Song of the Day #5,291: ‘Inside My Head’ – Clean Cut Kid

Guest blogger Daniel continues his countdown of the year’s top albums…

Best Albums of 2022 – #2
HISS – Clean Cut Kid

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this record. I guess I’ll start with the story of how it was recommended to me by my sister when I visited her in California. I’m impressed mainly by how Maddie was able to explain to me why and how much she loved this record without overhyping it. This is a task that I’ve always found somewhat difficult and will likely fail in accomplishing now with this review.

When I did finally create the space to truly appreciate this album on the red eye back from California to Florida, I was so overwhelmingly surprised in the best way. I can’t remember the last time I was put on to a new artist that instantly was able to make this much of an impression on me.

During this roughly 6-hour flight I was gifted the opportunity to listen to and discover and rediscover this album roughly 12 times. This is a luxury allowed by its short runtime of 31 minutes. In those 31 minutes Michael Halls and Evelyn Halls, the husband-wife writing duo who provide the lyrics and their mellifluous vocals to this record, are able to beautifully flesh out their feelings on love, grief, bravery, mental health, and, perhaps most powerfully, what it is to be a struggling musician.

On the track ‘Inside My Head,’ the music is deceptively cheery. Perfectly employed acoustic guitar and wah-wah pedal effected electric guitar provide the backdrop for this bop. However, don’t be fooled by your Pavlovian instinct to dance. From the grabbing first lyric “After I have written all the songs inside my head, Will I be an average son?” Halls continues to question the value in the pursuit of his craft and livelihood. This all culminates in the titular hook “After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work.”

What I love about this line and about many of the stories told throughout this record is how ripe they are for interpretation. Of course, “real work” can be taken at face value. There’s always the proverbial “or you could get a real job?” in response to one sharing their interest in becoming a musician. However, I feel the term “real work” here also speaks to the idea that Halls doesn’t feel like he’s truly processing the heavy emotions dealt with throughout this album. He’s relying upon music to steer him through this tough time, but what if when he’s done utilizing music as a catharsis he finds there’s far more room for growth.

It is clear throughout the record that the singer has suffered a loss and it becomes increasingly clear that that loss is of his mother. There are elements to his ruminations on her slipping away that are seeped in intentional ambiguity. Perhaps, this is so Halls can literally sing on the topic as there are moments where you can hear his voice cracking on the tougher lyrics. For example, to again cite ‘Inside My Head,’ you can hear an all too familiar sharp release of breath in the second verse when Halls wonders “For what’s a downtown boy without the ink inside his pen, Besides a classless fool?” The way that Halls is able to navigate these difficult subject matters is touching to say the least.

At many times during my repeated listens on that red eye flight I found myself brought to tears. I felt at the time this may have been due to sleep exhaustion but in subsequent listens I’ve had a similar reaction. This is a special album. I’ve never quite heard an album like this and I don’t know that I ever will again. I take solace in the fact that Michael and Evelyn Halls seem to have found as much peace, joy, and light in making this record as I have found in listening to it. If they ever were to read this I’d like to thank them for taking all their emotions and allowing them the space to be carefully considered and celebrated on this touchstone.

After I have written all the songs inside my head
Will I be an average son
A mediocre husband and, a pretty shitty friend
Not much use to anyone

After I have written all the songs inside my head
Will I like what I’ve become
Or wake without the reason for to rise up from my bed
Burn like a vampire from the sun

Some men have their greatness thus upon them
Some are snakes and conmen
But what I am is worse
Hitch myself a ride on each bandwagon
Just to hide me draggin’
My belly though the dirt
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work

After I have written all the songs inside my head
Will I still mean as much to you
For what’s a down town boy without, the ink inside his pen
Besides a classless fool

Some men have their greatness thus upon them
Some are snakes and conmen
But what I am is worse
Hitch myself a ride on each bandwagon
Just to hide me draggin’
My belly though the dirt
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work
After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work

Who cares for the voice of a man in his 50’s
Still dragging his wife along for the ride
Each stage getting smaller along with the riches
Still no sign of the kids, by their sides

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,291: ‘Inside My Head’ – Clean Cut Kid

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I really enjoyed listening to this album on our recent road trip. I can definitely see why this is a favorite for you and Maddie.

    As to the line from today’s song you mentioned, my take on “After I have written all the songs inside my head I’ll do some real work…” is that some acts of creation, in this case songwriting, come easy as if received in the brain by divine inspiration. I’ve heard many a talented songwriter talk about how a great song came to them in a dream or was otherwise written in 15 minutes. However, once the artist has channeled those songs and that well has run dry, creating new original content truly becomes “real work.” Indeed, the same talented artist will describe how arduous the “job” of songwriting is – requiring the discipline and patience to sit at the piano or with a guitar each day and write even where nothing is popping into their head or no inspiration has struck. Anyway, that’s my take on the line, but, like all great lyrics, it is certainly subject to multiple interpretations.

  2. Amy says:

    I’m not sure whether repeated listens on a red eye flight should deepen or lessen one’s appreciation of an album, but I’m glad it had the former effect on you. I also love a lyric that can be interpreted in multiple ways and like both your and Dana’s interpretation of the one you offer today.

  3. Maddie says:

    Another wonderful write up for one of my favorite bands working today!

    I believe I have Spotify’s discover feature for bringing Clean Cut Kid into my life with their beautiful song “Emily” off their album Pain Wave. I had that track on repeat for weeks before venturing into all the other work they released up to that point. It’s been a mini-Christmas morning every time my release radar shows a new Clean Cut Kid drop and I’m very excited to be able to share those moments with my brother now. 🙂

  4. Peg says:

    Lovely review ❤️ Might be my favorite so far. A also agree that both interpretations work for me anyway.

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