“Why You Always Leave A Note”
“Unassuming” is a good look for emo. I can remember buying Nothing Feels Good and being at once taken aback and utterly compelled by how those songs would just sort of trickle out, slices of life that never troubled themselves to be too loud or too quiet — or too much of anything. It might be why that record ages so well; it’s never histrionic, it always fits, since Nothing Feels Good sounds a lot more like the charmed befuddlement of weekend errands than the illusory fits of Big Changes. “Why You Always Leave A Note,” our first glimpse at Prawn’s half of an upcoming split with the equally calm-and-measured Joie De Vivre, spends its near-five minutes in similarly quiet corners, rooting out drama in subtle lifts and swells. The song’s first half is content to rustle along in a dusty, Telecaster-lean mid-tempo; rills of melody come and go, Tony Clark’s reedy tenor matches the upticks of guitar like two sympathetic versions of the same thought.
The song’s narrative concerns itself with melancholy and the past, and the odometer-steady motion keeps everything wistfully distant; the room echoes a bit, especially in the quieter breaks between vocals, where the guitars don’t sound “far away” so much as “long ago.” Soon the vocals begin to pile up, the guitars twist around each other, the (excellently punchy) drums keep that same metronomic ticking-away of days, and before you know it the song’s casual grip on memory becomes a foundation that can’t hold. Everything falls away and the song’s middle third spans out into spacious post-rock rumination. When things swing back around to that same verse, variations on a theme (just like the best songs on Nothing Feels Good, all of which found meaning through repetition and man-made loops of speculation, till “an old Chevy” becomes subject for a mantra) start to crop up and you realize why Prawn’s music makes so much sense in its “lived-in” qualities; “Why You Always Leave A Note” is a song about recurrence, how the same thoughts can come back with a million subtle differences, spiking old hurts with new barbs. The song ends up being a subtle experiment for how many ways Prawn can make you see the same few notes, the same lyrics about human travel and “buried love.” Like the record it will find its home on, the song operates on a burrowed-in groove, just like our most replayed memories.
There’s obviously an Arrested Development joke in the song’s title, but “Why You Always Leave A Note” is a deceivingly clever title, pregnant with readings (kinda like how “Nothing Feels Good” changes depending on which word you stress). It might still be an object lesson, but the song seems to be trying to teach us something about how memory works, not telling our subject why you should leave a note, but, rather, the reason why those “notes” are perpetually there; “Why There’s Always a Note Left.” Prawn shows an incredible instinct for making a song do something, for forcing a record to enact what other songs would be satisfied just to announce. “Why You Always Leave A Note” essentially gives us the dub side of itself, a quietly disappointed, subtly heartbroken disintegration loop. It’s an excellent bit of seasonal-adjustment wistfulness, and frankly one of the best songs of the young year.