For a few weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of radio pop music and yearning for substance. Somehow substance (dynamic, nuanced, well-crafted songwriting) has not been one of the defining characteristics of commercially successful pop music for decades. Today, I got the sonic equivalent of a medium-rare, pan-seared filet mignon delivered right to my inbox: Alex Winston‘s “Careless,” which you can see and hear below. She’s hitting the Fillmore Tuesday 6/9 supporting Neon Trees, and we will be there.
When “Careless” starts, I first think I’ve accidentally clicked on a track from Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories. Then Winston’s vocals hit, and they are full of a reserved emotion, held back as someone who is trying not to say something they really want to say. Cue the curt little smacks on the high hat, which you get from keeping the cymbals tight-lipped, so to speak. (Kate Bush‘s weirdly Baroque-pop “Army Dreamers” comes to mind, wrought with unspoken emotion.)
At 0:46 the whole song explodes open. A tom-heavy pick up lands in a wide, wet cymbal splash. Vocally, all reservations are abandoned, and the emotion morphs into a strong confidence, with a backing choir that has evaded over-production, keeping the feeling of a bunch of friends singing along. This chorus is truly careless, expansive. This chorus rewrites the rest of the song. Now the reserved verses feel like an inhale instead, with the next exhale just a pre-chorus away. Read More