The Shins – “A Comet Appears” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

The Shins’ “A Comet Appears” is a beautiful song that delves deep into themes of existential angst and the search for meaning. It’s a reflective piece, suggesting a journey of self-discovery and acknowledging personal flaws and failures. The songwriter seems to be grappling with feelings of insubstantiality and the struggle to find a solid ground in life, symbolized through vivid imagery and metaphors. At its core, the song speaks to the universal human experience of feeling lost and the longing for something more substantial in life.

Ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of a song? “A Comet Appears” by The Shins is more than just a melody. It’s a deep dive into the human psyche, a journey through shadows and light. If you’re intrigued by the mysteries of the mind and the secrets of the soul, keep reading. This song has layers, and we’re about to peel them back.


“A Comet Appears” Lyrics Meaning

The song opens with “One hand on this wily comet, Take a drink just to give me some weight,” immediately setting a tone of trying to ground oneself in the vastness of life. The reference to a comet could symbolize a fleeting, brilliant moment or opportunity, yet the protagonist feels too insubstantial, “barely a vapor,” to grasp it fully. This opening reflects a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy and the human desire to find purpose and weight in existence.

The lines “They shone a chlorine light on, A host of individual sins, Let’s carve my aging face off” suggest a harsh self-scrutiny and a desire to erase past mistakes. It speaks to the vulnerability we all feel when our flaws are exposed. The song then shifts to a more introspective tone with “Close your eyes to corral a virtue, Is this fooling anyone else?” Here, the songwriter questions the authenticity of our public personas and the internal struggle to align them with our true selves.

In “Never worked so long and hard, To cement a failure,” the songwriter acknowledges the effort put into endeavors that ultimately didn’t pan out. It’s a candid admission of failure, but also a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. The line “The lonely are such delicate things” could be a nod to the fragility of those who feel isolated and misunderstood.

The song crescendos with “There is a numbness, In your heart and it’s growing,” signifying a growing emotional detachment or disillusionment. This sense of numbness could be a defense mechanism against the pains and disappointments of life. The imagery of “burnt sage and a forest of bygones” conjures a sense of trying to cleanse oneself of the past, yet being unable to escape it entirely.

Finally, “A list of things I could lay the blame on, Might give me a way out” suggests a search for scapegoats or excuses, a common human tendency when facing our shortcomings. The song concludes with contemplating faith and belief, questioning whether these are merely constructs to make “sinking stones fly.”

The Story Behind “A Comet Appears”

The Shins, led by James Mercer, have a knack for creating songs that resonate on a deeply personal level. In “A Comet Appears,” Mercer’s introspective lyrics reflect a period of self-reflection and existential questioning. The song seems to be a mirror of his own journey through life’s complexities and uncertainties.

Mercer has been grappling with the pressures of fame and the challenges of staying true to his artistic vision. “A Comet Appears” can be seen as an outlet for these feelings. The imagery used in the song – comets, vapors, chlorine light – indicates Mercer’s state of mind. These elements paint a picture of someone trying to find stability in a constantly changing environment. The comet, in particular, could symbolize fleeting moments of clarity or opportunity that Mercer feels he’s struggling to grasp.

Moreover, the recurring theme of failure and inadequacy in the song suggests a critical self-awareness. Mercer has been contemplating the path his life had taken, the decisions made, and their repercussions. The lyrics offer a glimpse into his state of mind, resonating with anyone who has ever felt lost in the vastness of life’s journey.