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This week’s theme: boy problems, and how even girls with plenty of attitude can have ’em!

  1. “In Undertow,” Alvvays
    A gorgeous, swirly mini-masterpiece, “sad by shiny” as lead singer/songwriter Molly Rankin said in a World Cafe interview paraphrasing a fan describing the band’s sound. The lyrics are a sympathetic lecture to a boyfriend who’s messed up: “You made a mistake you’d like to erase/And I understand.” The singer might understand but it doesn’t sound like she’s giving much quarter. She knows their relationship is “in undertow,” that hanging-on-with-cold-dead-fingers end time before the final break, but it sounds like she doesn’t think the guy is aware of that and is trying to break it to him gently. Jackson Browne used to write songs like this from the other side of the gender gap.
  2. “Sparks Fly,” Waxahatchee.
    In this one the singer’s estranged by emotion and distance. She calls her boyfriend from Berlin with regrets about a mean thing she said to him, but maybe the regret isn’t about the truth of the thing itself but in having said it aloud. Why is she regretting anything? Why is she missing anyone? She’s young, she’s in another country, she doesn’t have to be that sadsack girlfriend! So she goes out and has a few drinks and then a sudden vision of herself as alive, electric, better. Sure, the same sparks flew when she was with the guy but he never recognized it, and wouldn’t be able to appreciate it now. When she gets home they will have a long talk.
  3. “Out-Worn,” Soccer Mommy.
    Like Katie Crutchfield (singer/songwriter of Waxahatchee) above, Sophie Allison (singer-songwriter of Soccer Mommy) is chafing against the limits put on her by a relationship and a guy: “I’m sick of living in your eyes.” He’s sweet when he wants to be and so far that’s been enough but maybe now it isn’t anymore. “You made your love like a forest fire/I wanted someone to keep me warm,” the singer says, and based on personal experience she will go back and forth about which of these to want for the rest of her life. Where she lands will many times have only a passing connection to the  guy in question. Great whispered-into-a-microphone-in-the-middle-of-the-night feel to this one, and very catchy chorus.
  4. “No Guarantees,” Jade Jackson.
    Another case of smart girl, bad choices, but this time with a fiddle! On the run from another unfaithful, unstable man, metaphorically in the first verse:

     I’m somewhere in second gear
     I’m using my knees to steer
     Arms stretched to a bluer sky
     Learning to leave our love behind

    …but by the third literally in flight on the road with a girlfriend in the same situation, Jade the hardened older sister of a shattered Molly or Katie or Sophie a few months on from when their independence-day songs ended and the hard stuff has started. They drink Arizona iced teas and eat sunflower seeds and smoke cigarettes in the dark. They each grapple privately with the realization there are no guarantees in love. The both know the coastline they finally arrive at isn’t going to change that.