So we should be clear by now, class, that there is no formula here, no checklist that leads, guaranteed, to a great song. But if I were forced to identify one characteristic that gives a song a leg up, that sends a song soaring skyward rather than plummeting earthward, it might be this: movement. (For those who thought I might say a ukulele, no, but I like how you’re thinking.) A song becomes too easily dreary or dull without a sense of movement; while a song that moves is a song you are more likely to want to hear again, a song that warms and nourishes and reminds you of that all-important, often-overlooked detail: you are alive.
Movement does not have to mean speed. But movement means we do not, as a listener, feel we are stuck, and we do not feel we are waiting very long for something to happen (this is pop music, after all, not a Brahms Symphony). Something, rather, is almost always happening—the melody goes from here to there to there, chords shift and shift and shift again, the band finds its groove without veering into a rut, the singer sounds ever so slightly breathless or edgy or even as if he or she is in some way making the words up on the fly.
Needless to say, “My Heart is a Drummer”—a song that is itself about a certain sort of movement—moves. (That there is no introduction gets us off on the right foot.) The melody leaps and prances and yet also resolves with fluid ease, while the fetching Elizabeth Morris delivers her lines in natural yet idiosyncratic rhythms. The band plays along with such locked-in elasticity you almost don’t notice they’re there; this is one of those songs that sounds less arranged than discovered. But if you get around to it, notice how the guitar plays with great judicious ease—I especially like the high, ringing countermelody it offers beginning with the second verse (around 0:44).
Allo Darlin’ is a half-Australian, half-British quartet based in London (leader Morris one of the Australians). “My Heart is a Drummer” is a song from the band’s self-titled debut album, released in June in the UK, and this week in the US, on the Fortuna Pop label.