Premiere: Calvin Arsenia’s Aching & Vulnerable “Headlights”

Calvin Arsenia © Andrea Larson
Glowing with vulnerability & a heavy heart, Calvin Arsenia’s intimate “Headlights” shines with inner turmoil as an individual endeavors to chart his own course.

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There’s a reason older values and ideals clash with so-called progressive thinking; a reason the words “traditional” and “contemporary” feel at odds with one another, especially today. Every successive generation builds upon the teachings, customs, and values of its predecessors, but with our decade’s accelerated rate of globalization, technological advancement, and cultural change, the environment many children grow up in today looks nothing like the one their parents grew up in just twenty or thirty years ago.

Society’s rapidly-changing nature presents a challenge to parents and children alike as they wrestle to overcome the barriers between them; in particular, those coming of age in the ’00s and ’10s with access to the Internet have had an unlimited trove of information at their fingertips since birth. Such access changes the way we see and interact with the world, distinguishing Millenials and members of Generation Z from every previous generation. Simply put, the world they have grown up in is far different from any social, technological, and cultural environment that history has ever seen.

While to say the old rules don’t apply is a naïve misstep – we must always be learning from the past – at the same time, we are not our parents, and the opportunities we have are markedly different from the opportunities they had. We must follow our own road as we navigate this brave new world – and it is this lesson, or reckoning, that Calvin Arsenia struggles so valiantly with in his new song,  “Headlights.” Glowing with warmth, vulnerability, and a heavy heart, Arsenia’s intimate reflections depict the past and present wrestling within the individual as he endeavors to chart his own course in the world.

I used to think Love was a solution
Convinced there was ever a ‘cure all’
Waiting around. Perpetual slow motion
Planned obselence
Already back to patching the seams
It ain’t what it seems to be
Listen: “Headlights” – Calvin Arsenia

Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Calvin Arsenia’s new song “Headlights” (featuring Jametatone), his first music since releasing sophomore album Catastrophe in early 2017. A Kansas City-based harpist and classically-trained vocalist, Calvin Arsenia delivers vibrant, soul-tinged alternative folk that challenges musical tradition as much as it does cultural tradition.

Arsenia’s uniquely blended musicality feels fully realized in “Headlights,” a song that somehow evokes the heartfelt “indie folk” ambiance of Dustin Tebbutt and Novo Amor, with the hearty and earnest presence of Frank Ocean, Leon Bridges, and other members of the neo-soul canon. Heavy and light, intimate and expansive, “Headlights” reintroduces Calvin Arsenia as a musical singularity.

If this is his new baseline, then Arsenia’s not long for Kansas; another set of headlights will be calling soon enough.

Headlights - Calvin Arsenia

Headlights – Calvin Arsenia

Over and over and over again
I fall apart
Over and over and over again
I fall too hard
But I’m gonna be ok
Whether you’re in or out
The headlights look the same
Going in or out

“‘Headlights’ is a response to being raised in a culture where I was taught to wait for and expect picturesque love and romance as a prerequisite to beginning a happy life,” Calvin Arsenia tells Atwood Magazine. “In contrast, as a millennial I was simultaneously made to believe that I have my whole life ahead of me and I shouldn’t be too quick to make decisions – I should prefer skepticism.”

Calvin Arsenia © Andrea Larson

Calvin Arsenia © Andrea Larson

Found my new vice
And it’s filling me up like an ashtray
Took every single mirror down
Cause I don’t wanna see
Malnutrition seeping from
beneath this paper towel
It’s much too much to clean up
So I open the window and
pretend I’m picking roses in Versailles

Arsenia’s struggle between expectation and reality manifests itself in a story about overcoming heartbreak and moving forward. He is, in essence, reclaiming control of his own narrative in the decision to feel comfortable with his “singleness,” so-to-speak. He sings of falling, hard, again and again; he reflects on his “new vice” – his latest form of sustenance since losing that “better half.” In-between the lines, we feel just how heavy his heart has sunk; just how lonely he must feel; but he’s not complaining, nor is he backtracking on his words. He’s trying and failing, and trying some more – just as everyone else must do as they figure out their own paths. We can only learn so much from those who came before – and when we spread our wings to fly, we must aim high even if we fall to the ground.

It’s much too much to clean up, so I open the window and pretend I’m picking roses in Versailles,” Arsenia sings poetically and poignantly in his second verse. Such a heartfelt rendering leaves him exposed, and in that raw state we can each relish our own human connection.

“Headlights” is the first single off Arsenia’s forthcoming new album Cantaloupe, expected later 2018. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this Kansas troubadour as the year ends, anxiously anticipating more from this promising talent!

Stream “Headlights” exclusively on Atwood Magazine!

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Headlights - Calvin Arsenia

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com