Hung upon a simple, mi-re-do keyboard vamp, “Play Along” quickly becomes a chunky rocker with a playful, vaguely deconstructed vibe. We’re in 4/4 time but things feel craggier than that, especially in the chorus, where the jagged, jiggered melody hints at crookeder time signatures than we are here given. Backing horns start as exclamation points but wander soon into squiggly eruptions that I find charming. Structurally, the song has three regular, repeating parts (verse, pre-chorus, chorus), but listen and you’ll see that beyond a desultory inner rhyme or two, the lyrics don’t rhyme at all, which adds to the cockeyed ambiance.
Themes is the male-female duo of Kelsey Crawford (she) and Jacy McIntosh (he). Crawford plays keyboards, McIntosh guitar—in the case of “Play Along,” he is on a baritone guitar, which offers up a lower register than a standard model. Don’t miss McIntosh’s backing vocals in the chorus: he sings the same notes as Crawford, but is mixed so far down he sounds almost more like rhythm than melody. An engaging effect.
For a duo, they have a kind of an elusive history. (Note: it doesn’t help that the band’s name makes it somewhat Google-resistant.) The two had met in Crawford’s hometown of Minneapolis, but began life as a band in Santa Rosa, CA, in 2005. They moved to Minneapolis in 2007. And then to Portland in 2008. Any number of musicians have floated through to work with Themes, but they remain, at core, a twosome. Although their Facebook page currently lists drummer Nick Dayka as a member too. Is this old news, waiting to be updated, or new news that hasn’t caught up with other press material? Not sure. What is for certain is that “Play Along” will be found on the band’s fifth album, Loveweapons, which is slated for release later this year. But—more elusiveness—no precise date has been set. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.