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Ruby Landen, 'Front Teeth'

Songs of regret form their own subgenre within popular music, but only so often does a simple tune capture the nonlinear way memory forms and solidifies, both magnifying and distorting trauma's remnants within the psyche. Fingerpicking singer-songwriter Ruby Landen captures pain's subconscious evolution perfectly in "Front Teeth," a solo track recorded after the release of her haunting 2021 album Martyr, well. "It's getting to be this time last year again," Landen trills in the voice of a lonely woman, once a girl. "Don't want to remember, but I haven't forgotten." Not forgetting is not exactly remembering, and that's the point. Lamenting love's rejection, Landen finds herself caught up in a flash from childhood, then pushed into the bog of her recent heartbreak. Memory circles inside the song's lyric as the arpeggiated chords she plays on guitar do, too. As the sound goes round and round, Landen enters a reverie of crashes and burns, speaking to a lover who is able to move on while she just spins. "I wish I'd never met you," she whispers, but does she really want that erasure? This rumination is what she has left.

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Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.