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And now we’re saying bye. I was nineteen, call me.
Nostalgia sure is something. We all feel it from time to time, but sometimes it’s just relentless. I get it real bad every year around June; I think it has to do with my job. I’m a home school tutor, so I don’t spend a whole lot of time in actual schools until finals time, when I go in and out every day, focusing on exams, trying to power through the last few weeks before summer break. Being surrounded by kids waiting for that last class, or, even worse, applying to colleges and planning orientations, certainly doesn’t help it. Or maybe it’s just the way June smells. Because damn, late spring just has that smell, doesn’t it?
But this year’s been a lot stronger. Both the feeling and probably the smell, too, at least based on my allergies. This is my first finals season since my wedding and there is a certain grown-up vibe that that carries along with it. I’m back in a band with one of my oldest collaborators, writing totally new material from a familiar place. And yes, it would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that Banjo-Kazooie coming to Smash Bros got me all misty eyed. But most of all, I’m now more than a decade out from going away to college for the first time and a recent trip to my campus to meet up with my roommate was pretty brutal on the old nostalgia heartstrings. And on the long, solo trip home, I decided to really lean into it with some Tegan And Sara, specifically their 2007 album, The Con.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with nostalgia. I’ve never really wallowed in it, like a lot of people do, and I’ve never really taken solace in reflecting on the “good old days” either. I’ve certainly had times in my life where I was left pining for something that was over, but I’ve always been pretty good at looking towards the future and the things that are either already great or that will be. When I look back at previous eras of my life, it’s usually more as a narrative and a way to contextualize why I am the way I am or feel the way I do, not really as a yearning for the way things were. A lot of that definitely has to do with how lucky and privileged I’ve been, but I still have to work at it from time to time, especially in today’s macro-climate with… everything that’s going on. Sometimes I do get caught in a loop of really falling back into my old habits or way of looking at the world, and I find revisiting some quirks I’ve demonstrated in previous relationships, whether it be romantic or friendly, that pushed those people away from me. Habits that I’m not proud of and would really love to exorcise completely. The more of my narrative people become a part of, the harder it is to keep those parts closed off. And walking through some buildings on campus for the first time in 7 years really started re-contextualizing a lot of those patterns. So it’s no wonder that on that trip back home, songs like “Back In Your Head” ended up on repeat.
I just want to get back into your head.
I’m not unfaithful, but I’ll stray.
When I get a little scared, I run, run, run
When I jerk away from holding hands with you,
I know these habits hurt important parts of you.
Remember when I was sweet and unexplainable?
Nothing like this person, un-loveable
Or in “Hop A Plane”
And in the closer, “Call It Off”
Maybe I would have been something you’d be good at.
Maybe you would have been something I’d be good at.
But now we’ll never know.
I won’t be sad, but in case, I’ll go there everyday to make myself feel bad.
There’s a chance I’ll start to wonder if this was the thing to do.
I won’t be out long, but I still think it better if you take your time coming over here.
I think that’s for the best.
These themes make up a whole lot of this album. It mostly focuses on lost love, but through a nostalgic lens. I’m finally beyond pining for past love, but that doesn’t stop me from empathizing when an album pushes me back in that headspace. Especially an album like The Con because the soundscape of the record is so much more than that. The punchy guitars and dynamic drums help bolster Tegan & Sara’s trademark vocal styles to really drive home the dichotomy between the joy and pain that always accompanies these kinds of themes. Finding the balance between looking back fondly to learn from the past and wallowing in the exaggerated high points of yesterday is never easy. And this struggle is throughout the album, like on The Con‘s title track.
I listened in, yes I’m guilty of this, you should know this.
I broke down and wrote you back before you had a chance to.
Forget forgotten, I am moving past this, giving notice.
I have to go, yes, I know that feeling, know you’re leaving.
Calm down I’m calling you to say I’m capsized, erring on the edge of safe.
Calm down I’m calling back to say I’m home now and coming around
I’m coming around
Nobody likes to, but I really like to cry,
Nobody likes me, maybe if I cry.
But opening up and being honest about those flaws help show the growth we fight for. If we never had those times end, we’d be stuck in the monotony of an unchanging status quo and we’d never learn anything new. It’s important to acknowledge how we’ve changed and take pride in that. Openness about your personal struggles to overcome your flaws is the very embodiment of intimacy. The Con is a beautiful blueprint of pure intimate honesty. It opens with a wedding filled with pure self-reflective joy. It ends with a self-fulfilling breakup. But it’s not a linear progression. Like all of us, the record is a roller coaster of love and loss that never lets up its’ beauty for a second. And I hope none of us do, either.