Lyrics That Changed Me: ‘Sleepyhead’ by Cavetown

Content warning: mentions of suicide, depression.

In true lockdown fashion, my recent music taste has primarily been songs that make me want to cry alone in my room, in a good way (think we can blame Taylor Swift for this one). So, while listening to various lo-fi indie rock break-up playlists on Spotify – despite being very happily not broken-up – I discovered Cavetown.

Cavetown, or Robin Skinner, is a transgender London-based singer-songwriter who uses both he/him and they/them pronouns. Their major label debut album, Sleepyhead, has become my comfort album over the last few weeks, and here are my top five reasons why.

Sweet Tooth

The first song on the album – released on Valentine’s Day of all days – is about a sickly sweet but ultimately unhealthy crush and feelings of inadequacy. The opening verse is something I think we can all relate to at some stage in our lives.

“Feeling sick of myself
Think I’ll try to be someone else
Can’t be hard to paint a person
In my head create a version
The parallel”

The haunting repetition of “I like you / say it back” post-chorus reflects the unrequitedness of their love (and is surprisingly catchy).

Telescope

The understated, acoustic chorus is what really makes this song for me – and maybe it’s the pandemic, but I relate far too much to these particular lyrics:

“Sittin’ in a telescope
Silently with his fingers entwined
He puts his hand to the glass
What’s it like outside?
What’s it like outside?”

It reflects an acceptance of always being, ironically, on the ‘outside’, trapped inside our own heads while the world continues around us.

Trying

This is a rerecording of a previous song, ‘I Promise I’m Trying’ from Nervous Friends Pt I, written for their mum and their experience of mental health at the time.

“Please, please be here for me dear
‘Cause I’ve never needed a friend more
And I can’t stress enough
How much it means to me that you’re trying
And I don’t mind if you can’t hold me like you used to
‘Cause I’ve never hated myself more
And this is just a bump in the road and I promise I’m trying”

For me, these lyrics said everything I’ve ever wanted to – the need for comfort, and the need for someone to understand that we are trying our best, even if it isn’t enough sometimes. It also works to explain the ineffability of depressive feelings: as Cavetown writes in the second verse, “Give me a moment to get my cards in line […] If there was a way to explain everything without a word / I’d have a full house right now without a doubt.”

I Miss My Mum

Honestly, my god, who doesn’t just miss their mum sometimes? As a uni student living along at the very start of the pandemic, all I wanted was to phone my mum and let her tell me everything was going to be alright.

“Keep wakin’ up
With this weight on my chest
It’s just called bein’ a person
I never planned for this”

The idea of being a person – making your bed, cooking dinner, existing every day – can sometimes be immeasurably exhausting.

Empty Bed

This song never fails to make me feel like crying; the kind of crying that makes you want to phone your best friend and stand outside in the rain.

“Today I felt scared
Thinking ’bout your empty bed
But I know you’ll be fine
Yeah, you’ve got to stay alive”

There is something unspeakably sad about a bed never being used by that person again, and here, Cavetown speaks directly to their audience and anyone who needs to hear that they’ll be fine. They’re happy tears, I promise.

“Just don’t forget to
Take care of you for me
I’ve been where you are goin’
Take care of you for me”

Many of the Sleepyhead lyrics explain what I’ve been trying to put into words for years, and it’s nice listening to them having been through the trauma and out the other side. I realise this kind of music – what my mum would describe as ‘new-age emo’ – isn’t for everyone, but these songs act as a kind of catharsis for me.

So, if sad music with fantastic vocals and lyrics is your thing, I highly recommend checking out Cavetown’s discography. Even though I’m still recovering from the fact that they are six months younger than me with six studio albums, I’m really looking forward to everything they do next.

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