Song 2: The Thermals, “Now We Can See” (2009)


My 21-month-old is still learning words, so when she wants something, she often points to the desired object and says, “That.”

As a musician, once in a while I hear a song and think, “That.” As in, that’s what I want to do, that’s how I want to sound, that’s how I want to feel. The Thermals make songs like that (or, “that”) all the time. Their songs are sparse but always moving, always being propelled by that glorious, fat distortion. And though singer Hutch Harris shouts many of his vocals, it never feels tossed-off or half-baked. It’s all purpose.

“Reading between the lines like writing on the wall” is always what gets to me. Isn’t clarity what we all want? (On the other hand, do we? It’s telling that the beginning of that line is “Now we can see the warnings and the signs.” Clarity can also provide more confusion, or a clear picture of bad things to come.) Then there’s that guitar solo, which is so simple, and exactly what the song needs. It’s a song about certainty, so the solo is stark and unrelenting, stabbing on the downbeats like nods of the head.

I often listen to this song when I need to be reminded that, under all the usual anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion is a foundation of the people you love and the things you enjoy doing. You know. That.


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