When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with making mix tapes (weren’t we all?). My best friend had one that her parents had made. The A side was titled Irretrievable Youth. It was full of fun, upbeat songs, like "Bitchin’ Camaro" by The Dead Milkmen, basically songs about living life to the fullest and reveling in youth. The B side was titled Irrevocable Adulthood. And it had songs with a decidedly more wistful air, but also with more mature topics. I think one of them was “Makin’ Love Out Of Nothing At All” by Air Supply. I got the idea of the tape, but I don’t think I fully understood it until now, as I listen to The Kids We Used To Be by East coast indie folk/rock band Phineas And The Lonely Leaves.
The Lonely Leaves’ second album captures the paradox of growing up beautifully. You want to get past being a kid when you’re young. You want to go back to being a kid when you’re old. You feel like you can’t win either way. The Kids We Used To Be, with Timothy Feeney’s breathy, Bright Eyes-ish vocals and the band’s creative arrangements is full of songs that transport you back in time. Feeney wrote the record about his experience growing up in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York. The title track sets the tone of the record, with emotional vocals longing for the good old days. The refrain of “We have to remember these days” made me recall memories I hadn’t thought of in years. The good ones, like when I used to spend entire weeks with my best friend growing up, riding bikes and playing silly games.
“Come Back to Peekskill” also stands out. The entire band sings together to a chorus of handclaps, making it sound like it’s being sung around a campfire.
Phineas And The Lonely Leaves have written a highly lyrical record, meaning that it’s absolutely necessary to pay attention to what Feeney sings. One of the most beautiful lyrics in the record, one that made me rewind and listen again, comes from the song “Next Summer”:
‘It was that last night, sitting around the fire.
Staring up at the stars above, some of us were still in love just waiting on that last dawn to say how can I live without you, before you actually have to.
Before you ever knew it was possible.’
Wow. I love that. So much. Phineas and the Lonely Leaves have truly captured that irretrievable youth/irrevocable adulthood paradox in this record. It’s great. It sparks so much nostalgia while confirming that we can still remember the kids we used to be. We’re not gone, just older.
Phineas And The Lonely Leaves are currently touring on the East Coast, mainly in New York. The next time you can see them is February 24 at Birdsall House in Peekskill, NY. If you're near, go see them. I bet they're amazing live.