It's Pretty OK
Solving the paradoxes of our time since 2016


A Pretty OK Song: "Finally" - Cymbals Eat Guitars

There are a lot of different ways people listen to music. Some people are strict album enthusiasts, some focus on putting together playlists, and still others latch onto songs they like and wear them into the ground.

I tend to fall in the third camp most of the time. When I find a track that catches me in a good place, I listen to it over and over again for weeks (or, in certain cases, months). Then, every once in a while, I have the good fortune to be able to see the band that plays that song perform it live. About a month ago, I got that chance, which means I got to hear "Finally" being played no more than 10 feet from where I stood.

The thing that always jumped out to me first about "Finally" was how big it sounds. Despite loving to read and write, I am almost always absorbed by the music of a song before I even really notice the lyrics. And with its soaring swells and atmospheric guitar lines, this track is perfect for the climax of a movie.

(I should explain: As I imagine/hope several other people who were raised on romantic comedies do, I have this tendency to soundtrack the "movie" version of my life. It is almost certainly an unhealthy practice, and yet I cannot seem to stop it.)

But as I listen to "Finally" for what has to be the 900th time now, I find myself more drawn to the lyrical themes that frontman Joe D'Agostino expresses in the song. Let's jump ahead to what I think you'd call the second pre-chorus:

My love is a mantra / When I speak it, it weakens / I'll just squeeze your hand three times
If it's infinite repeats / I'll take the blizzard of '16 / Ready now

For D'Agostino, repetition is a powerful devaluing force. Love is so important that he doesn't want to risk its significance by even speaking of it, yet he also recognizes that it's a strong enough force in its own right that something as simple as the squeeze of a hand can properly convey more than some silly little words.

Despite all of this, there's one moment in time that he would happily repeat forever: the East Coast blizzard of January 2016, the kind of time when one might be snowed in with someone important. This is the point in the song when I inevitably fall apart.

When he reaches those lines, I'm immediately drawn back to the secondary snowstorm that hit Virginia about two and a half weeks after the blizzard. I found myself snowed in with someone I was starting to care about a great deal, so we spent a whole day - a full 24 hours - telling stories, sitting on my floor and listening to records, and sometimes just taking a minute to enjoy the silence between sides of an LP.

I didn't know then that we were going to go to a concert a month later, or that that night would be when I started to realize I loved her. I didn't know that five months later, I'd mangle that relationship for reasons that made only marginally more sense in the moment than they do now. I certainly didn't know, or at least didn't consider, that we would wind up in a place where we probably won't ever see each other again. I just knew then, as I do now, that I would happily live that night over and over again.

After that line, the music builds until D'Agostino sings the line "Try to take it all with me / But we forget finally" and the song closes by repeating its main musical pattern. But I linger on those words. Maybe holding onto memories is a bad thing, and it's actually blissful to let go and start over new. I'm skeptical, but maybe that skepticism is rooted in nothing more than a fear that letting go of those memories will be painful.

Or maybe that's enough of my catharsis, and it's time for me to let you have the opportunity to listen to the song and feel it for yourself.

Until next week.

-Sean McGoey