In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: Songs about endings.
Radiator Hospital, “Our Song” (2013)
It’s fitting that the first song I wrote about this year for Hear This was by Radiator Hospital, and so is the last. While it feels a bit like cheating, each song has fit the theme so well it’s been hard to not to focus on the Philadelphia band’s plaintive songs. While “Cut Your Bangs” took to calling out an antagonist for their willingness to bend the truth, “Our Song”—specifically the stripped-down, acoustic version above—is a crushing tale of slowly exposed infidelity.
While the full-band version of “Our Song” from 2013’s Something Wild is packed full of energy, the session that sees vocalist-guitarist Sam Cook-Parrott playing solo is an emotional gut-punch. From the very first lines, Cook-Parrott gives the specifics of a relationship that’s clearly in decline, even if he’s not yet accepted the inevitable. Tipped off by his partner’s sneaking away to take phone calls with another man, and the hushed sounds of their crying in the shower, things suddenly snap into focus. But instead going on an attack, he accepts his fate and attempts to make peace with the loss.
In many ways, this makes for a breakup song that’s mournful yet mature. As Cook-Parrott repeats in each chorus, “If you’re thinking that we’re through / I won’t hold it against you / You know I won’t.” He’s been dealt a crushing blow but sidesteps jilted self-pity, offering a way out to the person he had built a life with in spite of his own hurt. With its final lines, “Our Song” strikes the delicate balance of becoming a farewell that’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking, as Cook-Parrott acknowledges that sometimes it’s best to let go, even if you don’t want to.