Eavesdrop: Mantras For All Time
The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting darker, and some stores have already started with their pre-emptive Christmas displays. You know what that means: it’s time for a whole new fall playlist with a darker flair—whether that's decadent seventies-inspired pop with an edge of obsession, a former metal band gone melodic, or an up-and-coming indie artist unafraid to tackle the real issues.
Single of the week
I Don't Know How But They Found Me – “Do It All The Time”: I Don't Know How But They Found Me (more commonly referred to as IDKHow) have had an interesting path to success. The story of Panic! At The Disco's former bassist teaming up with Falling In Reverse's former drummer is interesting for sure, but the narrative they've created for the band is even better. Officially, IDKHow are a synthpop act that struggled to find success in the late seventies and early eighties, and faded into obscurity until tapes of their music were found and shared online.
Their latest single, or the latest single to be "discovered,” is "Do It All The Time," a funk-laden pop track with a dark side. Meant to embody the unshakable bravado of pop icons of old, Dallon's lyrics at first seem vapid and shallow, but become more uncomfortable as you listen. They're not just confident in their coming success, they feel they're entitled to it, and they're not going to let anything stand in their way. It's a borderline terrifying prospect, made even more so by the fact that the song is such an earworm. It's hard to decry their take-over-the-world attitude when it comes wrapped in easy to digest melodies, a bass hook to die for, and a brass section just a touch too discordant to be comfortable.
CONTENT WARNING: SUICIDE
Sam Fender – “Dead Boys”: Some songs get under your skin, and some hit you like a gut punch. Sam Fender's "Dead Boys" is the latter. Heartbreakingly poignant, the song deals with the epidemic of male suicide currently plaguing the UK, but in an intimate and agonising way that proves impossible to look away from. The song starts with a single folky guitar and ghostly vocals, and even when the song builds to its climax, it stays gentle and haunting. It's not so much a cry for help as it is a plea.
The video is similarly arresting, and similarly softened around the edges. It oscillates between images of death and moments of frantic life, where it's impossible to tell if the boys are dancing or attempting to escape. Men stare straight past each other even when they are obviously hurting and cry wordlessly, staring straight ahead. Despite this, the song ends on a hopeful note visually if not musically, showing the fleeting moments of connection that can be grasped onto and used as an anchor. It's a masterful song even without the video, but with it it's impossible to escape the immediacy of the problem, and thus the desire to do something about it.
Bring Me The Horizon – “MANTRA”: Cult imagery has always been a cornerstone of alternative music. Marilyn Manson's been doing it for decades, Twenty-One Pilots have built an entire era around it, and now Bring Me The Horizon have joined the party. Once a thrash metal band, they've slowly matured into a stadium rock band with some weird electronic edges, and "Mantra" is the culmination of years spent growing into their sound.
It's not for everyone, but the mix of choral harmonies, jagged and distorted electronica, heavy metal guitars and radio rock vocals is expertly done. It's just disorienting enough to keep you pressing replay, and just familiar enough to keep you from feeling entirely lost at sea. That makes the music video a perfect accompaniment, with its mix of straightforward narrative in which frontman Oli Sykes asks you to trust in him, and bizarre surreal breakaways in which women run screaming through hallways and masks leer out of the TV. It's an enticing gateway into heavier music for those who might not have engaged with it before and, perhaps more surprisingly, the reverse is true as well.
Agoney – “Quizas”: Not every song has to deal in creepy imagery or topical issues, sometimes what you really need is some good old-fashioned pop fluff. That's exactly what Agoney delivers with "Quizas", a sugary sweet pop ballad with some serious vocals to back it up. The video is full of classic boyband staples that have mostly been lost to time, from singing into an Elvis mic to dancing in unison with a similarly-dressed entourage. Even the holy grail of nineties pop is present, with Agoney frequently giving the camera bedroom eyes, reaching for the imaginary audience, and grasping dramatically at the air.
However, for all the guilty pleasure elements of this track, it also works on a much less ironic level. The lyrics are affirming and upbeat, dealing with themes of self-acceptance and pride, and the song's foot-tapping minimalism makes it all too tempting to leave it on repeat as the background music to your life. The vocal runs are deliciously over the top but also take incredible skill, just as the glittery eyeshadow and throwback dance moves take some incredible charisma to pull off. Agoney has that charisma.