i’d rather let you touch my arm until you die

Somewhere between seeing Kendrick Lamar, Fleet Foxes, and Local Natives, I’ve found myself in an end of summer concert bender. Luckily, sober September is rolling through at just the right time to help me get my act together. 

I’m back with the same song that was stuck in my head three weeks ago, Jersey-girl Sharon Van Etten’s memorable track “A Crime.” I remembered again when I saw Local Natives perform “Lemon” live last week, a sweet song Sharon Van Etten elegantly features on. I couldn’t help wishing Sharon was there to perform her part, and regretting that I never made it to her actual show earlier that week. 

And like a missed concert you wish you could relive, “A Crime” gives big the-one-that-got-away energy. The opening song on her second studio album Epic (2010), “A Crime” lives rent-free in my mind because of its opening lyrics:

To say the things I want to say to you would be a crime
To admit I'm still in love with you after all this time
I'd rather let you touch my arm until you die

It’s this last line in particular that is delivered in Sharon Van Eatten’s perfectly raspy, matter-of-fact tone. The speaker here chooses pride over honesty by way of a platonic touch that’s innocent, but intimate. A small moment charged with longing. She goes on, in the next drawn-out breath:

Seduce me with your charms until I'm drunk on them
Go home and drink in bed and never let myself be loved like that again

After this beautiful double-entendre (drinking words, alcohol), it becomes clear why the speaker makes the promise to never love like that again in the chorus – she’s dealing with a toxic ex.  She wants both to “never let myself be loved like that” and to “never let myself love like that again.” The simple guitar riff throughout the song lets us focus on the raw energy of these repeated lines in the chorus.

What builds throughout “A Crime” is a series of almost-communications where the speaker remains tightlipped for good reason: “The memory we seem to share replays a distant love/ That plays my records wrong.”

I love an indie rock ballad that directly addresses the ex-whatever. There’s a shared intimacy and accountability that’s taken when that happens. We see it in lines like “I will write these songs/ Of things I’ll never say to you again/ And you know why.” It puts us in the story. We don’t know why… but we sort of do.

With striking meaning and sound, this one’s a classic heartbreak tune that’s worth repeating for your deep dive into summertime sadness.

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