Setting a ’50s-style melody, complete with a “Heart and Soul” bass line, to a stately, hymn-like march, “Down By The Water” is an instant brain melt. You’ve heard a thousand songs like this and nothing like this. It’s beautiful and odd and tormented and stirring. The bass line is soon being delivered by a tuba-like sound. The song proceeds precisely, as if on tip-toes. Echoey tip-toes. (“If reverb didn’t exist we wouldn’t have bothered trying to start a band,” Jacob Graham, the guitarist, has said.) Vocalist Jonny Pierce, well-named, sings with an earnest ache, audibly catching his breath: Jonathan Richman doing a Johnny Mathis impersonation. What decade are we in? His bandmates join in for the solemn chorus, which accrues both gravity and pathos with each iteration.
And then—another brain melt—the synthesizer floats in. 2:12. My goodness. New Order joins the Salvation Army band. The synthesizer sounds almost mixed up, and unerringly beautiful. What decade did we decide we were in? Oh yeah. The 2010s. Of course.
The Drums are a foursome from Brooklyn, and you may be hearing a lot more about them moving forward. “Down By The Water” was originally found on the band’s debut EP, Summertime, which came out last year. It will re-emerge on the full-length self-titled debut, which is arriving in the U.S. in September on Downtown Records. (The album was released in Europe and Australia in June.)