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?
It’s been a good year for warped R&B made entirely by skinny European guys, as artists like James Blake, Lapalux, and Vondelpark have all released good to great records that put soulful vocals through the sonic woodchipper. But judging by my iTunes play count, the one I’ve returned to more than any other is “Left Alone,” a collaboration between Australian producer Flume (a.k.a. Harley Streten) and his fellow countryman, Chet Faker (a.k.a. Nick Murphy), from Flume’s self-titled, remarkably self-assured debut.
To be clear, I have no idea what Faker is singing about. Not only does his mumble-croon suggest a guy who grew up loving Stone Temple Pilots before realizing he also dug Blackstreet, even reading the lyrics tells me nothing. (“Cannot swallow blue found vow / More than that my sleep is wild” is purely phonetic gibberish.) That mystery is partly what keeps me coming back, but mostly it’s just the feeling. As Streten piles synth-pad swells on top of his hazy beat, Faker’s voice rises to a desperate yowl, backed by a chorus of his own multi-tracked falsettos, while a simplistic keyboard line beeps throughout like an erratic heart monitor. (Fans of TV On The Radio’s glitchy spirituals should love it.) It’s one of the most soulful songs of the year, and it was made by two Australian kids with computers. That’s 2013 to me.