13. Song No. 58: “Addicted,” Neil Finn
Try Whistling This, 1998
Save for the occasional obsession (like the twoish years in middle school I lived and breathed The X-Files), I didn’t watch much TV growing up. But then in high school I discovered Aaron Sorkin and his incredible, cruelly short-lived workplace dramedy Sports Night, which got scads of second-season emotional mileage from “She Will Have Her Way,” a song I spent months hunting down because such things were downright Herculean undertakings in the times before googling lyrics or IMDB soundtrack pages were things. The rewards, though, were more than finding a song despite the maddeningly sparse trail of clues: They introduced me to Neil Finn, a musician whose output I’d come to love for at least two decades of reasons.
Try Whistling This was one of the first albums I fell all-consumingly in love with. Neither the artist nor this album get as much play in my personal soundtrack as they did almost 20 years ago but they absolutely draw an involuntary coo of adoration any time I stumble on the 13 songs comprising an album that, as one of the longest-running mainstays in my menagerie of music, is just soaked in all kinds of mostly pleasant memories.
During my junior year of high school, I ferried myself to and from Center City Philly every Saturday for a spring semester screenwriting class at The University of the Arts. It was one of the first truly independent peregrinations I got to enjoy across the river and my Discman accompanied me for most of it, with Try Whistling This being its primary resident. The brutal wind tunnel the city becomes every January notwithstanding, much of my walks from the PATCO station to an Avenue of the Arts classroom and post-class city wanderings are steeped in spring for me, and it’s probably why the album always sounds like the season of green and pastel rebirth.
Except for “Addicted,” which, when played by itself, sounds unmistakably like winter. What’s a comparatively moodier and ruminating end to an otherwise sparkling upbeat album is a chilly day of unconventional beauty decontextualized from its original surroundings. And I think that’s part of why it’s a lovely example of how the last track is a veritable art form when it’s done correctly.
The thing about an album you love so much that you play it as a unified suite of music rather than individual tracks is that you rarely get to see how each of those songs stand on their own. Favorites are the obvious exception, but “Addicted” isn’t one I played in isolation all that much, if at all. Coming at it in a way where it held all the memories of its album while showing off its strengths indecent of its dozen preceding songs is a welcome bit of proof that it has tons of depth and beauty all its own.