Special thanks to Miss Fae over at Regretsy for pointing this song out today. This might not have been the intention of the band Apple Trees & Tangerines in writing the song "Can You Save Me," but it's not a far stretch to look at the song like this. I think "Can You Save Me" is actually a really good representation of what it's like to suffer from anxiety.
You don't know when it's going to strike. You don't know what's going to trigger it. You don't know what causes it and other people just don't understand what's happening. For someone who doesn't suffer from anxiety, the event that triggered it might have seemed completely benign. But for the person suffering from anxiety, it's quite clearly the cause.
Here's the problem with anxiety: the cause could be something like an unexpected phone call. It could be a long line at the coffee shop or traffic on the freeway. It could be going down a particular staircase or a quick comment from a total stranger. You just don't know what's going to trigger it and that's the part that's hard to wrap your brain around.
Apple Trees & Tangerines get it. In the first verse of "Can You Save Me," the band deals with--what's to me anyway--a familiar spiral into anxiety. You don't know what, exactly, about the situation set you off, but now your mind is racing with worst case scenario thoughts and a logical to you (but completely illogical) sequence of events that is absolutely going to happen because of you.
When I collapse, will you forget? When I'm dead and gone, will you regret? All of the constant, mocking bitter slander I imposed when you were so upset When you grabbed your keys, said you were gone Couldn't help myself, I passed the gun Inform my friends and family I lived well It's just? my choices They were wrong
So you begin to worry about things that have not happened and are most likely not going to happen in the way you imagine them. This, in turn, sets your heart racing, clouds up your mind, and makes you very nervous about other things that are happening that no longer make sense (but totally do to everyone else involved).
The chorus is when things really hit home. I know when my anxiety spikes, if I ask someone for help, it actually makes things worse. I explain what the situation is that's giving me anxiety and realize it makes me sound like an insane person. Could could this tiny thing get me all worked up? Then, if the realization of logic doesn't shake me out of it, I start to pass the blame onto the person who is trying to help me. I know they haven't actually done anything and they are just trying to understand what's happening. It doesn't stop me from accusing them of something they haven't done.
Can you save me? From this nothing I've become It's just something that I've done Never meant to cause you worry Don't you blame me For this nothing I've become It's just something that I've done Never? meant to show you my mistakes
Lyrically, the song continues on like this for another verse and two bridges.
The arrangement is what made me notice what this song could actually be about. The song opens and closes with a whistling pattern that leads into a sort of rock drone with some synth squealing on occasion. It repeats itself over and over. This is the world that keeps moving no matter what strange thoughts start to flow out of the singer's mouth.
The doubt cycle created in the verses is almost spoken word. It's fast, it's near-monotone, and it doesn't stop. There isn't any variation until it peaks during the chorus. The chorus is a repeated pattern that's just a little off from what the band is doing. It creates just the right level of tension to make the song sound out. The band is still playing even though the singer seems to be removed from what else is happening. It's the build up of anxiety when no one else realizes what's actually happening.
The bridge is when things peak. The vocal becomes much more expansive, breaking the patterns the song has relied on up to this point. It's much more erratic. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, they do. This leads to an excellent moment of echo effect where the singer is trapped in her thoughts desperate to get out. The chorus kicks in again but it's not enough to keep it going. Everything drops out except for some ambient noise. Then the whistle kicks in but doesn't finish the lick because the lick can't end. It's a loop that just drops off. You can't avoid it and it will always pick back up again later when you least expect it.
"Can You Save Me" by Apple Trees & Tangerines is a very strong song that can probably mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. The anxiety interpretation is just what rings true for me.