High Tropics’ “Better Days” is a perfect example of my favorite type of song: upbeat music with much darker lyrics. I think the combination in itself is dark, representative of a mask that people put on to appear happy, but really there’s much more going on. Over music that sounds happy enough to dance to, singer Josh Stewart expresses, quite literally, wanting his life to end. There’s no metaphor here to soften the blow of these feelings, he is genuinely wishing to die. There is little explanation for this despair either. Over a reverberated guitar, he gives the only hint at what’s got him so down as he transitions into the chorus.
“Lately I’ve been feeling down
Like everybody in this town
Decided that they know what’s best for me”
Typically, I hear this type of lyric in a song about running away or wanting to escape from a
mundane small-town life. But he’s truly fed up here and has skipped over the idea of running
In the chorus, he claims that he’ll probably be fine, but it seems like he’s trying to convince
himself more than anyone else. He feels like he’s wasting time waiting for something good to
happen because it feels like it’s never going to.
“But I hope to God it ends
And I sure could use a friend
Because it feels like it’s the end of the line”
As much as I enjoy the fun guitar part, which I almost want to call groovy, I can’t help but feel like something is missing here. He’s feeling depressed and out of luck, but why? What got him here? It has emotion, but we are missing the story. There are little clues for us to piece it together; however, maybe that’s the point. It doesn’t matter what happened, because he is feeling completely hopeless about his life.
As hopeless as he feels, he still calls out for a friend. Maybe it’s the loneliness that’s gotten to him. The song ends on an abrupt note, right at the end of the chorus. There’s no conclusion, no solution. As much as it leaves me wondering what’s next for High Tropics, I think ending the song this way is a more honest approach to writing. Why should he pretend to have found a happy ending if he hasn’t yet? Seeing as they haven’t released a full album or EP yet, I can tell they’re not quite finished telling their story. I hope that their later work will give a little more insight, we’ll just have to wait and see.
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