Musically astute and thematically cohesive, “Walls” features an odd, almost discomfiting build-up. First, we get front man Adam Olenius singing over stark bass and drums accompaniment, the melody hard to discern. (I suggest paying attention to that bass note–a D, I believe–because it is not going away for a while.) After the sparse, foreboding opening verse, a piano riff arrives to mix things up a bit but listen to how the bass note persists, and keeps the ear from sensing any resolution.
The full band kicks in with a second verse, followed by the piano riff again, and then a third verse, and all the while, sure enough, the bass pounds that one same note. If you’re feeling a bit claustrophobic by now that’s why. Because of the intervening piano riff we may not quite realize we haven’t heard a chorus yet, but here we are, two minutes into the song, and nope, we haven’t. It feels as if the song has stayed in one chord this whole time. Then, at 2:15, we are released: the chorus arrives, almost transcendently, using the piano riff melody but now set free from the one-note bass anchor. The forcefully sung lyrics seem especially consequential in this setting, and we hear them now three times running because there are no more verses left. By 3:15, the song is done and it’s like we don’t really know what hit us. But it was good.
Shout Out Louds are a quintet from Sweden; “Walls” will be found on the album Work, their third, due out on Merge Records in February. MP3 via Merge.