In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: What’s one of your favorite tracks so far this year?
Back in February, my review of Frightened Rabbit’s excellent fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, noted the band’s felicity with transforming the sad into the anthemic. Nowhere is that more apparent than the final 90 seconds of “Dead Now,” when frontman Scott Hutchison makes the refrain “There’s something wrong with me” an almost joyful, take-me-as-I-am declaration of self. He’s not puffing himself up, either: “There’s something wrong with me,” he sings, “and it reads nothing like poetry.” He’s not even claiming to be a tortured artist—just a run-of-the-mill screw-up like everyone else.
“Dead Now” builds to that catharsis, beginning with a minimal, mechanical beat and airy guitar as Hutchison proclaims himself “dead now” with comparisons to a broken boxer, the elderly, and a lifeless husk. “I’m dead now can you hear the relief / as life’s belligerent symphonies finally cease?” It sounds insufferably miserablist, yes, but “Dead Now” picks up steam with each verse, as subtle additions move the song from that early minimalism to a robust crescendo. A guitar solo follows the second verse and segues into keyboard-laced expanse, where the preceding dourness steps into sunlight. Even as Hutchison repeatedly proclaims there’s something wrong with him, it’s hard not to hear the whole package as secretly optimistic. “Will you love me in spite of these tics and inconsistencies?” he asks. Inside every cynic beats the heart of an optimist bruised by experience—Hutchison claims he’s “dead now,” but his music betrays his liveliness.