In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re highlighting the songs we’ve listened to the most this year from our iTunes or on our Spotifys, Rdios, or stereos.
Father John Misty, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (2012)
As far as I’m concerned, one of the best things about earbuds is that you don’t have to be alone with your thoughts if you don’t want to be. Sometimes you want to be distracted, to listen to a song that takes you to a place where it’s warm and the rent is paid and everyone is happy and beautiful and in love. And for the past 18 months or so, that involved regular, repeated listens of Father John Misty’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” not for the song itself (although it is great), but for the myth I built around it.
I first heard “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” at a friend’s house, where we were drinking on a weeknight—maybe a Monday. I had quit my job about six months earlier to become a “real writer.” It was thrilling at first, but I hadn’t thought it through, and I crashed into the reality of freelancing like a bird against a sliding glass door. It was a stupid thing to do, and I told myself that often in the deep depression that followed. So there I sat, heavy with inertia, trying to figure out the cheapest way to pickle my brain so I wouldn’t have to think. Which, as it turns out, are the perfect conditions for a new favorite song.
What caught my attention was the production. It stood out from the album in the best way with the weighty, echoing (I’m a wall-of-sound girl through and through) sound of lazy guitars and ghostly vocals laid over crashing, seductive drums that dare you not to sway along. This song wasn’t about sad, terrified people who could barely get it together long enough to get dressed. It was about people whose lives were heady and exciting and who had sex in cemeteries, specifically Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, the lovely, verdant final resting place of Marion Davies and Jayne Mansfield that played into my most cherished secret fantasy.
I told myself that as soon as I could, I was going to bail on Chicago and move to Los Angeles. I thought about selling everything I had and flying to the place where my real life would begin. I practiced leaving without saying goodbye. I’ve always wanted to be somewhere else—I left the city I grew up in as soon as I could, and was gone from my college town before graduation day came. But this longing was especially intense, and with little but drinking and spotty freelance work to occupy my time I became obsessed with the eternal “soon.” “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” became the theme song to this new, better me. I listened to it over and over—235 times according to iTunes, but that seems really low, honestly—wearing my earbuds everywhere to drown out my regrets.
But no matter how much I talked about it, no matter how many credit cards I maxed out “visiting friends out West” (two), leaving wasn’t going to make things any better. It wasn’t going to repair the marriage I had neglected until it nearly fell apart, and it certainly wasn’t going to replenish my empty savings account. I had grabbed the steering wheel and careened my life off of the road, choosing a golden dream over my messy reality. But that couldn’t last.
Now, I’m glad I stayed. I can walk to the bus stop or take a shower without needing some sort of distraction, and the silences around the dinner table aren’t so tense. I listened to “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” today, and I didn’t feel anything. I suppose that means I need a new favorite song.