I’m the weird guy who still likes to purchase physical CDs. There’s something about actually holding the album in my hands that makes it feel like it’s mine. And if you’re like me, then you think that one day Apple will unleash their evil iRepo devices to take back all of the music on people’s iTunes and iPhones. Then I’ll be the one laughing in my self-driving car, filled to the brim with 30-year-old CDs that are useless because they stopped putting CD drives in cars years before.
Another, non-apocalyptic reason I prefer to purchase physical albums is that I can more easily play them in my non-futuristic, present day car. This allows me to listen to an album in its entirety, even if I’d rather listen to just a few songs, because I’m too busy playing Simpsons Tapped Out to fiddle with the dash.
Oftentimes I’ll completely forget that I’ve got music playing. And then, there’s this magical moment where time stands still. The sounds of the outside world disappear and a moment of clarity hits me, reaches my ears and strikes me in the profound way that only hearing a good song can.
“From Afar” by Vance Joy did this to me.
The first minute or so opens with a pretty traditional acoustic guitar. Vance Joy sounds melancholic, but it isn’t until 1:15 that my moment of clarity hit me. “I always knew that I would love you from afar.” The line hits like a punch to the gut, delivered by your 8th grade crush, using Amazon’s convenient and reasonable $3.99 One Day Shipping. It’s just so practical! But it hurts so much.
Vance picks up the volume in his second verse, but at this point it doesn’t matter, because you’re already in as much pain as he is. To anyone who has ever been turned down by someone they loved or thought they loved, this song is especially truthful. And that’s what makes it so beautiful.
“But I’ve been living on the crumbs of your love, and I’m starving now.” Good God, could he make it any worse? It’s like driving a wooden stake through a lovesick werewolf’s heart, except Vance is a sadistic Van Helsing who presses really slowly just to see you squirm.
The song ends with even more heartbreaking lyrics (“It shouldn’t come as a surprise, what I’m feeling, what I’m feeling now”), but by this time you’re already convinced that Vance can time travel. He got into his Delorean, hit 88 mph, found you in your weakest moment, and took diligent notes on everything you said and did.
I’ve always believed that great art is truthful, even in its simplicity. “From Afar” is so truthful that it hurts, but it makes you feel good that someone knows what you went through.