Almost Free

“Really Don’t Know (About You) – Almost Free

So on the surface, this one is a brisk and catchy bit of power pop, or something like it. The sing-along-style chorus, turning on the repetition, across the beat, of a mundane phrase (“really don’t know”), nails it as a chewy little piece of ear candy to be sure. But “Really Don’t Know (About You)” is a good deal more than that if you care to investigate.

Listen, to begin with, to the introduction, with its ear-catching combination of a nimble beat and an unusual interval, as Andy (not Andrew) Bird, grabs his guitar high up the neck and itches out a reiterating major sixth interval in a loose, ever-evolving manner. This sixth—nine half steps—is an notably wide leap between two notes in a pop song and even though it’s a consonant (i.e. not dissonant) interval there’s something fluid and unsettled about it. The introduction’s music haunts the rest of the song. Meanwhile, the melody in the verse then turns around and features downward leaps, while likewise touching most of the notes in the scale before it’s done—usually the sign of savvy songwriting. (A nice, related touch is how the guitar itself runs up the scale in between the chorus and verse [1:05].)

When we get to the aforementioned chorus, the song solidifies and expands and—this is the real trick to listen carefully for—marries five decades’ worth of influences into a hook casual enough to have been born in a ’60s garage yet grand enough to stand with any new wave or post-punk anthem. Here is a song, furthermore, informed by the Smiths’ seminal ’80s work as well as by the ’90s britpop that followed, even as it keeps wanting to sound like something from 1977…except for all that 21st-century guitar work and scronky noise. All in all what’s happening here is enough to blow a Pandora algorithm’s mind (if only a Pandora algorithm had a mind). I like.

“Really Don’t Know (About You)” is from Almost Free’s In/Out EP, due out in June. The Detroit-based trio has been playing together for seven years, with one full-length album released to date, back in 2009.




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