Single of the week: Tomberlin – idkwntht

by Phil Scarisbrick

The opening bars feel like you’ve entered a parallel universe to the one that the characters of Life on Mars inhabit. Rather than stumbling into a 1970s Manchester soundtracked by a fat slice of Hunky Dory, though, you’re slowly trying to establish a path through the thick smoke at the entrance of a dive bar with Tom Waits’ The Heart of Saturday Night providing the sonic mise-en-scene. This visual all closes in once the vocal arrives, as we hear Tomberlin’s questioning only able to muster a repeat of her words in reply from Told Slant’s Felix Walworth. The cyclical dynamic of the track lures you into a dream-like state as you’re slowly hypnotised by the two vocals: ‘I don’t know who needs to hear this / sometimes it’s good to sing your feelings,’ the pair call and answer, adding a sense that she feels the need to explain why she’s even trying.

A finger-picked guitar line remains solid throughout – with a loose sounding sax disappearing after the intro, only to re-emerge as the track enters its final act. A light piano adds to the lullabilic feel, with a dynamic that rarely alters course – save a few subtle flourishes – for its full four and three quarter minutes.

Barely audible, a voice note – possibly the audio off an old VHS or an answerphone message – sits just below the mix at the start and end of the track. The only noises legible are the innocent laughter of a child, free of the weight of adulthood, and completely oblivious to what they will naturally face as they mature. As the snippets bookend this beautiful song, it feels like our pair of narrators go full circle, but arrive exactly where they left off – only hopefully with a little bit of what they’ve been carrying off their chest, and a bit more juvenile joy restored.

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