“Touchstarved” by SugarSeaFoam Grapples with Deep Self-Loathing


Sometimes, I don’t like myself very much. I’m feeling pretty good at the moment, but even now I can rattle off an exhaustive list of my personal and physical flaws (here’s a sample platter: my fear of confrontation that manifests as passive-aggression, my tendency to procrastinate, my self-seriousness, my oily skin, my nail-biting habit, etc.) And when I’m not feeling good, it can spiral into a numb, listless sort of self-loathing. When I’m in that state of mind, not only do I not like myself, I can’t imagine why anyone else would, either. My family and friends are deeply kind and caring people, but sometimes I tell myself that they’re simply attending to obligations. It creates a terrible catch-22: in that state, I desperately crave affection while telling myself I don’t deserve it.

Self-loathing is familiar territory, especially in genres like emo and slowcore, but few artists put it into words as succinctly and effectively as SugarSeaFoam. On “Touchstarved,” the Portland duo uses acoustic guitar and a familiar chord sequence to soundtrack their blunt, honest exploration of bone-deep depression. This is not a song that couches itself in metaphor: the first lyrics are “I numb myself so I can’t feel/The fact nobody’s feeling me.” From there, songwriter Josie Rojas’ lyrics go into detail about the alienation and unhappiness that is, to some degree, self-imposed. “I hate myself so I can’t know/How anyone feels differently,” goes one line. “An outstretched hand is just a slap/That’s all that it could ever be,” goes another.

If you or someone you love has struggled with depression, those lyrics hit uncomfortably close to home. I’m pretty sure I’ve said some of these lyrics verbatim to my friends when in a particularly unhappy state of mind. It can be a painful reminder of what it feels like to have your mind sabotage you. But if “Touchstarved” was just an exercise in picking at scabs, it wouldn’t be featured here. SugarSeaFoam are stronger songwriters than that.

The chorus offers a slight ray of hope, slight enough that it might just be me straining to find it. But when the singer admits in the chorus that, while they “swear that [they’re] not hungry,” they’ve “been touch-starved for a while,” it feels like someone finally admitting a vital truth. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: the first step to overcoming a problem is acknowledging that there is a problem. While depression is something that can never be fully overcome, it takes bravery and honesty to lift the shroud of self-loathing and say how you feel: that you’re tired, or lonely, and you need to be held.

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