One of the miracles of music is that you can listen to a song 1,000 times and hear something new on that 1,0001st play. That's what happened with Patrick Sweany's "Them Shoes" over the weekend. There are two reasons for the new discovery. The first and most obvious is that I changed, life changed. We'll come back to that. The other reason for the new discovery is because of what drew me into the song in the first place.
I fell in love with "Them Shoes" the first time I heard it because of the way Sweany built and that's what I was listening for each time it played. "Them Shoes" is what smoldering sounds like. I love incendiary rock songs with atomic riffs played at extreme volume but there's something equally alluring in a slow burn. Few guitarists bother to show restraint in their playing and of those who do, fewer are able to be interesting about it. Sweany creates a delicious tension, increasing the heat and backing it down, keeping the song on the verge of explosion. It takes discipline and skill to walk that line and Sweany does it with seeming ease.
That's what drew me to the song the first time I heard it and kept me going back. What I hadn't paid much attention to were the lyrics. I'd listened to the soulful vocal but hadn't connected with what was being said. I don't know why the words hadn't gotten through to me before now. I love language and wordplay; it's the only medium in which I dabble. I love singing along with songs when I'm at home or in my car and despite the unintentionally hilarious re-writes of others' songs, that's easier when you know the words. It just didn't happen those first 1,000 listens. I love it and that was all I needed to know. I now love it for new reasons. I would have loved these lyrics because Sweany has a couple clever turns of phrase describing love gone wrong, dreams not coming true, and living a half life because part of you is still living in the past, and I do love it for that. I wish it didn't resonate and describe where I'm living these days and I hardly needed another song for that purpose but meditating on the words while feeling your face slowly melt from the searing heat of Sweany's playing brings joy, wonder, and light even to those darkest days. I wonder what will be revealed on the 2,000th listen, which could happen by the middle of next week at my current level of obsession.