The first time I listen to Wild Manes’ “Cicadas,” I’m lying in my backyard, grass tickling my neck. The sky is burning hazy blue, and there’s just enough breeze for goosebumps. No sound but the lazy drone of an airplane passing overhead. Then the slow unfolding of a beat, a thrumming bass – like a heartbeat, latching into rhythm, the tempo of a slow summer.
“Cicadas, making sounds of the summer/Sounds of the sun/Sounds of the heat.”
The song has a dreamy bite to it. It’s a song about upbringing – about the internal tug that appears when you least expect it, a gnawing hunger for home, and what it takes for you to listen to that pull. Think aching shivers. Your hometown, thirsty in July. Old love and unpainted walls and someone’s hand under your chin, lifting up. Think old cars. Dandelions. Cicadas howling outside your window. “Cicadas” carries a hopeful swing, and it has a gritty sheen to it – dripping harmonies, biting lyrics.
“How hard does the wind have to blow/Opposing your trajectory/Pushing you back home?”
It’s interesting that Wild Manes uses second person here. They’re talking to us, but they’re also talking to themselves – to you, me, them, everyone: what would it take to bring us home? How many signs do we have to be given before we start listening? Lyrically, this section of the song is one of my favorites, and it helps that it’s embedded in spine shimmying harmonies. The chorus follows a similar sound structurally:
“This part stings for a while.”
Here’s what I mean. The lyrics are straightforward enough: there are parts of life that sting for a while. Parts of life that we hold onto. But what’s cool is that these lyrics connect to the soundscape of the piece – the chorus rises with these words and it draws into a long vocal stretch where the harmonies crash together and hold on for just a little too long, to the point where you don’t just hear the lyrics – you feel their meaning. You feel the tension, the longevity, the nostalgia that clings to you and tugs you in an old direction. And, just like the lyrics, this effect “stings” in the best way. We see this effect multiplied in the final verse:
“I was, I was afraid of it/I was, I was afraid of you/Cicadas, making sounds of the summer.”
At this point, the song takes a breath. The harmonies drop out for a moment, and we’re left to witness the song’s naked vulnerability, the underbelly of its nostalgia: fear. Then, slowly, the harmonies build back in, and the song consumes itself in a perfectly controlled finale – ultimately simmering into guitars that drop into silence. In this final gasp, the song features intersecting tunes, mimicking the overlapping croons of cicadas.
“Cicadas” is an uplifting song about the downswings of growing up. It’s about the people and the places we leave behind, and the way we feel unmoored in their absence. It’s a song that catches your rib and lifts up – that takes your chin in its hand and makes you look it in the eye. It’s a song to listen to in your hometown, and a song to listen to when you haven’t been home in years.
Hey, Quick Sponsored Thing: PR Service to Get Your Music Featured in Blogs & Spotify Playlists
Our friends at Omari are really good at helping artists get heard and listed in cool indie blogs and playlists. They've worked with big acts (Judah & the Lion) and bedroom artists alike (which is feasible cuz service starts at $77). Anyway, take a look. Disclaimers: it's an affiliate link, and yeah, they're good.
If you're tired of pitching your music yourself, if you finally want to find your audience, or if you just like us, click here to learn more.