There is nothing that feels safer than falling asleep in the back of a car. You may not be in bed, you may not be lying down, you may not even know where you’re being driven to, but you’ve put your trust in whoever’s driving, and you let the soothing monotony of a long road trip lull you to sleep. When you wake up, you’re confused, but only for a second; you’re safe and secure in the backseat, and for the time being all is well. I’ve only managed it half a dozen times over the course of my life–I’m too restless and nervous to do it regularly–but I always wake up feeling utterly at peace.
“Hide and Seek” invokes that sense of peace in its first line, and develops it from there. It’s a song that may or may not be about childhood–it’s unclear as to whether the singer is addressing a parent or some other significant other–but childhood serves as a recurring motif throughout. It doesn’t feel cloying or maudlin, because it focuses less on the surface-level trappings of childhood (although “hide and seek” is invoked in the chorus, it isn’t directly named in the lyrics) and more on the deep sense of comfort and security a good childhood can bring.
When you remember something from your childhood–the games you played, the songs you sang, the way you fell asleep in the car before getting carried up to your bedroom by your parents–you’re not just remembering the thing itself, but the way it made you feel. You remember the warmth, the safety, the feeling of being small and peaceful and cared for. “Hide and Seek” evokes those feelings, and even though there are hints that they can’t last forever (“I don’t want this to end,” the vocalist sings in the chorus, knowing full well that it will) you will cherish them all the same.
Recorded by the Leeds-based folk duo Sunflower Thieves, “Hide and Seek” is a gorgeous dream-folk song, rich with vocal harmonies and bathed in the sunlight of the golden hour. Musically, you can hear shades of Grouper, particularly the heavenly ambient folk of Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, but it’s more straightforward and accessible. There’s some of Mazzy Star’s swooning romanticism, too, but there’s no gothic shadows to its sound; just pure, loving light.
“Hold me close, no more changing, take me home,” the duo sings towards the song’s end. As a lyric, it’s a little on-the-nose, but it works in this context because of those rich themes of childhood. When you’re a kid, you think that simply demanding “no more changing” is enough to keep things the same forever. Of course, things are almost never that simple, but it’s nice to pretend; “Hide and Seek” makes it easy, offering a place where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.