Ryleigh Wann is an MFA poetry candidate at UNC Wilmington, where she interns with Lookout Books and reads poetry for Ecotone. Her writing can be found in Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Royal Rose Magazine, Emerge Literary Journal, Semicolon Literary Journal, and Press Pause Press.
NEW PERSON, NO NEW MISTAKES
after Tame Impala
We’re just now getting over, the rest gets easy
The breeze off the Detroit river was salvation that night. I wore a crushed blue velvet dress with glitter smeared on my face. J wore my pashmina scarf, long hair pulled in a bun, his face red from forgotten sunscreen. We were dehydrated and quenched our thirst with tall boys and darts bummed from strangers.
Kevin Parker greeted Detroit and launched into the first track off Currents, “Let it Happen.” This nearly-eight-minute song drips with a weird mix of seduction and inspiration, urging the crowd to go berserk. The build of instrumentation at the end was enough to get J and I out of the crowd and to the back, fast—we needed space to groove like it’s a concert for just us. Our energy was so contagious that people circled us, pulling their phones out to record, whether hyping us up or dragging us on Snapchat stories—we didn't care. Our favorite album was playing live, an album that had become a soundtrack to nights in each other’s bedrooms, road trips, and parties—a precious gift for one of the last nights of our relationship together before I moved away. Someone came up to us and asked if we were selling as if we were on drugs.
’Cause what we did, one day on a whim, will slowly become all we do
Kevin Parker is a perfectionist. This is a skill sharpened during time spent alone in a studio without distractions. While Currents brought this band to fame, comparisons between Tame Impala’s albums display the broad range of sound Parker possesses. Less heavy on distortion than 2010’s InnerSpeaker, Currents shows off Parker’s production expertise and The Slow Rush remains true to that sentiment.
The latter album begins with “One More Year,” a track that feels like Parker’s attempt at cheering you on through the passage of time and the loneliness it can bring. It suggests we’re alone, but we’re alone together. There are distorted vocals which Parker describes in an interview with Apple Music as a “Gregorian choir” of some psychedelic voices chorusing the title. Gregorian, meaning Germanic Catholics, beckons the listener with this praise, curse, or blessing—all forms in which time exists. This choir feels symbolic of mythological sirens calling to you from the past. The sound evokes a feeling of nostalgia yet in such a modern way—with all of its weird, dope glory.
In the air of today is tomorrow’s dust
Dancing with J always echoed the essence of a coming-of-age movie trailer. Photographs and incense decorated his dingey futon couch bedroom while records spun and we serenaded each other. Some days I miss him so much it feels like a constant toothache and other times I go the whole weekend without remembering him. What has only been three months feels more like three years. We catch up from time to time, but the small talk is like pebbles compared to the mountains of conversations we used to climb. It’s surreal, but aren’t most things when you’re at an impressionable age and in love? Moving on and loving multiple people throughout time, just to do it all again if you’re lucky? It’s strange. I keep waiting for full force investment where no other human interests me. I have never found that infatuation like I have with myself.
I was raging, it was late
In the world my demons cultivate
I felt the strangest emotion but it wasn’t hate
I wanted to hate Wilmington, North Carolina. I visited in March for an MFA program I was accepted into. I had never been to this state and therefore it couldn’t compete with my love of the Midwest. I felt dumb jumping from undergrad to grad school, but my family’s health seemed well enough to leave home for a few years, so I applied to this program for its opportunity in publishing experience and potential inspiration for a series of poems I was writing about swamps. I hated the beach and racism associated with southern stereotypes. If I’m being honest, I searched for any reason to hate Wilmington because I wanted to keep my premature relationship pulsing, attached to an umbilical cord existing in a city where distance wouldn’t be carcinogenic.
But I didn’t hate Wilmington. The relaxed atmosphere of a “salt life” town bewildered and attracted me with its foreign curiosities—the history of a new town I was still learning, lame beach shops selling turtle keychains and tacky shot glasses, surfboards on every other car, the sound of my name leaving the lips of someone who had a “born and raised” twang. Wilmington was a change I could handle. It presented a chance to be away from the Midwest and everything I’ve known, a chance to alter who I was becoming—less drugs, less drinking, less character traits I both loved and loathed.
Gone a little far
Gone a little far this time with something
Parker dropped “Borderline” almost a year before the album and played it at Coachella but decided it wasn’t quite right. The track on the record differs from the single by having a heavier, more apparent bassline. “Little closer, close enough” contradicts Parker in this case where the song was released yet still needed tweaking for the album in its entirety. Perfectionism is funny like that. As a writer, I often think art is used as a means to create something that will relieve me from some larger burden gripping the bones of my back, but oftentimes my writing is both pain and relief. I’ve discovered my need to perfect and polish my writing mimics the desire to do so in dating. Like the name of the city where we met, I needed a relationship as smooth as glass.
And you could store an ocean in the holes
In any of the explanations that you gave
Our relationship was eroding two months in. One night, I was sitting on the couch at my neighbor’s, laughing loudly. We had been getting friendly for months, the type where you’re both curious about each other’s potentiality but the logistics of being neighbors holds you back from intimacy. J called and I ignored it, planning to call him back when I walked home. After a text, I called him back to hear his voice absorbed with tears. His house was burning down and he could only stand and watch as firemen tossed his belongings outside of the hole where his bedroom once was, above the kitchen—the only side of the house damaged from flames. His guitar, pictures, clothes, books—one by one, raining from the orange, glowing sky at midnight. After the fire was extinguished, he was allowed to dig through the rubble for any surviving materials. A mutual friend who came to support him at the fire said some of the first things he pulled out was my perfume bottle, a framed photo of us now peeled back from heat, and a teddy bear with my favorite team’s jersey on it.
I went home and sobbed at the overwhelming guilt and shame I carried for not answering his call the first time. So consumed with my resentment and hurt from him I forgot I had been screening calls and texts, too. His records were ruined but he pulled out Currents and set it aside for me so I could make some type of art project with it. A memento for nights dancing to the beat and singing our favorite lyrics: “Wish I could turn you back into a stranger.” I decided I would make a clock with the record as a face, arms ticking slowly minute by minute, hour by hour above my desk while I write.
When we were livin’ in squalor, wasn’t it heaven?
“Lost in Yesterday” is easily a crowd favorite from this record. That bass line slaps you in the face with shag carpet hands and the music video is straight up nasty, showing the same looped wedding party through decades like a time warp. The song preaches to embrace the future when it calls because it always is, like a telemarketer with too much pride.
I met some new friends by downloading those cringeworthy dating apps a week after moving here and getting a match from someone who I thought probably wouldn’t skin me. He invited me to a party, where I was able to meet people. These new friends feel reminiscent of home, and I often wonder what it might be like if we all found each other in the same city at the same bar or house for a kick back, laughing, drinking, or singing songs around a bonfire. Nostalgia is curious that way, how meeting new people can quickly fill the void someone else created with similar plaid pants, glasses, even the way their head swings back, laughing a little too hard at a joke someone cracked.
Feel like a brand new person
(But you'll make the same old mistakes)
I don't care, I'm in love
(Stop before it's too late)
This song—“New Person, Same Old Mistakes”—is the complicated finale of Currents. It’s at odds with itself. The speaker pretends to be ready for change but deep down knows they will make the same mistakes. It acted as a metaphorical encore for my last days in that realm of life. I graduated college, was moving away from home, and encountered a ride of a relationship. I remember thinking at one point J and I might actually make it through living states away until he could move in, but this was before he got a job designing for a startup company. This meant he could be creative and had an out from the career his degree paved for him, a degree he believed would leave him unfulfilled. It was now his turn to take the offer. I’m trying to use this song as a lens through which I can remember the emotion I felt for this person and the excitement I had at the hope we were going to make it despite whatever tried to break us up, as long as this song was playing in the background.
It ended up instead representing a Banshee’s cry, warning us of the wreck to come.
As long as I can
Spend some time alone
The finale of TSR, “One More Hour,” brings the entire record full circle. It is the bookend clasping together an odyssey of the search for change and what the end goal of growth is and time’s role within it. Loud drums crashing at the end of the song emphasize the confession: “As long as I can spend some time alone.” This lyric acts as the closure of an album wishing and confessing the need for time spent alone and in that loneliness, being able to discover who you truly are. This alone time offers the promise of reflection and growth in art, the main desire throughout this record that is not as experimental as Lonerism (2012) and not transformative in sound as Currents. TSR found its sound through years spent allowing time to be alone with yourself.
And that’s what I need, too, and that’s what it all boils down to. What person we are when we are alone, behind closed doors with only one seat on the bench, fully emerged in our passions—whatever those may be. I like to think I’m the kind of person who can listen to an old record on my Crosley and groove around in pearl white socks to memories of days with someone who knew which steps I was going to take next. I can look back at those nights in a college house with posters on the wall and smile because I was happy to be alive and grateful for my pulse. Nothing poetic about it, just pure ecstasy at standing in awe of another person who yearns for your mutual attention and rhythm. I occasionally find myself daydreaming the ways in which J might return to me, but I don’t think that’s fair to either of us. Of course I still love him, but he deserves his change, too, and I’m stoked for him. TSR leaves the listener alone to sit and stir with that small, softer sentiment that to be happy with someone else, you need happiness in alone time. I suppose I’m still looking for mine, but damn, I’d say I’m about one song away.
3/2/2021 02:00:30 pm
Incredibly powerful imagery, mountains of conversation being reduced to pebbles of small talk over time is such a heavy truth. Wonderfully written :)
3/2/2021 02:08:35 pm
Amazing piece, Ryleigh! Your descriptions are so visual and I adore that last line!
3/2/2021 02:31:44 pm
This piece is so well-written and the imagery...just beautiful.
3/2/2021 03:51:36 pm
This piece is so powerful. The way Ryleigh weaves lyrics together with experience and thought is brilliant! Her writing always lingers in my mind - “with all of its weird, dope glory”.
3/2/2021 04:06:48 pm
Just wonderful. I loved all the devastating morsels of memory intertwined with lyrics. It effectively pulls one apart, then provides the space for rebuilding. Just wonderful.
3/3/2021 08:40:19 pm
The Tame Impala lyrics are stunning background music for the narrative and reflections. Beautiful, intelligent writing!
7/23/2021 02:54:49 pm
This piece does what all great writing does: pulls you into another world, while simultaneously offering glimpses and light into your own. I’ve read this twice now, and it was even more powerful on the re-read. Ryleigh brings her passion and emotions deeply to the page, with the song reviews being almost a relief from the intensity of the rest of the piece. Maybe it’s because we have the same name, but damn, that last line is a banger.
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malady and melody
features staff writers from Flypaper and select music critics invited to review projects and write guest articles. To be released sporadically.
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