In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in anticipation of Coachella kickoff, we’re highlighting some of our favorite acts set to play the fest this year.
The Dismemberment Plan’s 1999 album Emergency & I is spoken of in hushed tones among indie geeks for its perfect melding of weirdness and relatability, much of which comes from Travis Morrison’s lyrics. “The City” features some of my favorite lines of his, particularly the ridiculously spot-on, “And this is where I live, but / I’ve never felt less at home.” The whole song is about loneliness and abandonment, and the nagging sense that one person’s departure can make your entire environment change. (“The city’s been dead / Since you’ve been gone,” goes the most direct line.) It doesn’t hurt that those words are paired brilliantly with a synth line that sounds just slightly queasy and a jangly, direct guitar—you can dance to it, but clearly everything isn’t exactly right. It captures the gorgeous unease of the entire record: It sounds like excitement and possibility and utter heartbreak were all forced to cohabit. I guess you could read the epic final line—“All I ever say now is goodbye”—as either monumentally sad or as a joyful release, but I’ve always chosen the former. “The City” is one of many crowd-pleasers on Emergency & I (and the band has played it at nearly every show since it came out, both pre- and post-reunion), which makes the fact that it’s also so emotionally gutting even more powerful.