A mere six days after Conan Gray announced his sophomore album, Superache—set to drop on June 24—the indie-pop artist released “Memories,” a sentimental, upbeat ballad echoing the enduring pain of what once was.
From the moment “Memories” begins, Gray makes it abundantly clear that he understands how best to tell a story rooted in disillusioned nostalgia. The song opens with a gentle piano chord progression, almost reminiscent of a Christmas carol in its wistfulness. Set to the soft plucking of a bass, Gray’s lyrics help paint the picture of lingering heartache: “It’s been a couple months / That’s just about enough time / For me to stop cryin’ when I look at all the pictures / Now I kinda smile, I haven’t felt that in a while.” The tempo picks up as Gray steps into the pre-chorus, backed by the strumming of a guitar in combination with the piano and bass. The gradual addition of instruments supports an expansion of his vocal range, evoking a sense of swelling emotion as his harmonies are woven in. Gray then trails off as everything but the piano is stripped away, building quiet anticipation ahead of the chorus.
All instruments come back into play as the beat drops, incorporating crashing drums and extended guitar pull-offs to emulate surrender to the turbulent truth. Gray belts the titular line, “I wish that you would stay in my memories / But you show up today, just to ruin things,” in his typical upfront, yet vulnerable, manner. From here on out, “Memories” breaks into upbeat territory as the second verse kicks into high gear, opting to hold nothing back. Gray’s breathing and vocal strain become especially perceptible in the second pre-chorus, meant to capture the rawness of coming to terms with a broken past: “I can’t be your friend, can’t be your lover / Can’t be the reason we hold back each other from falling in love.” You can practically envision Gray doubling over as he sings this all in one breath, as if the crushing reality of the situation is tugging these words out of him.
Despite the longing that is central to “Memories,” the arrangement’s emphasis on electric guitar, stacked vocals, and sardonic lyrics adds a degree of euphoria; there’s something liberating about disentangling yourself from the pain trapping you in the past. Gray realizes this, letting it wash over himself as he delivers the lines, “I wanna put you in the past ‘cause I’m traumatized / But you’re not lettin’ me do that, ‘cause tonight / You’re all drunk in my kitchen, curled in the fetal position / Too busy playin’ the victim to be listenin’ to me.” Mimicking the intimate and conversational tone of a diary entry, this approach to lyricism is what enables the song to feel so relatable, even to those who have never experienced heartbreak firsthand.
A crescendoing buildup leads into the bridge, where Gray falls into his classic falsetto before the instruments are ramped up to fuel the cynicism of the lines, “I guess I’ll let you stay / For as long as it takes / To grab your books and your coat / And that one good cologne / That you bought when we were fighting.” The last revival of the chorus is met with a focus on string riffs, feeding into an overwhelming sense of catharsis. While layered harmonies characterize the rest of the track, the very last line brings out a single voice as Gray hits a soft, isolated riff with an air of finality.
“Memories” bodes extremely well for the rest of Superache. Gray’s voice has matured in its strength and clarity, its technique surpassing the already-impressive Kid Krow (2020). Every musical choice is intentional, establishing a palpable tone of yearning and chronicling a disenchanted romance; you could say that “Memories” puts the “ache” in Superache.