Finnish band Pastis’ “Around Here” (from the album’s debut album Circles) is more than a fun song about having fun. In the song’s three-and-a-half minutes, Pastis’ frontman paints pictures of fun nights out on the town, but the journey toward feeling mentally assured enough to have fun in the first place is just as important a narrative tool. For every instance of dancing on tables, there are mentions of nothingness and anxiety.
The fun stuff comes first. Pastis opens “Around Here” by encouraging listeners to “wake up to yet another morning sun” and “take another trip and let your spirit grow,” as the band’s clamoring eighth-note minor chords and preening arpeggios place the frontman upon a musical podium. “Sit beneath the light and make me smile,” he says, before staring directly into the abyss: “Holding on might take forever/’til nothing’s left, no, nothing whatsoever.”
For every sunny moment Pastis can recall, there’s an adjacent moment of losing control. “Down the rabbit’s hole we walk, now/run, run, run,” the frontman sings at the end of the song’s chorus, during which the verses’ arpeggios take on even more of the responsibility of conveying the track’s melancholy undercurrent. The chords become more fringed and overdriven in nature, and the arpeggios seem to cry out with an urgent, searing call for help.
As Pastis progresses past the chorus of “Around Here,” the track’s desperation becomes more apparent. “Stand beside the shadow of it all/take one look and tell me, do you grasp the infinite dilemma?” sings the frontman before the second chorus, unsubtly pointing to just how grandiose the subject matter at hand truly is. Sure, Pastis is content to reminisce on past highlights, but existential dread is always around the corner, just as a set of somber but incendiary guitars is on “Around Here.” Writing a fun song is important, but so is shining a light onto darkness.