I needed to hear little more than the distorted drumbeat of the song’s opening seconds to suspect impending goodness; by the time a chimey synth line is added on top (0:04) and a fuzzy bass underneath (0:12), I am all on board. On the one hand yes the intro is just 20 instrumental seconds, the song hasn’t really even started yet; on the other hand, sometimes, damn it all, you can judge the book by the cover. No one who puts together this effortlessly terrific an introduction is going to attach it to a mediocre song. It would unbalance the universe.
Ok so the introduction also lays the table for the first of the song’s two principle compositional enticements, which is the melody’s ongoing de-emphasis of the downbeat (i.e., the first beat of the measure). Check it out: the chimey synth starts up a half beat in front of the first beat, while the verse melody starts a half beat after the first beat, and later lines pick up a half beat before the measure’s last beat. And never mind whether any of this registers as a thing to you as a word description, the larger point is that all this shiftiness around the beat makes for a compelling listen, and renders the chorus (which at last begins right on the first beat; e.g., 0:56) all the more satisfying.
The second enticement is the melody’s relentless downward motion. After the melody at the beginning of the verse repeats once, to catch your attention, all melodic movement in the verse is downward from there. The chorus, likewise, is a descending melody, repeated once. This has a kind of primal appeal, much the same as the satisfaction of watching a ball you toss up in the air return back to your waiting hands.
TW Walsh is a musician and audio engineer who was last featured on Fingertips in 2011; you can read that entry for more biographical background. But know too that since then he suffered for a year and a half with a debilitating disease that was diagnosed inconclusively as chronic fatigue syndrome. Then, when he began to feel somewhat better, he broke his elbow. His 2011 album had been called Songs of Pain and Leisure. “Young Rebels” is the third track on his new album Fruitless Research, which arrives next month via Graveface Records, and was produced in collaboration with the Shins’ Yuuki Matthews (who has worked previously with Sufjan Stevens, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, and David Bazan, among others).