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Ev FussJul 14, 2023

TW: Mentions of Suicide

Ricky Montgomery (he/they) just released his third single of 2023, and it is arguably their most heart-wrenching song released to this day.

The song “Black Fins” was originally drafted by Montgomery right after the tenth anniversary of his dad's passing. While on a trip in Mexico, Montgomery’s father was found washed up on a beach in what had appeared to be an accident while scuba diving, but the artist soon found the letters that their father had left behind. In an Instagram caption explaining the song Montgomery writes “that moment defined my whole life.” Four years after the original drafts (and fourteen since his father passed), Montgomery was able to release the song and he's calling it “the best thing [he] has ever done.”

Montgomery shared bits and pieces of the writing process on their Instagram story, detailing the process from playing with the lyrics to changing the key from minor to major. He shared that one of the biggest inspirations for the musicality of the song came from listening to A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie. When crediting this album, Montgomery said they wanted to “write something as honest and unpretentious as those songs,” which is what prompted the first version of “Black Fins” that he created.

There has been a lot of build-up for this song as Montgomery prepared to release a very vulnerable side of himself. They have said in the past that many of their other songs were written for or about their father, such as “Mr. Loverman” and “Cabo.” In a tweet Montgomery put out earlier this month he wrote “you all really thought 'Cabo' was a fun song. ridiculous.” Even though he followed it up with a light “ok fine it’s fun,” Montgomery's new music sheds a darker light on the song, as he revealed that the beach his father was found dead on was located in Cabo. Out of respect for Montgomery, I will let them share in their own words where the title “Black Fins” comes from:

    “‘Black Fins’ was a phrase I made up to capture a memory I’ve held onto     through the years. A photo from the day my dad was found. It was big     news locally: ‘tourist drowns in remote part of Mexico near Cabo.’ The     article was in Spanish so I couldn’t read it, but there he was in black and     white above the text: the body of a snorkeling tourist found on the beach.     It sticks with you when you see an image of your parent lying dead     somewhere, if you can imagine that. But the image still faded over the     following decade: except for the fins on his feet. There was something     cartoonish and macabre about them that stayed with me. So there it was:     black fins. It was enough.” - @rickymontgomery on Instagram

The song itself is genuinely beautiful. I know I may be biased as someone who has been a fan of his music, but knowing the context of the song brought me to tears with my first listen. The mix of some raw vocals portrays the amount of vulnerability that Montgomery is sharing with their audience. Using major chords contrasts the dark themes but somehow emphasizes the tragedy and emotion of the song.

    "If your ashes sprang to life

    Would you just let me down?

    Would you leave those kids again?

    And kick 'em out of town?

    I guess we'll never know

    I'll just be here wondering

    What made you choose to go

    The day that you went down to Mexico."

This particular chorus of the song struck me the hardest because it features Montgomery questioning his father's choice and reflecting on his bad experiences with his father before he passed. He has referenced this in past songs, most specifically the song “Talk To You,” which was his first single released five years after his first album, Montgomery Ricky, and was written as a memorial piece for the tenth anniversary of their father's passing. Montgomery also discusses the emotional impact of dealing with an absent father in his song “Last Night,” the fifth track on Montgomery Ricky.

A music video was released alongside the single which features clips of Montgomery and his sister flying out to Mexico, renting out a mansion, throwing a party, and finally being able to retrace their father's last steps. They explained in another Instagram post that this is something they have wanted to do their whole lives, and the song's release gave them the opportunity to follow through with it. Watching the music video with the song's release made the experience truly immersive, and once again knowing the true meaning made the connection with Montgomery much stronger. Montgomery has truly shared a piece of himself with this release and I, as a fan, am honored to get to hear his perspective on such a tragic part of their life. I highly recommend watching the music video when first listening to the song, which can be found here.

Montgomery will be accompanying Cavetown, Mxmtoon, and other alternating artists on the Bittersweet Daze tour this summer. Tickets for the tour can be found at

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