Psychopomp at Midnight

Oh, it could be such heaven
If you believed it was real

The gas engine on the decade-old Subaru outback I borrowed from my parents revs as the sun sets on a long day’s journey. It’s the only sound besides the loud hum of the forest, the buzzing cicadas and chirping crickets. Everything smells crisp like pine, but the air feels sticky like maple. It’s summer in Connecticut’s smallest town and I am going to take a drive.

The air hangs still as images of countryside flash past me: mountains, grass, miles of open fields where cows graze with only a tiny red barn to adorn them. I’m driving west into the sunset. Have you ever noticed how fast the sun sets? One moment, the sky is pink. The next, it is slowly fading into to deep purple, to become pitch black so peacefully, so quickly. The only light is my headlights and the moon and stars above me.

I never liked driving. I wasn’t the teenager who would do anything for a car. I pushed off getting my license for over an entire year because I was “too busy with college applications and auditions.” I wasn’t. I just hated to drive. I hated the pressure of steering a massive metal vehicle of death. But then I lived in the woods and I finally felt free in my car. I could go anywhere and see anything and still just be with myself. I could be aimless but still experience life. I could be with everyone and everything and nothing at the same time. That is pure freedom.

I’m the rugged one
I’m the rugged one
I’m the rugged one
I’m the rugged one

I am the master of my aux cord tonight. I’m riding alone, just the sound of my thoughts, the hiss of tires hitting the road down Route 63, and Psychopomp. It was my first time with the album, but would not be my last. From the second the piano starts with its fuzzy accompaniment I knew I could never put this music down. But listening to this sound, this magical dream pop, makes the most sense at midnight.

It’s the sound of nostalgia. The sound of remembering what the sun looked like when it was still up and you could see the fields rushing past you as you sped down the highway. It’s the sound of you remembering the first time you gave love, the first time you got love in return. In my case, it was remembering my college experience, fearing what the future held, living in a dream of what my future could be. Because, this music feels like a dream, a fantasy, just like my car ride into the depths of the night.

It was the summer before I began my last year of college. I was afraid of the unknown and driving right into it with an album that somehow seemed to capture all of the fun I was having at the same time as all of the fear. And when I got to the open field and saw the moon hanging formidably in the sky as Michelle Zauner screamed “JANE CUM” I thought that maybe I could survive this fear. I had never felt the kind of catharsis that’s not only a release, but a hope. And that is what Psychopomp gave me.

DREAM ON BABY

It’s my birthday, a sluggish August day, one year later. I’m stranded in Connecticut while my friends are all over the country, all over the world. I now know that there was nothing to be afraid of, because the aftermath of college was looking like it would be fun. I was coming off of a summer in New York City and I was ready to take a drive.

Japanese Breakfast had given us Soft Sounds From Another Planet by this time and I’d probably already heard it a thousand times. But never on a drive. So I rev the engine of that good old Subaru Outback and head down Route 80, in the middle of the day, watching trees and beaches and people fly by me. “Road Head” is blasting in my speakers on full volume and I’m singing badly along. The fuzzy dream pop grounds me.

I still don’t know what the future holds. But I’m less afraid now that I know that with catharsis comes hope, with risk there is opportunity, and there’s a dream yet to be caught.

Listen to Psychopomp and Soft Sounds From Another Planet. Japanese Breakfast is currently on tour as well, so be sure to check out their shows if they’re coming to your town!

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