“Well then, Rosemary
In your pretty eyes, darlin’
I am always in the way of what you’re wanting”

Donovan Woods self-deprecates like it’s an Olympic sport.

Not one of the main ones, like swimming or track and field. I’m talking about one of those weirdly gravitating ones that you didn’t know someone could be so good at, didn’t know was so impressive, and can’t look away from. Like curling, for instance.

It’s not easy to self-deprecate effectively. It’s by nature a paradoxical skill; you have to be good at talking about how bad you are at things. It means learning to laugh at oneself, and it can’t be put on. “You’ve got to mean it.” Because the best kind of self-deprecation isn’t a plea for pity, or even empathy; it’s a plea for forgiveness, which takes much more humility. It’s a hard-won effect of letting yourself and others genuinely down, and owning up to it.

That’s why I say that Woods does it like it’s one of those weird Olympic sports. The skill is in the subtlety and craftsmanship, the simultaneous pride and sheepishness. He’s been doing it since his first album, 2009’s The Hold Up. It hasn’t gotten old, and nobody does it better.

In fact, with his most recent song “Rosemary,” it’s more potent than it’s ever been.

Listen for yourself:

I mean, come on. You can feel the self-imposed heartbreak hanging in the air like humidity. Lines like “I arrive with all the trappings of myself,” and “But darling, can you wait til then? Darling, are we ok yet?” are sung with the tambre of someone with nothing to offer and nothing to lose, shrugging their way through an awkward conversation with their lover. But it’s so poignant that we can’t look away.

The good news is we don’t have to. This is just the first single from a brand new album, Things Were Never Good If They’re Not Good Now, coming July 12th.