You peer into the world portrayed in “Coming Down Around Me” like you would look into a snow globe, curiously, eagerly, but also carefully, your hand’s stilled and breath held after the initial shake, taking in the scene in front of you, not wanting to disturb it.
The snow globe Kris Gruen has created holds a lone figure walking with his head down, surrounded by looming buildings, obscured by murky water and the fall of grey, tainted snowflakes. The man himself is tainted with past mistakes.
The scene painted is ethereal. He could easily be a ghost.
The man is on a mission of quiet rebellion.
The song has a violent title, but that belies its feeling; the movement I felt in it was gentle, ambling. The melody of it is unhurried. Gruen’s voice is steady, yet emotion clings to it, an omnipresent melancholy hovering over every note.
The movement in the song is not impacted by its subject, the speaker, but rather occurring around him. He seems to float through scenes of his life; we see his family and friend’s disapproval, his appraisal of time passing, and his quiet realization, all in calm muted scenes.
It is if the grey that he mentions raining down is a sedative, numbing the characters of the story he weaves, making them indifferent to all they have lost in settling.
It feels like a fear of settling. He doesn’t want safety and security; he wants freedom in his life. He doesn’t want to grow rust like a piece of silver tucked safely away; he wants to be out in the world where he could get damaged but at least he will be living.
If he stays safe, the soft grey that surround the man could easily sharpen and become a cage. He would prefer to allow his life to fall apart, because that will leave space for new things to come together.
He alludes to past misdeeds. He explains that he is transitioning from being a sinner to a saint. However, through this song he comes to realize that being “good” does not make him happy. That illusion has been shattered, softly, dissipating into a thousand grey rain drops that pour over him.
This water imagery is also present in the movement of the song. It ambles along like a gentle stream. The tone of it makes it seem like the stream exists in Winter, cutting through dark mud, burbling over unforgiving sharp rocks. However, with the gentle blurring of Winter into Spring the stream will have a chance to be among grass, flowers and sunshine.
In that way it touches on seasonal depression for me. I felt the greyness all tied up with weather imagery.
This song was a collaboration with filmmaker Melissa Miller Costanzo and was used in her film, “All
These Small Moments” starring Molly Ringwald, Jemima Kirke, Brendan Meyer, Brian d’Arcy James and
Harley Quinn Smith. The film is about a teenage boy who becomes infatuated with a woman he sees on a bus, further complicating his already tumultuous adolescence. It will premier at Tribeca Film Festival this year.
The song is a dark one, undeniably, but it also contains notes of hope. The man is frustrated that he is waking up to a world with few wonders, yet it is implied that he could change that.
The song’s ending is blurred, like much of the rest of it, but it holds hope for new beginnings.