When I first was listening to “Sentimental” by Pem, my very first thought (to be precise) was, “oh my gosh, it’s like Dolly Parton and Faye Webster had a baby!”
Ah, yes, the classic “when I first…” The introduction of all introductions. Not very unique of me, I know. To make up for it, I’ll discuss something more unique: Pem’s recent indie-folk song. In “Sentimental,” she’s able to invoke every emotion she wants to, and you can really feel her yearn and long in her lyrics, but her compelling, yearning voice sets this song apart from the other great folk songs. It’s distinctly Pem.
The instrumental was light and folky with no percussion, as if it was a background for Pem to tell a story over. I’ve always found that it’s easier to grasp the depth and meaning of the lyrics that way. It’s almost like campfire music; when all you have is an acoustic guitar, you don’t really have a choice but to zone in on the lyricism, and it hits you hard in that moment. “Sentimental” gave me that kind of feeling, but it didn’t sound like what you might hear around a campfire; it’s not a song that feels more emotional in the moment, but rather just an emotional song.
“I, I feel sentimental // Remind me how it was”
The term “sentimental” typically has to do with three separate emotions: tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia. But this isn’t a sad or nostalgic song; the song as a whole is mostly tender. Pem is simply overflowing with gentle love to give. Interestingly enough, in the song’s three choruses, each one seems to encapsulate a different component of what sentiment truly means. The first chorus is mostly tender, with Pem emphasizing her gentleness and love. In the second chorus, you may not necessarily gather that she’s nostalgic, but it’s followed immediately by a plea of longing for her past love. The third and final chorus resembles sadness, as she realizes that no matter how much love she has to give, she has no one to give that to.
Whether intentional or not on Pem’s part, I think that’s awesome. When a song can invoke every little detail and thought that comes with a singular, specific emotion or feeling, then that’s how you can distinguish it as successful and powerful. The song’s title itself, “Sentimental,” implies that if the song is really great, it’ll contain all facets of sentimentality, including the good and the bad. It’s about capturing the whole spectrum. You can interpret the song however you deem appropriate that way. That’s what music is all about, anyway.
You can find Pem on Instagram at @pemperry.