Nostalgia is a feeling that seems to transcend all generations.
We’re all sentimental, wishing for a simpler time, a past style or sound. We often spend so much of our time dawning on the past that we don’t realize the next nostalgic generation may bring our styles and sounds back, considering them “retro” or “vintage”. In 2018, it seems 90s and early 2000s fashions are being brought back with a modern twist.
And music? Well, the oldies are still being kept alive in their own way too. We have artists like Greta Van Fleet, whose music is heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin and whose lead singer, Josh Kiszka, sounds like Robert Plant reincarnated. We have more artists reviving the old like Ray Lamontagne, whose rawly sung guitar ballads tinged with piano and harmonica have been compared to Van Morrison and Otis Redding.
Sound (Greta Van Fleet) vs. style (Ray Lamontagne). That’s what it usually comes down to. Mel Parsons has managed to combine both with her new single, “Just ‘Cause You Don’t Want Me”, and the nostalgia hits every time I press play.
Mel Parsons is an indie folk artist from New Zealand, but she’s more cultured and traveled than most would expect. She has lived in many parts of the world. She lived near a desert in Chile for a year and in the Rocky Mountains of Canada for two years. While she began writing her newest record, Glass Heart, in her home country, she found herself writing all over North America as well: Washington, Ohio, the Midwest, California. She even found herself writing on an island in Canada. Parsons said, “It’s hard to say whether the traveling really colors what I write, but I guess, as a writer, you are always observing and soaking in ideas wherever you go, so in that respect, the travel may have influenced it. But essentially, I still write what I write. Touring is kind of the same wherever you are in the world – a lot of airports, a lot of driving, setups, pack-downs. A green room is a green room whether you’re in Toronto or Wellington”.
While traveling may be a subconscious inspiration for her music, her favorite artists are a very conscious one. She has been influenced by artists like The Police, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tracey Chapman, Neil Diamond, The Shins, Ron Sexsmith, etc. What you’ll notice is that, while some are still making music, most of these artists’ careers thrived in the past. This nostalgia in her music taste, to me, has translated very clearly into her music.
“Just ‘Cause You Don’t Want Me” begins with an isolated drum beat, setting the rhythm for the rest of the song. Then as Parson’s voice comes in, so does the acoustic guitar. During the choruses, a piano track and vocal harmonies appear. And it is just like this throughout the whole song. Parson’s voice is larger than life, sultry, raw, and full. Upon first listen, I found it to be similar to Danielle Haim’s voice from the three-member indie band of sisters, HAIM.
But what really brought about the theme of nostalgia for this review was the music itself. It’s consistency of melody and rhythm – its more retro style – was reminiscent of “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. “Just ‘Cause You Don’t Want Me” very much feels like it could have been written by Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. But Parsons is the big differentiating factor.
Her voice is what truly makes this song so special.
Not gonna swallow these tears no more.
This time it’s real, yeah, I’m out the door
and you won’t ever get me back,
not for love, or guilt, or cash.
She’s not going to stay quiet. She’s going to express her sadness for the first time. She’s going
to stand up for herself and walk away from this negative situation. There’s nothing he can do,
say, or give to her that will convince her to stay.
How many times do we walk this track?
How many sorrys and you never look back?
Yeah, you went home first, and I came back.
I was diluted I was out of my mind.
It’s clear that the couple within this story is not breaking up for the first time. There’s apologies and walking away, but she always is the one coming back. She now realizes how crazy she was to believe it would work. The heartbreak and separation is a repeating cycle that she doesn’t wish to continue anymore.
And does it make you feel good
when you treat me unkind?
Tell me what you’re thinking,
let me know you’re mine.
Because the norm of their relationship is her being mistreated, she supposes it must make him feel better to make her feel worse. Otherwise, he wouldn’t do it. The last two lines sound like a plea she would have made while still in the relationship. She wants to know how he feels too so they can communicate. She wants to know if he still wants her or if she’s fighting for nothing.
Just cause you don’t want me,
don’t mean no one else can.
This line sounds like she has returned to the present with the knowledge that the relationship is one-sided. Though he doesn’t love her, it does not mean she is unlovable. She will just have to find someone who wants to. Someone better.
I don’t want your diamonds or your serpents tongue.
Too late, now the damage is done.
Oh, I got out alive, yeah, only just surviving.
Often, when one member of a relationship discovers they are losing the other, they try to woo and win them back with glamorous things like diamonds. She doesn’t want that, and she doesn’t want his ruthless words either. He has lost his chance at winning her back. The damage he did to her that she feels as if she’s barely surviving.
How many excuses made behind your back?
He didn’t mean it – sometimes he’s just like that.
Well, if you’re ashamed of me, then you’re better off alone.
You had your fair warning, don’t come crying on the phone.
She has heard excuses from those who known him time and time again, insinuating he doesn’t mean to be cruel, but she doesn’t believe it. She feels as if he’s ashamed of her and refuses to be a part of his shame. A man like him doesn’t deserve a love like hers. She’s set him straight and refuses to take him back.