Le petit mort, or, “the little death”. The phrase is French in origin, basically a winking, euphemistic term for orgasm. It refers to that final, ecstatic moment of release, when the mind lets go for but a moment. A short, powerful attack, followed by a momentary decay, a sustain that may last just a moment longer, and then the afterglow in the release.
Alright, enough speechifying. The Parisians put it much more concisely and cleverly anyways. But if you’re reading EMPT, you already know that the French have a certain way with words.
Little deaths haunt Sir Sly’s Ghost in a number of ways. The track maintains a steady ebb and flow throughout, compositionally speaking, with the builds in the verses gently cresting at the choruses. This keeps up for the first two thirds of the track, while the last leg unfurls into complete synth-pop maudlin bliss. The instrumentation keeps in line with this theme of loss, with the church-y organs adding some color to the harmony.
What other deaths is Landon James trying to bring the listeners’ attention? At first it sounds like a case of two ships passing in the night. Then it sounds like a true death of the heart, a loss existential. But could it be something more?
Go ahead and stand up straight
Straight against the wall
Why did I go for you?
Pick you up when you fall
Was I too drunk to say what I said to you?
Was I too blind to see right through you?
You flew out on a plane
Came crashing into the ocean
And then you haunted me
Don’t have a clue what’s the motion
So every now and then it feels so soothing
When you float on a bit and move right though me
Get up, save face
Find your way back to the grave
You’ll never find your way back home
You’re a ghost.”
Which isn’t to say that this is a bummer of a cut. Maybe it’s James’ smooth croon, which sounds affecting either in conversational sing-song or hushed falsetto. Maybe it’s the incognito electro vibe it has going on. After a while, you stop asking why or how. You’re too busy hitting play again.