46. Song No. 237: “All We Ever Knew,” The Head and the Heart
Signs of Light, 2013
This is one of those bands who seemed to be everywhere for a while and I didn’t mind it one bit: If a song’s going to follow me from the grocery store to the waiting room to the ice rink to Target to TV shows to commercials, it’d at least better be an earworm I can live with peaceably. And as someone who so rarely enjoyed popular music growing up (and, honestly, still doesn’t want much to do with it), it’s a novel departure when something separates itself from the din of autotune and trite lyricism to bore directly and charmingly right into my temporal lobe.
In my previous job, drowning out the cacophony of both air and rail business travel and filling a lonely hotel room with music got to be a well-honed survival skill. Sometimes I’d be in the mood for a certain album or two because I definitely have my plane-station mainstays; sometimes I’d just throw on Zeppelin or The Decemberists or give myself up to the mercy of shuffling because not having to make a decision for at least the next 100 songs was exactly what my liquefied brain needed. A couple times, I tried playing through my iPod alphabetically but never kept at it for very long.
But every so often, I’d have a song so stubbornly stuck in my head that I just needed to hear it a few times, which usually led to letting its entire accompanying album play through. If I really needed to fill the silence or could not even summon the energy to consider making any more than the absolute bare minimum of choices, I’d let everything from that artist play until it or my attention ran out.
For any number of those reasons, The Head and the Heart sounds like settling into my tiny window seat and getting ready to stare out the window for however many hours separated me from my destination. It was a chance encounter with “Couer d’Alene” that set the association in motion (I distinctly recall screengrabbing its lyrics right before putting my phone into airplane mode because I knew this song that suddenly grabbed my attention would be on infinite repeat for at least the first hour of my flight so why not use that time to learn a new song), but it’s “All We Ever Knew” that thereafter accompanied me on so many speed-walking sprints and long-haul slogs between gates, making everything a little more cinematic in the process.
There are some songs that sound like scenes from movies to me, swelling like Act Five’s full-throated resolution is supposed to. They build exactly like a tiny but fully realized story should and seem fated to run parallel to and in poetic summation of something bigger.
It’s not a deliberate, artificial construction forced into existence: It’s a happy accident of association that makes me feel like a song was made to intensify a movie’s emotional crescendo and, in the meantime, it can at least add a little internalized magic until someone else helps it realize its highest purpose. Songs like this one, both externally thanks to the broader narrative speaker systems facilitate and something more intimate cultivated by a pair of life-saving headphones, remind me how sometimes comparatively popular music and life’s mundane daily transitions can weirdly work together to be imaginative escapes from their realities with the right amount of inclination toward escapism and a tune that sounds like a soundtrack to something much more significant.