The mind is a capricious thing.
Like a slideshow of sorrow, it often vividly plays painful memories we had buried in its deepest recesses.
You can leave unpleasant places and people behind, but your mind, like a torturous pest, brings them along with you wherever you go.
Los Angeles-based musician Chris Ayer confronts this haunting of the mind in his song “Ringing in My Ears”.
Ayer’s song starts with some gentle fingerpicked acoustic guitar, quickly followed by his mellow voice.
There was a song that I heard once at a party.
They played it way too loud; eventually, the cops came.
The “song” here represents a time in the singer’s life. As the following lyrics suggest, this song reminds him of a certain person, a person he’s been trying to forget.
You are the ringing in my ears.
You are the sound of it as it gets hard to hear.
You are the ringing in my ears.
New life’s beginning, but you are the ringing.
Ayer analogizes the way in which unwanted memories linger in the mind by comparing it to a ringing in his ear. In this case, he can’t stop thinking about a certain person from his past.
Moreover, even though he’s been able to move on with his “new life”, she still survives in his consciousness. Ayer illustrates the arbitrariness and potency of the mind here; thoughts of this person cause distress, but his mind continues to plague him with her image.
Faint piano notes are then introduced after the chorus, infusing the track with a soft melancholy.
A smoothly plucked banjo then joins the instrumentals, played cyclically between Ayer’s lines. All the instrumentals in “Ringing in My Ears” are somewhat muted. This encourages the listener to focus on his words.
There was an island in the middle of the ocean.
No one can find the place and so it stays unbroken,
like any man who has moored upon that white sand.
It’s hard to sleep at night when I’m capsized on dry land.
The singer feels trapped within his own mind, with no escape in sight. It’s easy to eject people from your life, but how do you expel them from your mind? The more you try to do so, the more they materialize. It can feel like you’re drowning, gasping for relief.
There is a burning on my feet:
the kind of blisters where it’s hard to walk for weeks.
There is a burning on my feet.
The world keeps turning, but there is a burning.
Ayer now compares his lingering memory to a burning on his feet; so painful that it’s hard to get on with daily life. Time keeps running, but her image still reigns in his mind.
The music then swells with strings briefly before dissipating, leaving Ayer’s ringing voice.
We’ll hear each other’s voice when the other’s not around.
When you are trying to forget someone, it’s usually because you associate them with pain and want that pain to end. However, your mind brings these people back from your past because you’ve not truly moved on from them.
Once you do, you will be indifferent to these lingering memories, and they’ll gradually disappear.
Ayer paints a slightly more pessimistic picture, though. He ends with the track’s opening words, implying that the person from his past will be a permanent fixture in his mind.
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