A minor hobby of mine as a listener is deciphering unorthodox time signatures. Of course, the more unorthodox they are, the less I can usually figure them out. “Stormalong” is one of those songs that seemed to resist precise mapping; outside of my suspecting that the rhythmic engagement of the introduction is based on alternating 6/4 and 7/4 measures, this one eluded me.
Turns out it was a trick of the ear. Vocalist Edward Sturtevant assures me that outside of the introduction, the rest of the song actually is in 4/4 time after all. What they did was place a lot of the accents on the off-beats—“to keep things interesting,” he says. It sounds so unassuming that way, but it’s worth noting that obscuring a song’s time signature has become an all but dying art in an age of digitized beats and laptop composition. “Keeping things interesting” is a modest way of acknowledging that one has enough craft and mastery to conceive of fiddling with rhythmic structure in the first place, never mind the talent to write and perform the end result. In little more than three minutes, “Stormalong” propels us through a clean, invigorating piece of accessible but complex pop. In addition to the rhythmic uncertainty, the song offers an eccentric two-part verse, a chorus that is unusually succinct and melodic (typically a chorus may be one or the other, or neither), and then an extended bridge section that is the only part that presents itself clearly in 4/4 time. Often either difficult to discern or difficult to interpret, the lyrics glide by without etching a firm picture in the mind’s eye, but the chorus’s central, allusive observation about the fine line between hope and despair is, combined with the musical bounty, strong enough to keep me eager to tease more meaning from the rest of the words as I continue to listen.
Time Travelers are a four-man band based in Brooklyn. As reported last time they were here, in August 2012, they got together in 2008 as sophomores at Bates College in Maine. “Stormalong” is the title track from the band’s soon-to-be-released EP, which will be their third to date.