It’s no secret that the world has been pretty tumultuous this year (an understatement, I know). The economy has certainly not been exempt from this chaos, and we have seen a rapid movement to support local businesses and keep them afloat amidst it all. What is lesser spoken about, though, and thusly is something that I will never stop trumpeting, is how equally important it is to support our local music artists.
With that being said, hearing Old Tom and the Lookouts for the first time and discovering that they are a local Boston band, I immediately dug in to find more about them. A quick internet search revealed that although their repertoire may not yet be expansive, they are well on their way to making an impact.
Already intrigued by the locality, their focus on portraying honest representation of mental illness in their music sold me. Their latest song, “Heads-Up Coin”, is no exception to this mission. Led by plucked acoustic guitar and raw, unedited vocals, it is heavily rooted in early American folk. Devoid of over-produced layers to drag it down, the raw grittiness is left to shine.
“I guess that I could sleep like this / Under the overpass / Down past the old train tracks / I guess I could sleep like this”
Although they are direct when it comes to their message of death idealization here, there is no need for a trigger warning. Topics like these often air on the side of the dark and heavy, laced with triggering words and agony-filled verses. “Heads-Up Coin” takes an entirely different approach as it tactfully weaves a story of idle confusion and understated despairing.
“Belly to the earth / Where birth and destruction collide / Turned out pockets / Still hands and rolled back eyes / Drowned in the wishing well / To leave it all behind”
This verse is delivered much like the others, not lingering in the details but rather acknowledging with acceptance. It bears resemblance to Hozier’s “In a Week”. Although markedly different in arrangement, both songs possess an uncannily calming quality for such macabre topics of death idealization and decay. Much like we find with Hozier’s ability to manipulate the dark and uncertain into hopeful acceptance, the lyrical beauty of this verse is nearly lost in the overall lightness of tone.
It is one of those songs that requires multiple listens for its meaning to truly be understood and heard. Raw and real, “Heads-Up Coin” can be considered a welcome reprieve from many of its darker genre companions. With every listen there is a new subtlety to be found, woven between the hope-laced lines of looking to the unknown for solace. Old Tom and the Lookouts are proof that some of the best talent lies right under our noses, an excellent reminder to stray from the charts and explore what your area has to offer.