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“Subway Song” by Guest Rooms: City Melancholy

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“Subway Song” takes you on a melancholic ride, as the track evokes feelings of nostalgia and is conducive to personal contemplation. It opens with drums that reverberate in the distance until acoustic guitar moves the listener in closer. Upon entering his world, you’ll faintly hear a soundbite of a subway platform announcement, warning you to “stand clear of the closing door, please.”

In the first verse, Guest Rooms touches on “East coast comfort,” which includes, among other facets of urban life, the New York City subway. Despite the chaos of his surroundings, which given the song’s setting, there is bound to be, he is only pulled more deeply into his own heartbreak. 

What do you gotta do to get her off your mind?

What do you gotta do to get her off your goddamn mind?

Of the many questions that can arise after parting with someone, such as, “What did I learn from this person?,” or “What do I want in my next relationship?,” Guest Rooms contemplates how to distract himself from the pervasive mental image of her. I think the song’s repetitiveness conveys urgency, as if asking this very question is the only suitable form of distraction.   Ironically, the melody is sticky like honey, making it nearly impossible to get off your mind.  

In line with the song’s self reflective theme, Guest Rooms couldn’t have chosen a more fitting title. Somehow, riding on public transit makes you lose part of yourself in the stream of your surroundings, while the other part floats in a daydream. Besides their actual purpose of moving you from point A to point B, trains and subways are perfectly designed for reflection – about life, purpose, the future, about her. I can picture myself listening to this song while gazing out a window, retreating to my inner world in the comforting presence of a crowd of strangers.

The instrumentals have a gritty quality about them, as grungy acoustics are layered atop reverberated electric guitar. I like the rawness in his tone of voice, and I find that the song builds upon punkier elements while maintaining its stripped back atmosphere. Towards the end, the song takes on a warmer tone as piano chords ring out, until echoed vocals supersede and suddenly fade – an ending that vaguely reminds me of the abrupt conclusion to Frank Ocean’s “Ivy.”  

I love when songwriters draw inspiration from a location and construct a story within that space, as it moves the listener into their world. Even if specificity isn’t always relatable, I think this quality in songwriting resonates because stepping into a different place in vivid detail can offer perspective. Besides, it just feels exciting to escape into something beautiful. In “Subway Song,” Guest Rooms attempts to subdue a painful memory against the backdrop of a bustling city. In doing so, he effectively captures all of its grittiness while allowing its vibrancy to shine through.   

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