Auditory First Aid Kit
April 25, 2023
Nomenclature #7: Auditory First Aid Kit
Hello lovely folks, welcome back to another edition of Nomenclature. I’m not sure how you all are faring at this point in time, but spring allergies and the all-around chaos that is the end of spring semester have me feeling a bit discombobulated at the moment. If you’re in the same state, you can understand it may be difficult to stay motivated as well as enjoy this beautiful season and all it has to offer. That being said, I wanted to compile a selection of tracks that may help to get your mind in order and declutter your psyche. Welcome to my auditory first aid kit.
- Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
I want to start off with this track, “Comfortably Numb,” from Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, because I believe the instrumentation truly has healing properties. The track starts off slow with a steady drum beat and echoing guitar riffs alongside a glorious baseline. The lyrics act as a quick check in with the listener as they echo, “Hello? (Hello? Hello? Hello?) / Is there anybody in there? / Just nod if you can hear me.” The vocals in conjunction with the beat and periodic guitar riffs act to calm your mind and slow the speed at which you are thinking and feeling. The inspiration of this track comes from Pink Floyd’s bassist, Roger Waters, who wrote “Comfortably Numb” about being injected with tranquilizers for stomach pain before a show and how challenging it was to perform with a hazy and numbing sensation. I would say that this track emulates that hazy feeling, but not necessarily in a negative way.
The bridge comes in with a gorgeous string section and the lyrics, “There is no pain you are receding / A distant ship smoke on the horizon / You are only coming through in waves.” The vocal build of the chorus is so big and bright, it’s enlightening especially in tandem with a brief guitar riff that welcomes the recitation of the lyrics, “I have become comfortably numb.” The guitar solo that follows soon after is what makes the song. It plays alongside a simple steady drum beat and baseline, but it is anything but boring. It complements the other instrumentation well but experiments with melismatic sounds and slides. This song perfectly encompasses a feeling of radical acceptance and neutrality, but in such a way that is clarifying and illuminating.
- All things end – hozier
This track is a new release from Hozier, off his EP, Eat Your Young. It certainly welcomes the soulful sounds of his other discography, but it contains uniquely fruitful lyricism and sound. It begins with the lyrics “A two-tonne weight around my chest feels like / It just dropped a twenty-storey height.” In the way that the lyricism of this song is structured, Hozier acknowledges various challenges and difficulties he has experienced in his verses, but the lyricism of the chorus acts as a mental and emotional release. It works beautifully with the rich piano. This song is wonderfully cathartic and you will feel brand new as Hozier sings “And all things end / All that we intend is scrawled in sand / Or slips right through our hands.” His acknowledgement of loss is unique in the sense that it is not sorrowful. He recognizes the challenge that comes alongside it while understanding the inevitability of it all. Hozier ties up the chorus perfectly with “everything will end / Should not change our plans / When we begin again.” Once again, he echoes sentiments of acknowledging loss and welcoming change. His lyricism is profound and authentic, which is what makes it so healing. The instrumentation, especially in the chorus, dances with the vocals in a perfect way. Not only is the message of this song incredibly valuable, but the quality of the instrumentation takes on a whole new meaning alongside it. It’s powerful and invigorating. The soulful sounds will pull you out of any haze and bring you back to life.
- House song – searows
This track is a bit more delicate than the previous two. It feels like a light breath of fresh air, melancholic and cleansing. The track begins with light guitar plucking until the elegant vocals come in with the lyrics “Tall white house with an empty room / And your name carved over the door.” The lyrics throughout the song continue to have an air of painful but freeing nostalgia to them. The guitar plucking moves in and out with the vocals. “Now you’re taller than you’ve ever been / There’s a mark on the wall, you see.” I appreciate the metaphorical aire to this line that perhaps references the intersection of change, growth, reflection and pain. I think that the vocals echo these emotions, and are very pleasing to the ears. The simplicity of the instrumentals were a wonderful choice for this track, as the lyrics and vocals have the chance to shine through without being overpowered by any sort of complicated background noise. In a way, it almost makes you appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the guitar even more than if it were accompanied by other instruments.
The final verse of the song is heartbreaking in such a way that it is regenerative. The tempo of the vocals change and become lanky in such a way, especially with the lyrics “Something is rotten inside of me / I have to find it and / Cut it out / Cut it out.” The single syllable in the word “out” is so drawn out and sung carefully. Although this song is painful and nostalgic, it is grounding in the way that feeling your bare feet in the grass is on a late summer night.
- Summer Noon – Tweedy
This song is all that is love and light, but it is also gorgeously broken. The off beat intro kicks into light guitar strumming and a palatable baseline, all of which embody such a deep feeling of limerence. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy’s broken vocals make the track that much better. The lyricism is warm, youthful, hop, and thought-provoking. The track opens with the lyrics, “Summer noon I can always stay / To radiate what the cello can’t play / She spoke to me and provoked my band / And I broke in two in the heat of her hand.” Tweedy wrote this track and the album it is featured on, Sukierae, in dedication to his wife. These lyrics are reminiscent of the unconditional love and admiration for her, which I think makes the song that much more beautiful.
The creativity and meta quality of the lyrics are fun additions to this track, including lines like “I thought there was a note I could not hear / So I floated to a whisper up against my ear.” I appreciate the whimsy and imagination of this line and many others in the song. This is one of the many reasons I chose to include it in my musical first aid kit. Sometimes, complex instrumentals and thought-provoking lyrics are enjoyable and can be incredibly grounding. However, I appreciate that this song takes on a bit of a more nonsensical approach, while still written in a meaningful and eloquent way. I love the originality of Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting and it truly shines through in this song. The love and light that is poured into this song is restorative, bright, and ideal for a summer noon.
- Box of Rain – Grateful Dead
I wanted to finish off this auditory first aid kit with one of my favorite medicinal tracks that has all the elements you would ever need to be content. The hallmark of this song is certainly the lyricism. It was written first with only a rough vocal outline by the bassist of the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh and then developed with the help of the Dead’s lyricist, Robert Hunter. He wrote it for Phil as he was searching for clarity while his father was ill with terminal cancer. It includes allusions of water and quite possibly exhibits the journey of Lesh finding clarity in his grief. In the second verse, Lesh sings, “Walk out of any doorway / Feel your way, feel your way like the day before / Maybe you’ll find direction / Around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you.” I appreciate not only the way this is written, but also the vocal tone at the end of each verse, which in a way, leans on the next line, which is the chorus with a repeating question of “What do you want me to do?” It’s almost as if this is a conversation with oneself about constantly running into a mirage of thoughts before finding the answer to a question.
The other verses are constructed similarly, but I’d like to point out another feature of the Grateful Dead’s lyricism in this track that relies on the concept of “hand me down” thoughts from others and searching for answers in the wisdom of those around you. Lesh singing about finding clarity by “[looking] into any eyes you find by you” is yet another piece of a puzzling mental journey he goes on to find answers throughout the song. One line expresses his difficulty in sorting out his own thoughts as he sings, “Maybe you’re tired and broken / Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken / And thoughts unclear.” As the listener, you are able to put yourself so easily into Lesh’s shoes. I specifically appreciate his expression of “words half spoken,” as it alludes to the idea of wishing to reach a lucid state of mind, but missing the piece of the puzzle that will get you there. Lastly, I want to point to my favorite line of the song, which is sung in the last chorus. It’s as if Lesh reaches a conclusion when he sings in a beautiful multi-part harmony with his bandmates, “A box of rain will ease the pain / And love will see you through.” Throughout every verse, there are metaphors about feeling a certain lack of control, a disillusionment with the world to the point where you must search for a solution to your problems in every aspect of your life. The lyrics interpret the world as a simple “box of rain” in which you have the opportunity to take in what is meaningful and positive with you and simply take the difficulties and struggles as they are. There is no need to search for the answers to everything, but instead a way you can exist which allows you to see the good, the love, the light, in everything. This song is the colorful band-aid you pick out from this auditory first aid kit before you close it up and carry on.