Honestly, it’s scary to me to think that somehow McGill saw this version of middle America back in 2013, but it’s a still a timely portrait of a place that seems to encompass the best and worst of humanity. It’s easy enough when he’s pocketing a hard truth in a joke— which McGill does deftly— but he doesn’t have to do so to write an effective song, and better than that, to vocalize it. If you were listening to the song, you’d still feel the tension underlying it, whether you stopped to parse lyrics or not. Cameron is an expert at finding a way to use backup vocals in surprising places, or when to use almost vaudeville-era piano techniques to lead you plinking away from the awful thing he’s about to say.
But there’s the trick in Petal’s music: while always perfectly relevant to the story at hand, it’s also all building to that last line— “I can’t say I didn’t love you.” Oh, but God, you get that she wants to say that. She wants the boldness, the belief that it could have never happened, that this was the only way either of them could be happy. But that’s never fully resolved. Even in songs like the more desperate “Carve,” Lotz says, “And I wish I could unsee your kindness/ Every upward turn of your mouth/ But I cannot so I'll bury it in sound/ In grace, in erasing myself” before saying, “And God, will they love me if I am honest?/ I would starve until every bone would show/ Just to feel a little lighter/ And still avoid the truth.”