• Submitted on time! Apr 26, 2020

I hid somethin’ inside of you;
A mirror made of gold that reflected the truth.
You said it held you down, havin’ me around,
Said it held you down.

You found nothin’ inside of me,
So I buried your bones beneath the sycamore tree
Where you won’t be found, you’ll never be found,
You’ll never be found.

They said I’d live forever, never see you again,
So I drank the sap down and then I severed your head.
Yeah I drank the sap down, I carried it out,
I finally carried it out.

I left something inside of you,
You were screamin’ my name, you sure could carry a tune,
And my reflection now, wherever I’m bound,
Will have a golden hue.

Looking for feedback on

Too dark?


Ben February 28, 2023 11:53am

[incredible and super heavy episode of something on HBO fades to black]

[this song starts]

[credits roll]

[viewer holds up phone to tv. “Hey Siri, what song is playing?”]

froebusiness February 28, 2023 1:12pm

Love that

Nate July 16, 2020 6:46pm

no way this is too dark! Really good lyrics. I didn’t analyze them but they felt good.

Something about it feels “poppy” — like in a bluesy (esp) /rock/pop sort of way. I think its the prosody of the words and the melody. 1) It feels like a contrast to the tone & production on the guitar. 2) it, for me, saves it from the darkness. The emotional/musical presentation can carry more “raw darkness potential” than the words — and expose more of ourselves than maybe we’re willing or wanting to.

My comment would be: why not bring more darkness into your writing? First song of yours I’ve listened to, and it feels really good.

Do you listen to Alex G? Olivia Tremor Control? Both came to mind.

Great song!

nurphgun April 30, 2020 6:38pm

Gillian Welch / Southern Gothic vibes. It’s definitely dark, but it works. It’s a really patient tune. The palindromic guitar line is haunting and dizzying; I love it as the song’s throughline.

Kristoph April 27, 2020 9:54pm

Brother, the grit on the guitar line works for me big time – especially with the way you tracked the vocals. That opening guitar line kicks so strong.
Pretty dark, but I feel like the song tracks the vibe – I find it hard to write explicitly from another person’s point of view, I typically end up going third person on instinct. Sounds great.

aubspeeps April 27, 2020 4:49pm

Firstly, it is clear you are a very talented musician and I am really enjoying what you are putting together musically and vocally. Plus, you have some of my most enjoyed commentary references on other people’s songs. I hesitate to comment on this one because I am an infiltrator to this group, none of you know me that well and I of course want you all to like me. But I also want to allow myself to be an equal member of this group and to me the whole point of these challenges is to engage in dialogue in a supportive way that still pushes us to think outside of our own experience and opinions. And since your feedback is directly asking whether this is too dark, and my opinion differs slightly than the other comments made so far, I am pushing myself to be bold as the dissenter of the group to add to this conversation. I will also preface by saying my commentary is more so on myself as a listener, not yourself as an artist – another reason I hesitate to give voice to my thoughts on how this song made me feel.

To begin, I think putting a label on any art as “too dark” or too whatever is a slippery slope. I do believe that art should be a space where all elements of the human experience can be explored and reflected. I’m presuming this song is about an ex or a past relationship of some kind (I apologize if I’m mistaken in assuming), and wanting to explore the feeling of wanting to destroy someone who hurt you is of course a very natural part of the human experience to be examined. However, I will admit my initial reaction to the lyrics were that they are verging on unnecessarily violent. Of course I don’t know your experience with this person, and like I said, just because it made me uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s too dark for art. I think things that make the audience uncomfortable are often important pieces of art, productive for dialogue and important topics to explore simply BECAUSE they make someone uncomfortable. But I do think that me mentioning how it made me feel, especially since I had a different reaction than it seems most people did, is also an important part of that dialogue. I guess what I would have rather heard in this song is more about what happened in the relationship to make you get to this point in how you feel. My favorite line is the one about how this person said having you around held them down. Oof, that hurts. That cuts deep. I think that is one of the most hard hitting lines because I think most people have been made to feel that way by someone at least once, and that to me is where you feel the pain and bitterness of this song the most. That made me want to know more. But again, this speaks more to me as an audience member and what I find myself interested in, so you may take this all with a grain of salt. I guess I gravitate more towards the hurt than the anger in this song. To me, this song feels like it’s about revenge, making a point to gain power over this person who had power over you. Too dark? I don’t know if there even is a right or wrong answer.

Regardless, this song made me think and try to formulate how it made me feel into words. I think that in and of itself is a great thing

froebusiness April 27, 2020 6:12pm

Thank you so much for such an in depth response. I doubt wholeheartedly that anyone views you as an infiltrator to this group, and I think you have contributed some amazing work and equally excellent critique to the chef club. I am somewhat hesitant to explicitly state what this song is about, but I will do so here because I think it will elucidate some of the qualms you have with the lyrics. On the other hand, it may raise some new ones, but I would like to hear your thoughts regardless. Before I continue, let me just say that there is a somewhat graphic detail in here, and if anyone reading this is on the sensitive side, I would skip this explanation.

The song is told from the perspective of a psychopathic murderer. He is obsessed with a woman, and whether or not they actually dated or it’s all just in his head is unclear. What is clear is that she did not give him the attention he desired. “They said I’d live forever” is referring to the voices in his head that told him that if he rapes and murders the woman, and buries her beneath a sycamore tree then drinks the sap, he will become immortal (and therefore never see her again in the afterlife). I read that sycamore trees have been considered sacred and in connection with the gods in various cultures, and that drinking its sap has been believed to bestow immortality. The golden mirror he “hid inside her” is a way to show that this guy is a megalomaniac. I’m not sure exactly what it means though, I just thought it sounded cool. Maybe he really thinks he gave her some occult gift? Maybe he thinks he bestowed a blessing upon her by way of his attention/affection? I don’t know. Once the deed is done, the golden reflection surrounds him, and he has fused, in his mind, with its power. It’s like he took it back from her or something and inoculated it to help birth his immortality. The last verse is by far the most graphic and disturbing of the bunch if you listen to it closely. Maybe this is a world where that occult shit exists and the voices in his head were real demons, and now this dude is actually immortal. Maybe he’s just nuts.

I drew influence from the song “Polly” by Nirvana and the song “Excitable Boy” by Warren Zevon for this one. I like to think of it as a one page horror story from the perspective of a killer. I think using the first person can really add to the weight of darker concepts, and because the song is so short and simple harmonically/rhythmically I wanted to add a ton of heaviness to it through narrative.

All that being said, I think that any interpretation of the lyrics has merit, and interpreting a song should always be up to the listener. I value your interpretation, and I think this song could very easily be about a failed relationship – with the death being more symbolic than literal. I especially like what you said about important pieces of art being productive for dialogue BECAUSE they make people feel uncomfortable. I definitely agree. Music is so visceral though, it makes it hard to commit to songs like this. If this were a short story, for example, I wouldn’t feel so worried about people reading it. Weird.

aubspeepsApril 27, 2020 8:32pm

Thank you for such an open and honest response to my response! And for your kind words. You are doing excellent work on here as well and I continue to be humbled and grateful for this project and to be among such talented musicians during this weird time in the world.

Thank you for your explanation behind the song; it really puts the song into perspective for me and is a good reminder for me to check my assumptions at the door. I know that I am very sensitive to violence especially against women, and that is tied to my perception of the world but filtering art through that perspective can definitely muddle my ability to appreciate or understand intention, nuance, and meaning. This is something I am constantly coming up against consuming media, culture, stand-up comedy especially; it’s hard for me to have the perspective of “anything goes” yet at the same time as an artist I don’t think there should be rules, and like I said I think we should be able to explore anything through art, so this is a frequent confrontation in my brain. I am very appreciative that you were receptive and allowing of me to discuss this publicly as I try to unravel my thoughts (feelings). I very much appreciate that you created such a detailed narrative for this challenge, and I agree that putting songs in the first person even when they aren’t our own experience creates a visceral weight and emotion. I love that you chose not to be limited to your own experience and I think artists are the ones tasked with exploring all aspects and types of humans, not just ourselves. It is interesting to me that I needed to understand that this wasn’t from your perspective for me to be more comfortable with the lyrics; next I will be doing some psychological digging into my own brain to uncover why that is (although it is of course fantastic news that you are not yourself the murderous narrator! lol) I really like the idea of a song being a horror story, and I really like the idea of delving into the mind of such a dark and delusional brain in song form. I commend you for being bold enough to dive into that.

It’s interesting you mentioned Nirvana; that is actually a perfect example of where my struggle comes in. I say the following as a fan of Kurt Cobain, and perhaps you already know the following story (trigger warning for anyone reading further) so I apologize if this explanation is superfluous, but here is exactly where my struggle lies. Cobain was an active outspoken feminist, and his song “Rape Me” attempted to address the issue of rape. However, this song became widely misinterpreted and at a Nirvana concert a woman was sexually assaulted in the crowd by several men while the band played the song, so aggressively it left her bloody. Is this Cobain’s fault? the song’s fault? Of course not. Never could I blame him or his song for that. Are people/audience members idiots? Do people misinterpret meaning in harmful ways? Yes. Clearly, as I misinterpreted your song. What responsibility does the artist have, if any, in these circumstances? I truly don’t know the answer, but I mull it over often. Am I just too sensitive? Is interpretation unavoidable and should be disregarded in the creative process? Does that mean we can’t make art about dark topics? As for the latter, I definitely don’t think that’s the case. We need to be able to make art about dark topics. Is there a time and a place? Maybe..

I hope you know I am not trying to compare or equate your song in any way to the above account, and I apologize if I took this forum to too dark a place. This is purely one example of art misinterpretation I learned about long ago that caused me pause, and is the genesis of my conflicted opinions. I hope it explains the brain behind my initial response.

What you said about if this was a short story there would be less worry: that is a really interesting thing to think about. When we read a book or a story we don’t assume the first-person narrator is the author; why do we do that with music? What is it about hearing someones voice that makes that assumption so powerful? I like the idea of breaking that assumption. I wonder what it is about the ears that ties us more personally into an experience than the eyes. Hmmm.

Thank you again for your candor and articulation! At the end of the day having these conversations is maybe the best use of art there is, so I would consider it a win. I hope you feel the same.

aubspeepsApril 27, 2020 9:17pm

how many more times can i say the word artist

nurphgunApril 30, 2020 9:47pm

I just now read through this exchange. Aubrey, this is a really astute comment, and it got me thinking more about the lyrics. Thanks to both of you for this dialogue; I’d love to weigh in, if I may. When I first heard the song, I assumed it was from a character’s perspective and not Joe’s. The ballad-ish lyrics + the folk/blues style signaled a “storytelling song” and not a “sung from my heart” song, which gives space to play and venture into the weird and creepy. For me, what’s unsettling and what maybe rubs me in the wrong way about the lyrics is that this guy’s perspective is the only one we get to hear, and his perspective is taken seriously and at face value. I think injecting some irony, humor, self-awareness, or another person’s perspective into the lyrics would signal that even though this guy is crazy, you as the storyteller know what’s up with him. Then we could feel the darkness and fucked-up-edness of the situation on an even deeper level.

The comparison to “Polly” is helpful for context. There’s something about the absurd/dry/banal/witty imagery of that song–crackers, seeds, backaches, and the like–that makes it clear Kurt’s not glorifying the narrator’s behavior. In “Oro”, the imagery is shiny and spiritual, and it’s not entirely clear that he’s an unreliable narrator, or that we shouldn’t be on his side. It doesn’t have the same feeling of rottenness, absurdity, and stinkiness that “Polly” does. I’m not familiar with “Excitable Boy” but I just read the lyrics and they have the same quality — the absurdity of people saying “well, he’s just an excitable boy” to rationalize the kid’s behavior is really powerful. Other similar songs that come to mind are “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam and “Wendell Walker” by Andy Shauf.

To be clear I think this song rules, but maybe it could go down a different road lyrically and still be just as dark, cool, and fucked up. I really appreciate getting to read this dialogue between the two of you–and thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

Ryan April 27, 2020 12:12pm

Agreed with Zack that this has a devil-at-the-crossroads enough of a vibe that the darkness works. Not sure if this is what’s going on in this particular case, but when I doubt my own lyrics, it’s usually because there’s a line or two that I know I don’t *quite* mean, even if they’re close. Fighting to get them across that line is one of my biggest challenges as a songwriter. Maybe going back and highlighting the areas that give you pause and then writing out a list of alternates might illuminate something. Either that or darkness is always scary so it’s natural to doubt expressing it. As always—your guitar playing is dope. Well done.

Tengo April 27, 2020 11:30am

Such a great and simple arrangement that brings out everything that’s great about this song. Agree with Z, really digging the lyrics. Is it raining in the background? What’s that delightful crackle? Anyway, I think it’s great making a choice like that to bring us into this world.

froebusiness April 27, 2020 8:20pm

Thanks man, yeah just a rainstorm sample and a thunder clap sample I threw in there to give it a little atmosphere.

nick April 27, 2020 10:25am

this is sick. i am totally down. not too dark. such a killer intro and im glad it stayed in that realm. really distinct mix to the guitars and vocals and I am on board. kind of a hellish joni mitchell vibe.

Sam Pearce April 27, 2020 1:07am

I think “too dark” would depend on the metric you want to use, but too dark to enjoy, definitely not! I appreciate how much propulsion you get out of just the one guitar. I thought old of English, Irish, American revenge songs. I don’t know examples off the top of my head, but from the little I know, that kind of narrative is one of the oldest traditions in songwriting and I like this modern one.

Z April 26, 2020 10:15pm

If this was a waltz I might say “too dark,” but this is the blues babay.

I say this with brow furrowed in satisfaction: great lyrics dude man.

I read this as strength to let go of the past, and confidence in the authenticity of one’s deeds, truth always grows up eventually.

Alternate title: Happy Spring, Bitch.

Too dark?