If anything positive comes from a year and a half of existential crisis, I certainly hope that one’s finitude of time becomes blindingly visible. “Won’t Be Here Forever” by Sam Arjes most definitely captures this sentiment along with humility, oneness, hope, & the courage to walk into that most mysterious dark with our heads held high.
An acoustic guitar drives a chugging rhythm until Sam’s stoic storyteller voice comes through with the scene setting line “I’m just a shadow of my former self, a model citizen of failing health. I know I won’t be here forever. So take a picture and we’ll see what shows, a grinning skeleton in formal clothes and I know I won’t be here forever.” The imagery and foreshadowing are intense and bare. Very slowly the instrumentation creeps in with desert cowboy slide guitar echoing the emotions the lyrics convey and long bass tones bringing in gravity & fullness.
By the second verse the oneness of our shared future becomes clear – “So take some paper & we’ll document my passing future & my present tense.” There’s so much humor in the plainly stated doldrums of bureaucracy that remain ever-present from birth to death. The drums begin to creep in and reach the full beat by the chorus, but as this song continues it becomes apparent that you can’t pin it down. Sure there’s this indie-folk presence, but when the strings & electric guitars hit there’s clearly a transformation happening.
It’s not that the song just gets “bigger” but the instrumentation provides richer depth to the meaning of the lyrics and it feels as if it’s pulling you along a triumphant odyssey. Lines like “so stick with me and we’ll keep fighting this fight. We’ll keep on swinging til we see the light,” and “let’s write a eulogy for all of our friends, we’ll be together til the very end” could be overdramatic but in Sam’s matter of fact voice, he strikes a stoic balance as the music becomes ever-more hopeful, brighter, & grand.
The bridge kicks in with even more of a driving drum kit along with organ & synths that send you skipping into the eternal. “Will the doors be open wide, will I reach the other side …” all the questions that the wisest of the religious & philosophical have never been able to crack not only bring us into a unifying force through our eventual end, but illuminates our true humility in that we just don’t know what’s out there. Vocal harmonies really capture the bittersweet feeling while not being overt because the song has now become ecstatic.
Brash rhythm guitars and a playful synth line sync well with the claps throughout the final verse. We’re all zooming over the precipice as if dancing into the abyss. As the final altered chorus crashes through with a very clever build in intensity the outro is something reminiscent of a 2001: A Space Odyssey light show descent into Jupiter. A powerful rush of wild guitars and synths with a booming rhythm into the warmth of slide guitar and final breath of lush strings. Life is precious.
Won’t Be Here Forever comes out June 11th. Click the link on the pre-save below.