succumb to love and try again, wholeheartedly. We’re a constant tug of war machine. We spend our lives mediating.

“Point of Extinction”  

Profound Genius annotation: Back-up vocals for this section feature both Shawn Harris, lead singer of The Matches, and Hayley Williams, lead singer of Paramore.

Best lyric:  “I can figure out the point of anything/ Just not as quick as I can mess up my life”

Gauraa: I feel like we’ve spent so much time superimposing ourselves on this album that we never bothered to take notice of the personnel. Like, holy smokes, Hayley was on this track? 2007 Gauraa would’ve freaked out! But coming back to the track, this song is a coming to terms of sorts. It’s the boy realizing no matter how hard we try to be apathetic, how tired we are from trying to understand the point of things, there’s no real escape from feeling: “I saw the fires as the ghost of my life/ Passed me by and there’s nowhere you can hide/ From the lessons or the lies that bind them.”

Reina: I’m gonna need Justin Pierre to point out to me where Hayley shows up in this track. This is a fun song. This is a fun album, especially compared to Commit This To Memory, it’s so much more self-aware and positive despite the circumstances. It’s almost funny how fucked up and sad we can get sometimes, and I think this song and this album sum it up perfectly. “I can figure out the point of anything, just not as quick as I can mess up my life.” This line could be our motto.

Gauraa: God. Undoubtedly. Reina, can we count on our conversations “to restore us like energon cubes”?

Reina: They already do, dear. And no matter how many times we mess up our lives, at least we’ve got each other (and MCS!) to remind us that we’ll always gets burned but we’ll never give it up <3

Gauraa: I just have one question, however: is Javelina the name of a girl? I had to run a Google search just to confirm and it lead me to believe it’s a skunk pig found in South America.

Reina: Hmm… good question. Are you listening Justin Pierre? We need answers!

“Antonia”  

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best lyric: “She shaves her legs with Ginsu knives”

Gauraa: “Antonia” is ultimate closure. It’s a list of quirks about the woman the boy grows up to marry. Antonia makes a lot of abstract art, owns a nice flashlight collection, holds a preoccupation with snowmobiles. She likes Cap’n Crunch and Ben Folds Five and Annie Hall. But though she’s the focal point of this song, it’s not quite about her, is it? It’s about his ability to love again. Well, to love again and actually find someone worthy of his love. Someone he knows and someone who knows him. It’s the happy ending we’ve all been waiting for, and it makes me feel as if the past romances and the hurt they’ve caused isn’t in vain. I heard this song when I was twelve and it has since been the inspiration behind my brief checklist: a person who loves me enough to indulge my whimsies. It sounds trivial but it almost seems unethical to fall for someone who doesn’t love you for the things you love because the things you love make you who you are, don’t they? If a person can’t indulge my proclivity to quote Steely Dan, if they don’t try to understand why I’ve been sleeping with a Swiss Army Knife under my pillow since I read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” when I was eight, if they don’t recognize the tidbits of eccentricity that make the composite, are they worth the investment? The answer is no.

Reina:  I couldn’t have put it better myself. The first time I heard this song, it made me want to fall in love. Even now that I’ve fallen in and out of “love” or something like it, listening to this song makes me believe in love. You and I always default to talking about this song whenever we fantasize about our perfect relationship and I truly don’t know if I’ve ever heard a more romantic song. I don’t know if anything I say about this song could do it justice. I once wrote about this song for a religion class in 8th grade and my teacher commented that what I wrote was really nice, but I missed the point of the assignment. I don’t want to miss the point of the figurative assignment of professing my love for this song, because this song is too important to me.

“Even If It Kills Me”  

Profound Genius annotation: Though the character has lived in his house for 12 years, he still has moving boxes he never unpacked. Possibly an anxiety he wrote down in his list.

It is worth knowing that “1995 + 12” = 2007, the year MCS’s album with the same name was released.

Best lyric: “I’ve lived here for the last 12 years/ Since early 1995 all my shit has been in boxes.”

Reina: “I’m so sick of making lists of things I’ll never finish,” like writing about this fucking album because no matter how long we spend trying to sort out our thoughts, it’s never going to be enough to fully convey what this album means.

Gauraa:  Truer words, Reina. Truer words. There’s something inherently collegiate about this song–perhaps it’s the embarrassing honesty of self-confession: “For the first time in a long time/ I can say that I want to try and get better/ And overcome each moment/ In my own way.” Or perhaps it’s the unadulterated sincerity behind the avowal, which keeps you from giving up when you’re on the brink.  Or maybe it’s the fact that I would’ve said something like,“‘I’m really not as stubborn as I seem,’ said the knuckle to the concrete” my freshman year of college. Either way, this title track does a good job coming to terms with having fallen off track. And despite how boyishly sincere it might come across as, it’s a complete evolution away from the opener “Fell In Love Without You.” I feel like “Even If It Kills Me” doesn’t make an active effort to string the right concoction of tragicomic words together. It doesn’t try to self-soothe with humor. Take the line “I wonder if I’ll ever lose my mind/ I tried hard for a while/ But then I kinda gave up.” It’s almost clumsy. But that unedited, clumsy stream-of-consciousness is what makes this song. It’s the narrative that makes our protagonist, and, really, ultimately, what makes us. Like he says, “I’m just trying not to think as much as I used to/ ‘Cause ‘never’ is a lonely little messed up word/ Maybe I’ll get it right someday.” Maybe we will. Above all, we’re human. To borrow a line from “Point of Extinction,” “if there’s one thing I’ve learned/ You’ll always get burned/ But you’ll never give it up.” We’re built to survive, and staying alive is an occupational hazard. We’ll do whatever it takes, we’ll try and try again, even if it kills us.

Reina: You just took the words right out of my mouth. Every few months we call each other up to complain about how we’re not doing anything with our lives, and every time we hang up the phone, I sit on floor with all my unfolded laundry and clothes strewn everywhere and I put this song on just to hear the last line. “I sure want to get back on track. And I’ll do whatever it takes. Even if it kills me.” And I fold my laundry and put my clothes away and start to get my life back on track little by little. I know it sounds stupid, but this song makes me want to get better and even though I really do feel helpless for the most part, I’m just glad that I’m not the only one.

Gauraa: I think that’s why we love this album: it questions the same things we do, it raises the same doubts that resurface in our minds everyday. And listening to it, having someone echo what we’re already thinking is kind of confrontational in a way. It helps you tackle how you already feel, and you come out of it feeling a little less alone.  

Reina: I love what you said in the beginning, about how it’s like having a secret favorite book. To add to that, it’s kind of like having a secret favorite guidebook for navigating life, if that makes any sense. Something to help you feel less alone when you’re trying to find your way through loneliness and heartbreak and happiness.

Gauraa: Definitely.

Reina: Well, I think I need to excuse myself to go cry, but before I start sobbing, let’s tell them what we’ll be sentimentalizing next week. Gauraa, you want to do the honors?

Gauraa: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re proud to announce the album of our affection next week is…Panic! At The Disco’s Pretty. Odd.

Reina: Can it be next Friday already?

__

Reina and Gauraa did not expect for it to be such an emotional Friday night. They insist they need to be alone now. You can find them here at nine in the afternoon next Friday, discussing Panic! At The Disco’s Pretty. Odd.

 

August 12, 2016

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