I find that there’s always a special kind of love for that first song that you heard from an artist. Even if your appreciation of it is ultimately dwarfed by the other music you go on to discover—and nine times out of ten, that’s how it goes for me—there’s a special connection with that initial song, if only because that song is the reason you discovered any of the rest of that music in the first place.
When it comes to the artist Chris Trapper—lead singer of rock band The Push Stars, who’s also released a handful of solo albums—that song, for me, is “Skin.” Technically, it wasn’t the first song I heard, as I was introduced to him through his opening performance for Colin Hay a couple months ago, but it was that song that erased all doubt in my mind that I needed to get some of his music immediately after the show.
Taken from his 2011 album The Few & The Far Between, “Skin” is a gentle, pop rock ballad, radiating compassion both lyrically and instrumentally with its soft acoustic guitar riff and an accent of steel guitar, Trapper’s singing accented by soothing backing vocals from Kristin Cifelli. He introduced the song at his show by discussing the prevalence of love songs on the radio, but how almost all of them seem to be about “puppy love”; this song, he explained, he wrote about staying in love.
That established its value to me right off the bat, but I think the story of the song is more clearly established by clarifying that’s not about love as defined in the typical pop culture vernacular, but instead about devotion above all else. Whereas music typically focuses on the immediate combined with a fantastical happily ever after, “Skin” confronts the reality of a long-term relationship without shying away from that or hoping for an ideal. Rather than dread old age, it presents a romantic portrait of growing old with someone; “I say I’ll wait for you to put your fake teeth in / You say you’ll wait for me to spray on my hair,” it declares lightheartedly, backed by the song’s repeated, serious insistence of “I will love you still.”
What really sets “Skin” apart—and by extension, what made me realize that Chris Trapper was an artist I needed to hear more from—is its different approach to what is one of the most common subjects explored in music. In lieu of a fairy tale, it promises a lifetime of safety, comfort, and happiness unconditionally. Its creative take is powerful and emotionally effective, and I can’t recommend it enough.