“It’s a long life/ I can’t get it right.” That’s the centerpiece of “High Dirge,” the latest Told Slant single, the third we’ve heard from the band’s upcoming new album Going By, following up “Low Hymnal” and “Tsunami,” both of which graced our 5 best songs of the week list. Felix Walworth uses each repetition of the phrase to wring emotion out in new ways, subtly altering the phrasing throughout: “It’s hard to get it right,” “it will waste you in return,” neither particularly bright sentiments. But somehow the takeaway from “High Dirge” isn’t defeat, but hope. History has piled up and taught us that life doesn’t really get better, but “High Dirge”‘s group vocals and upward momentum suggest that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.
The track’s narrative starts off at a low point, with Walworth leaving an apartment “wet-faced, red-eyed, and hair tied, riled up as a beehive,” but ends on an an achingly compassionate observation — “Your mom went out to smoke, and I can tell that you’re worried about her” — that seems to leave all that anger and frustration behind, at least for a moment. The coda acts as a dirge itself, evoking the lament by name — “I dirge for each ‘I don’t have have the time for you’/ I dirge for the way that I am going by/ I dirge for each 2 o’clock just waking up” — as they mourn for the shitty hand that life has dealt, for continually feeling like an unlovable fuck-up, for taking for granted the good things that have happened. But the song ends on a question that hangs in the air like dust: “Oh, long life, how is it that you go by?,” implying that we’re better off being here than not. Listen below.