“Bodys” is the second song on Spotify’s This is: Car Seat Headrest playlist, which was in my musical rotation for at least two weeks before I ever even ventured past the first track. My contentment at listening to only “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” surely stems from how I—as I believe many others of our generation do—consume music: track by track. It was a good tune, so why go on?
When I was younger, first getting into music through the ever-popular adolescent boy’s gateway drug of his father’s classic rock, I was on the opposite end of the spectrum: a big proponent of the full-album experience. “That’s the way the artist meant it to be heard,” I told my middle school friends. “It’s not just about the songs but how they go together.” They all just rolled their eyes, but I didn’t mind because they were the ones missing out on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs or Axis: Bold as Love.
But as I got older and the twin powers of Spotify and “indie-folk-rock” combined in the halls of my high school to draw me to some music that had been recorded (gasp!) after 1974, I started to let go of this musical restriction. Things like Discover Weekly and Guardians of the Galaxy made it easy to get hooked on a song by a band whose other music was unknown to me. To our generation, every song can be a single.
So I was comfortable with venturing no further than the first track on this playlist, itself already a distillation of a multi-album discography. But perhaps I didn’t keep going because whenever I hadn’t queued something else and instead let “Bodys” begin, I collapsed into myself like an armadillo when I heard the painfully electronic drums that open the song (my friends know that there are no three letters I hate more than EDM). I figured I should listen to more Car Seat Headrest, though; they were a friend’s top played artist of 2018. So, one evening, I let the playlist continue.
The purely electronic drumbeat grows on you as it settles in, lasting about thirty seconds until a two-parts-punchy-one-part-twangy guitar (a Telecaster? Certainly something with single-coil pickups) comes in with a riff that would be perfectly at home in the hands of George Harrison if he had lived long enough for some kind of Beatles reunion. Soon after, the singer begins begging someone (a romantic partner?) for forgiveness before confessing his frustration with even tryingto communicate: “That’s not what I meant to say at all / I mean, I’m sick of meaning / I just wanna hold you.” The singer keeps singing, but before you know it another layer of guitar kicks in, this one heavier and driving like some sort of cross between Live at Leeds-era Pete Townshend and a kicking early 2000s pop-punk song—that is, if pop-punk ever suddenly got good.
The singer keeps singing, but he’s not the focus anymore. At this point, wherever you’re listening to this song—where areyou listening to it? In the shower, your phone sitting on the paper towel dispenser, after you’ve just handed in an essay and you’ve got nothing else due for a week? In your room while you jump around in those possessed movements you try to pass off as dancing, waiting for the beginning of a pregame where you’re hoping to see that beautiful actor you met at Late Meal on Tuesday? In your moldy 2009 Honda CRV, home and driving for the first time since New Year’s? Wherever you are, it’s no longer about the words but now about an ineffable energy that paradoxically grounds you and makes you feel weightless.
By now you’re letting the sheer vitality of the song carry you away, packed as it is with more nuance than some bands’ entire discographies. As the singer sings about his friends, you realize that the lyrics are reflecting the same transcendent joy as the music: “These are the people that I get drunk with / These are the people that I fell in love with.” We don’t always recognize it when it comes to us, but this kind of wondrous energy carries us all through life. Moments like these, listening to “Bodys,” though, when we do recognize it? It’s those moments that keep us going.
By the time you’ve congratulated yourself on your epiphany, the music has calmed a bit, and there’s just a drum beat (analog, thank God!) and some scattered piano or something. “So what?” the singer asks. “We’re young! We’re thin (most of us)” (you can hear the singer shrugging) “We’re alive! (most of us).” You suck in your gut at that line. Maybe we haven’t all made it up to now. But is that any reason for the rest of us to stop?
Your answer comes when the layers realign, and the music and lyrics hit you again: “Don’t you realize / Our bodies could fall apart / At any second now?” The singer knows that this whole way we move through life, making up activities and trying to pretend like we understand each other when we’ve hardly scratched the surface of ourselves—it’s all a bit ridiculous. That’s okay, though: “As long as we move our bodys around a lot / We’ll forget that we forgot how to talk / When we dance.” At this point, if you weren’t already jumping around in pure elation, you’re jumping within yourself. And that’s enough.