I’m in the town where I went to college.
It’s spring break, but I’m not going anywhere. Students and certain migratory birds are on the move. I hear spring makes people restless.
Jacob Humber may have had this restlessness in mind when he wrote “I like it better when it’s colder / seems everything has to slow down / stay close to each other / can’t ignore what’s going on right now.” These opening lines of “Stick Around” set the scene teetering on edge between winter and spring, looking back to the coziness of cold-weather companionship.
“But when it starts getting warmer / all my friends leave town” Humber goes on. So we have a problem: forward motion is motion away.
Musically, the song rides a steadily downstroking guitar and equally steady drums. Some interesting warbly things burble through occasionally with a melodic comment. The vocals have a texture common in pop production: they’re layered so that Humber’s voice is a chorus of himself, with some highly processed harmonies. This slickness makes an interesting contrast with the intimacy and uncertainty of the lyrics. This is a song you could holler along to, maybe without realizing that you’re hollering about being quietly lonely.
The lyrics to this song could be the transcript of a friend confiding their worries, walking back from a party or driving home on a winter night. The language is casual, even though the worry is existential.
It is, in fact, the Big One: loss and the passage of time.
The casual idiom, “stick around” is touching in its contrast with the urgency of its message. When an idea or feeling is so immense that words aren’t big enough to hold it, we sometimes turn to ridiculously inadequate phrases. The distance between what we mean and what we say expresses the thing we can’t fully fit into words.
Humber’s use of conversational language makes this song seem like a direct message to “all the people I don’t wanna let go.” The refrain is a request, one I’ve wanted to make many times. Don’t move to California. Don’t go to New York. What’s the appeal of Illinois? Stay here, stick around, the future can wait.
But Humber’s problem isn’t really a problem about the future. He sings, “even in a room of friends I’m wondering is this all over before it begins.” Time gets all tangled up: the future is gone before it gets here. We’re missing each other before we part.
Can you guess where this is going? I’ve said before that music is made of time. Songs can be walk-in time capsules, preserving, for example, the feeling of being on the brink of spring, watching your friends make plans to leave you.