“Receiver” – Firestations

Lord knows I am not going to single-handedly upend the 21st century’s predilection for unabated idiocy, whether on the airwaves or in the White House, but as long as I can I will stand up here for music that is well-crafted, both catchy and interesting, and sonically fresh without pandering to mindless trends and/or soulless technology.

Which is I guess a somewhat grumpy way of saying I love this song. With its propulsive (but not head-banging) beat, “Receiver” launches off a riff that repeats itself from 0:04 through to when the verse starts at 0:32, yet feels regenerative via the off-kilter interval leaps and syncopated shuffle it makes in the second of its two measures. And while you almost don’t notice the wordless backing vocals that accompany the resolute riff they’re also what keeps the ear gratified as the song builds a subtle nervous energy.

Once the lyrics arrive, it’s never quite clear where we are, structure-wise. There’s something that seems like a verse at 0:32, which repeats musically at 0:47; the vocals here are multi-tracked and wonderfully processed (one layer sounds like a whisper, the other like a megaphone). We are led through this to a stand-alone lyric (“I won’t be fine”? hard to decipher), at which point the opening riff and wordless vocals return. The tension is even higher now, and it breaks, at least somewhat, at 1:16, with what feels like a chorus (“You are the receiver/You get the message”), even if, musically, it’s not too far from the opening verse. Note the staccato synth line that bops and boops in the background, adding texture and oomph; it’s around now that the song for me goes from good to great. The electronics later come to the foreground (1:58) to introduce and accompany a satisfying guitar solo, constructed out of chords rather than pyrotechnics. Still later (3:04), the electronics and guitar collide and disintegrate and then land in a coda that first revisits the introduction then dissolves on a radio-receiver-like flourish.

Firestations is a London-based five-piece with a straightforward mission statement: “We write simple alt-pop songs and then mess them up.” That’s pretty much what took me two long paragraphs to say. “Receiver” is a track from their their second full-length album The Year Dot, coming out in April on Lost Map Records. Thanks to the band for the MP3.