Saturday, May 05, 2007

Song of the Week: "Ringing in My Ear"

Download: Adem - "Ringing in My Ear"

I love a perfect song. Adem's "Ringing in My Ear," from Homesongs, is a perfect song, one of those songs where everything just seems right and everything is in the correct place--the shuffling percussions, the wondrous glockenspiel, the harmonizing guitars, and Adem's lazy, exasperated vocals.

What I like most about the song is how immediately it hits me. I love break-up songs, and the best ones are visceral in making you feel the hurt. "Ringing in My Ear" is a bitter, pungent, and devastating break up song that isn't angry but moreso disappointed at how things turned out. The guitars, to me, convey a sense of contemplation, and the monotonous rhythm combines with Adem's vocals suggest weariness. As Adem sings the lyrics, we hear a story of recriminations and petty vengefulness. The narrator sings of feeling guilty for the things he has done since the separation but still feels no compulsion to apologize for it because "it was your decision." Throughout the phrase "ringing in my ear" takes on various undertones. At first it's an easy to disregard noise, then it's a harsh, unpleasant sound that can't be ignored, but for the most part it's an irksome, distracting presence the narrator wishes would go away. In the end, though, one gets the sense that the narrator doesn't wish the ringing to go away; the ringing in his ear has become synonymous with missing her presence:

It's a sunny September
The colours are bright here
And the birds sing of beautiful places
While you are just ringing in my ear

The placement of the word "just" is curious. "Still" might have fit the tone better, but the use of "just" is a nice touch as it implies a struggle within the narrator to admit the fact that he misses her. Yes, she's an annoying ringing in his ear, but he might prefer hearing it that not.

Adem followed up Homesongs with the underrated Love and Other Planets. That album didn't have a song that matched the clarity and perfection of "Ringing in My Ear" but it's an even more assured and richly textured album than Homesongs.

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