On Beach House’s “Walk in the Park”

In the summer of 2013, I spent a month backpacking in the Pasayten Wilderness of the North Cascades Mountains in Washington state. It was the summer before I left for college in Chapel Hill and the first significant time I was away from my friends and community. Both this distance and the complicated interpersonal dynamics that emerged when spending every hour with the same group of 10 or so challenged my eighteen-year-old self.

The experience shaped me and I feel grateful for it now, but in those lived moments, I needed reprieve. This ultimately took the shape of two songs playing on repeat in my head: Frank Ocean’s Pink Matter and Beach House’s Walk in the Park.

There are many things I love about the latter. How in the iTunes Session-version of the song, Victoria swings the chorus phrase “in and out of my life” landing on a C instead of F, Alex’s guitar phrasings, the drum machine at the beginning of the track, and foremost, its general moodiness, to which this musing is about.

For most of time I’ve known this song, I heard the narrator as the agent —

The face that you see in the door
Isn’t standing there anymore

— they were the one leaving, dialogue akin to “You see this face. No more baby. Byeee.” This projected empowerment gave the song an important pathos for navigating my late teens, and this emotion still holds true. But something changed a couple of weeks ago.

On a Sunday, CVS sent me a text saying my prescription was ready. I drove to their drive-through, and lo and behold, the store was closed (no surprises here Utah). That’s when I re-listened.

You go for a walk in the park
‘Cause you don’t need anything
The hand that you sometimes hold
Doesn’t do anything
The face that you see in the door
Isn’t standing there anymore

This isn’t a song about revenge or being ‘better-off.’ These are self-affirmations amidst ennui and heartbreak — “you don’t need anything” i.e. ‘you don’t need them.’ This is a reckoning with the reality of loss — “The face that you see in the door / Isn’t standing there anymore.” My heart goes out to the narrator, the “you” in the song. The response to tell yourself “you don’t need anything” amidst loss and heartbreak is a familiar tragedy, an attempt to surmise bravery in the face of pain. Yet you don’t get the sense that the narrator believes they don’t have needs, just that they are telling themself to be strong, to be brave.

What’s braver than reckoning with reality, no matter how painful or sad? This is what the narrator does, and I’m glad that they’re speaking to these truths, instead of the trite ‘I-don’t-need-you-anymores’ so frequent in popular music (nothing against popular music though). I’m glad not only because the felt self is honored, but also in their embrace, healing can begin.

All in a matter of time.

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