“Defeat on the Double Bass Line” – Hockey

So we’ve hit the indie-rock geographical trifecta this week, hopping from Melbourne to Göteborg to, now, Brooklyn in a matter of screen-inches. Bonus points for the fact that the two guys in the band Hockey are originally from Portland.

Under the spotlight this time is a bass-heavy slab of melancholy electro pop. Inside of a rubbery, minimalist soundscape front man Ben Wyeth offers a sad and soulful tune with a recycling kind of momentum. Two related things, I think, help to create the song’s wistful flow. First, we are in the unrelenting presence of the mighty I-V-vi-IV chord progression, one of pop’s most inevitable-sounding patterns. The verse melody may be slightly differentiated from the chorus melody (although not much), but the I-V-vi-IV structure remains rock solid, bordering on hypnotic, from beginning to end. But: then, the second thing about the song’s alluring movement is that even while working with this most steadfast of chord patterns, the band keeps things twitchy and unsettled, mostly via Jerm Reynolds’ acrobatic bass work. We keep anticipating the right chords in our heads, while often bumping into what feels false or incomplete resolutions; and this, I’m thinking, drives the piece more memorably than a more straightforward unfolding might have. One final thing to notice are those lyrical “echoes” that Wyeth begins offering at 2:19, the last word of each line repeated, in lockstep; the effect is at once edgy and comforting.

Although expanded to a quartet for a time, Hockey has reverted to its roots as a duo, featuring
Wyeth (previously known by his given name, Grubin) and Reynolds. “Defeat on the Double Bass Line” is from the band’s forthcoming album, the curiously named Wyeth IS, which will be self-released digitally in May. As with the other songs this week, you can download the MP3 via the link above, or via SoundCloud.