Translating our feelings into something that everyone else can understand sometimes seems like an impossible task. Even the creative ways we’ve come up with to express our innermost thoughts — art, music, prose, film — don’t seem up to the task, like we’re just obfuscating our emotions beneath a million different layers. “Say what you feel” is an easy command, but a hard act to carry out. You can hear that frustration in Evan Stephens Hall’s voice on “Cadmium,” the second single from Pinegrove’s upcoming Cardinal: “Say what it is/ It’s so impossible,” he protests. “But if I just say what it is, it tends to sublimate away.” We’re hard-wired to hesitate and second guess, to do everything in our power not to appear vulnerable. But part of growing up is ignoring that voice in our head that tells us to lie about how we feel: “More every year, I shine light on edges I tried to unfeel, but we’ve gotta do better than that,” he sings in the second verse. Hall’s revelations about communication are met with crisp affirmations from the rest of his band; each time the music drops out sounds like a step on the path to aligning what you say and how you feel.
Here’s how Hall laid out the track for The Fader, who premiered the song:
The song’s a lot about correspondence and communication. There’s a book called I Send You This Cadmium Red by John Berger and John Christie that collects the letters the two Johns sent to one another. The first letter sent was just a square of that color. I was writing a lot of letters with my friend out west at the time, and we liked the idea. We started sending colors and art sometimes and found it to be a different and good (and sometimes more direct) way to say what we were feeling.