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STANDOUT TRACK: No. 9, “Chutes and Ladders,” a pithy combination of baritone postpunk vocals, uplifting chord changes, and a strong backbeat. Frontman Greg Svitil begins “With one foot in the grave/And one foot in the bathrobe,” then weaves his way through a series of cryptic images.
MUSICAL MOTIVATION: “The song in general is about using art to take cover from external nuisances,” says Svitil, a LeDroit Park resident. Seemingly opaque lines such as “I get no Noel” and “Kissing a teething veil” refer to real experiences: Much of the tune’s inspiration came from a bad Christmas season when Svitil was “momentarily fired” and had a falling-out with a friend who was hospitalized shortly afterward. And the bit about the veil? It’s a reference to a wall piece by sculptor Marisol Escobar—called Veil—that is “a plaster cast of her face that has monstrous hair and unusually sharp teeth,” Svitil says. “I’ve found a great deal of solace in the strength and confidence of that piece over the years.”
SLIDING SCALE: The song’s title, meanwhile, was indirectly inspired by Kirsty MacColl’s take on the Smiths’ “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby.” A friend of Svitil’s said that MacColl’s delivery of the phrase “suffer and cry” made it sound like a children’s game. “In light of so many things apparently going wrong during the time that I was writing the song, it all struck me as really absurd but not terribly important in the grand scheme of things,” Svitil says. “It occurred to me that I was living on a Chutes and Ladders board.