Song of the Day #917: ‘The Things That Everybody Does’ – Tift Merritt

Best Songs of 2010 – #2

Tift Merritt is one of those special finds who remains pretty much invisible to the rest of the world even as she continues to knock my socks off with release after release.

I don’t know if this is a case where Merritt would be the biggest thing since sliced bread if only she got enough exposure or if she just has a certain chemical appeal for me that would be lost on most others.

Some Web surfing reveals a bit of both, with plenty of fans describing her as the second coming and just as many dismissing her as another in a long line of forgettable singer-songwriters. I suppose that’s probably the case for most artists.

I’m certainly happy to be in the former category, because Merritt’s music has meant a lot to me ever since I discovered her several years back via her second album Tambourine. It’s been a treat to watch her evolve and experiment without abandoning the mix of passion, grit and sensitivity that makes her songs feel so true.

Her latest release, See You On the Moon, is a very low key affair, concerned with love and loss and the small but meaningful connections we sometimes take for granted. It contains three or four songs I’d count among her very best.

Tops among those is ‘The Things That Everybody Does,’ a simple acoustic track that knocked me on my ass the very first time I heard it. It’s so delicate and lovely, and so lovingly performed, the sort of thing I want to hold my breath in order to hear properly.

It’s about the people who ground us and the majesty of the mundane.

Everybody told me,
This is who you have to be.
With my hands in my pockets deep as they’d go,
I walked home and packed up my cases to leave.

I searched all over the country.
I went down to the sea.
I talked a lot with the sun and sky.
I didn’t talk with anyone else really.

There are the things that everybody does.
I was wondering what was all the fuss.
I couldn’t tell exactly why it was,
Till there was you.

You found me up in the attic,
Singing down to the leaves.
You caught me reading love letters aloud,
To horses and children, to stars and to trees.

There are the things that everybody does.
I was wondering what was all the fuss.
I never knew exactly what it was,
Till there was you.

But a mountain is still a mountain.
A mountain goes to the sea,
No matter what I’d like to pretend,
No matter what I’d like it to be.

You know I don’t have to stay here.
I could fly off and leave,
On the wings from a unicorn’s breast,
With my typewriter strapped with diamonds to my chest,
But how could I go with breakfast not over yet?

These are the things that everybody does.
I was wondering what was all the fuss,
But what a lovely morning that it was
When there was you.

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #917: ‘The Things That Everybody Does’ – Tift Merritt

  1. Dana says:

    Well, I do think you have a personal obsession with Tift that elevates a song like this higher than in might otherwise be. But, hey, who cares? As you often like to say: it’s your taste and your list.

    For me this is a very pleasant song, but nothing that knocks me off my socks or on my ass. Certainly nothing as unique and dynamic as yesterday’s song or anything off of Ben Fold’s new album (which I assume will hold your number 1 spot?)

    But if you are going to cheer for someone, I think it is noble to do so for the talented and less discovered Merritt than a schmuck like Kanye who needs no such promotion.

  2. Amy says:

    In a song like today’s, I really find myself perplexed how you can’t appreciate Joni Mitchell. She reminds me so much of Joni in the way she delivers this song. And, of course, I mean that as a huge compliment!

    This is a lovely song, and I agree with Dana that I’m heartened to see her hold a higher spot on your list than that ass Kanye 😉 I just noticed that she is opening for someone… who was it? I bet you’d like to see her again after all these years. You should really try to make a point of doing just that.

  3. Clay says:

    Actually, in my review of the album I said this song sounds like a “long lost Joni Mitchell classic.” I definitely see the connection.

    But, as you know, my main (and only, really) complaint about Mitchell is her voice, whereas I love Merritt’s voice. If Merritt sang the Joni Mitchell songbook, that would be an album I’d likely adore.

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