The title of Montgomery’s delicate song, “Piñata”, reveals its theme. The song is an ode to leaving, a commentary on the fragile hopes we put in people we care about, and the resulting uncertainty of all our close relationships.
She sings, in that soon to be iconic, haunting voice of hers: “I don’t feel okay with you / You know what you’ve done but you keep coming back […] I’m your piñata / Crack me open like you always do / Say you’re only bringing the best out of me / But you break me.”
The song captures the sense of frustration that comes with trying to have a cooperative relationship with another person who isn’t on the same wavelength. More importantly, though, it captures the frustration that comes from the inability to communicate to each other how we feel.
The video is a pastiche of slow, black+white portrayals of various people in various human relationships, shown at the moments at which they are disappointed by the other person’s behaviour. Each image is complemented by a series of subtly-placed words in the background that seem to encapsulate what the person is really feeling, even though they’re making an effort to show that they feel the opposite.
It sheds a clear light on situations that, when we’re in them, can be very murky. A girl sitting on a bus, too engrossed in her thoughts to stare out the window, holding a box that — almost out of frame — reads: “Fragile”. A man, walking away, with the words “Always Late” stitched on the back of his jacket. A girl in a concrete jungle, standing at the window of an office tower, sighs as she drinks from a mug that says “Dad, You’re the Best.” A jogger out on what seems like an inocuous run is wearing a sweater with a powerful double entendre emblazoned across its chest: “Never Look Back”.
Midway, a particularly powerful image pops up of a couple kissing tenderly in a shower while the camera pans back to reveal a towel with the word “Escape” stitched on it. That image is a welcome detour from this melange of pain and disappointment, because it represents a thought for which all the other people in the video must be desirous.
“Piñata” was released in October 2014 — as the first single off Montgomery’s spectacularly worthwhile 6-track album — but, in December, Japanese Paper released a remix, and it is a magnificent version that captures the beauty of the original song and its delicate vocals. It’s an interesting companion to the original song because it’s not a high-octane remix, but, rather, a stand-alone interpretation of the original that, while masking the rather deep pain that underlies the lyrics, takes the hopeful core of the original and turns it into a happier version of itself.
Still, the original song never falls into that completely despairing place of crushed hope. This is partly because the track is pushed along by a deep beat and a certain synth-vibe, which offer an optimistic complement to the song’s inherent sadness. This is a complex and clever tactic that Montgomery utilised on the earlier release, “War Cry“, and which mirrors the tactic used in the video as well, which is to complement confusion with clarity, loneliness with activity, and sadness with hope.
That last element — hope — comes across not only from the song’s relatively uplifting music, but also in the video’s images. While the song comments on all the various mistakes we make and the hurt we both feel and cause, the video ends on a particularly hopeful message: “We Must be in Love.” Coming at the end, after the music ends, those sympathetic and forgiving words are painted in dark letters on a dark fence, blended into their surroundings, almost invisible, and yet — just like hope itself — are there for those who choose to see them.