Sometimes a song comes out of nowhere and captures your senses in a way that you weren’t anticipating or prepared for. A song that seems to talk to you in a way that you can’t quite explain, and you can’t help but hear your own story in the lyrics.
This was the sensation when I first heard the new single by Kilkenny singer-songwriter, Gary O’Neill, Tofino. The song appears to chart a trip that the songwriter took with someone he cared about while he was living in Canada, and it outlines the power of memory and how we can get lost in them.
In recent years, O’Neill has began to develop a reputation as one of the most interesting and imaginative songwriters on the Irish music scene with an ability and talent for creating interesting soundscapes to tell the stories at the heart of his songs. Tofino is another fine example of this ability.
Immediately on hearing the song, I immediately found myself imagining a movie montage scene where we are shown massive changes in a character/persons life over the passing of time. It was this feeling that seemed to stay with me longest after listening, a sense that time was passing around me much quicker than I had initially anticipated and memories that seemed like yesterday were actually now long in the past, and my dwelling on them had caused me to miss other things in my present. However, despite this feeling that time is being lost, the pleasure around the memories makes them feel worth staying lost in.
“I’ve gotten used to how it feels.”
The ambiatic feel of the guitar throughout the song helps to build up a nostalgic feel, that is almost a sense that the music you are hearing is happening in the distance which helps to further create the feeling of the past. The instrumentation in general on this track is wonderful. Understated, subtle, and yet perfect measured for the feel that O’Neill is going for throughout.
The music video further helps to create in a my mind a sense of separation from the present. We are shown our protagonist, a grimace face emoji, aimlessly wandering some back streets in Dublin. Throughout the video, our emoji friend encounters a variety of characters who all seem to be hung up living a party atmosphere and seeking the cheap thrills that drink and partying can provide, yet our protagonist seems disinteresting, and actively trying to escape these potholes. I was immediately able to project my own understanding on these sentiments as I was able to think back on times when a past experience had made me feel jaded by a more empty pursuit of happiness, as though I had already found what made me truly happy and nothing else could match it.
And then there’s that guitar solo towards the end…
This might actually be my favourite song of 2020, and I still can’t pinpoint exactly why it hits me so hard. Masterful songwriting.