Valley’s “When You Know Someone” opens with a distantly chugging guitar, some ambient synth, and a soft-yet-epic piano line.

This is followed by drums and a count-off—“1, 2, 3, 4!”—before the bass and distorted electric guitar announce the song’s full arrival. An unexpected but welcome harmonica riff floats atop this very rock ’n’ roll liftoff, as if the freight train of yesteryear and the stadium anthem of now-ish were mingling like old pals catching up at a reunion.

Soon the vocal takes over from the harmonica, and the texture of the song changes to make space for the melody. Lead vocalist Rob Laska delivers his phrases in a conversational, almost aloof way.

When you know someone
Think you know someone
So well

The repetition comes with an important alteration: if you think you know someone, there’s a good chance you don’t. And if you think you know the person well, you might really be in trouble.

The lyrics waste no time in getting to what that trouble might be.

And when they break your heart
It’s never equal parts
Oh well

Suddenly the energy and propulsion of the song feel less like a freight train toward the future and more like a desperate retreat from a still-too-near present. Maybe it’s a little of both. As nonchalant as the “oh well” wants to come across, Laska’s singer/protagonist is suffering and even resenting the unfairness of it all, wanting “equal parts” of suffering for the offending party to settle the score of the recent past and make a break for a better future.

To accentuate this pursuit/retreat, the chorus soars and Laska’s voice sheds its cool to “jump ship right there in mid-ocean,” though perhaps he’d rather his audience-of-one make the leap. The line “another sinking hand means one less that I’m holding” is ambiguous—he could be up on the boat letting go of this heartbreaker, or the heartbreaker could be letting go of him. One gets the sense that the singer/protagonist wants both—if I’m going down, you’re going with me—but is “too proud to say so,” going into the end of the chorus.

I’m not what you want
When you know someone
You really know someone
Someone like me

This is the brutal rub of rejection, of the “secret life” that could imply an affair or just an abiding yet unspoken disinterest or dissatisfaction—that even after you are known, really known, you might not be accepted, kept, held onto as the waves roll by and maybe swallow you up.

The phrase “someone like me” contains another ambiguity: the heartbreaker’s new lover might be just like the poor guy singing the song. They might be the same height, have similar taste in music and movies, wear similar outfits, have similar hairdos, drive similar cars. Such similarity can make the rejection feel extra ridiculous and unnecessary, as in, “If you really knew me, you’d know how different I am from that person.” Or it could simply be that the singer/protagonist’s pride prohibits him from admitting that it’s not so much “someone like” him who’s been cast away as just actually him—“someone like me” becomes a rhetorical neighbor of “asking for a friend.”

The second verse adds detail and a build from sparse phrases to compact ones, ratcheting up tension the way a good argument-in-one’s-head should.

So sick of trying too little, then trying too hard
Expecting me to find you when you left me in the dark

A line like that is too perfect for real life, which is why it’s so satisfying in song.

Similarly satisfying is the guitar solo that comes just after the second chorus. Set up with four accentuated beats on the drums, it still manages to be surprising, slipping into open space just briefly to introduce a fuzzy new melody. The phrase “someone like me” is then repeated with ever larger intervals between the “like” and the “me,” bringing tuneful sweetness to a dissolution of self.

And then, almost inaudibly, a background vocal lists the little things—“toothpaste,” “headphones,” “car keys”—as well as the big ones—“mistakes,” “your last words,” “I love you.” It’s as if the waves of the ocean have been compressed into a bathtub drain, everything swirling down once and for all.

The band’s energetic musical freight train fades into a warped solo piano, slowly repeating themes until, as if from exhaustion, it breaks down.