As the seasons change and the end of the year creeps near, we’ve asked our contributors to pick their favorite lyrics of 2016 — so far.
— Brenna Ehrlich, Talkhouse Music Editor-in-Chief
“It is neither animated nor unanimated/vegetable nor machine/real nor unreal/It exists as ‘IT’/in fact we can’t even be sure of that/And there it is/a strange group memory.”
— Cass McCombs, “It,” Mangy Love
I initially declined to participate in this exercise, but reconsidered the second I heard there was a new Cass McCombs record on the way. Sight unseen, I assumed there would be a whole slew of odd, brilliant lines to choose from — and, fortunately, McCombs doesn’t disappoint. I love Cass’ music because he is a master alchemist of the specific and the ambiguous — there’s enough space left in his words for you to find yourself, but enough detail to ensure that he knows exactly what he’s talking about. Take, for example, the song “It,” in which he explores the unknowable mysteries of human experience through the description of a group of friends witnessing a UFO.
“It is not wealth to have more than others,” he declares at the onset, and continues by delivering details of the story interspersed throughout similarly straightforward philosophical one-liners. The culmination of the song, for me, lies in this verse: “It is neither animated nor unanimated/vegetable nor machine/real nor unreal/It exists as ‘IT’/in fact we can’t even be sure of that/And there it is/a strange group memory.” A perfect description of his own otherworldly experience that doubles as an incredibly profound reflection of our own human lives on this planet. It takes a true master to do this so seamlessly, not one word out of place, the sum so much more mysterious and unknowable than its parts. Stand and be amazed.
(Art credit: Dan Schmatz)