Photo: John Hanson

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, as we regret the New Year’s resolutions we’ve already cast aside, we’re picking our favorite songs about broken promises.

Radiator Hospital, “Cut Your Bangs” (2014)

A broken promise, at its very core, is just a lie in disguise. There’s a commonly held belief that certain lies, the small, white lies, don’t cause any harm. After all, does it really matter that you bent the truth to spare someone’s feelings? It may not do any harm, but too many untruths–even of a casual variety–can put a burden on a relationship. Demolishing the conceit that white lies are an acceptable way to communicate is what makes Radiator Hospital’s “Cut Your Bangs” so evocative, displaying that losing faith in the little things can often lead to a much bigger fallout.

“Cut Your Bangs” works in the way so many of Sam Cook-Parrott’s songs do, as he fixates on the tense moments just before an explosion. It’s a tactic that makes “Our Song” an emotionally crippling break-up song and, similarly, turns “Cut Your Bangs” into a powerful kiss-off. He’s quick to establish his awe for a character, all before one last deception has him fed up. “You say you’ll cut your bangs / I’m calling your bluff / When you lie to me it’s in the small stuff,” Cook-Parrott sings, making it known that while this person is only failing herself, all these untruths have made him lose faith in her.

It’s these little broken promises–the ones that start as mild annoyances and build over time–that are so hard for Cook-Parrott to accept. At its core, “Cut Your Bangs” explores that tendency in all of us, the one that enables us to declare intent and then never deliver. It may not hurt anyone other than the liar, but all these public announcements that never materialize put a strain on everyone within earshot. It may be as trivial as a few strands of hair, but sometimes that’s enough to break someone’s trust.

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