Is it a dethroning ‘cause there’s four more blurbs? Statheads will argue for years…

Katherine St Asaph: There is a way a city looks walking home alone, after enough drink that everything around you looks and sounds magnified, including your regret. There is a way the sky looks under a bridge when passing taillights hit rust, deepening the light; Sofi’s voice sounds like it was recorded there, standing in the tunnel. The synths sound like she’s running, like footsteps and whirring-by neon, and the kick drum gets louder each verse, like it’s throbbing out of her skin. It’s not just lonely, it’s desolate; not even that M83 riff at the end can make it sound remotely celebratory. I am nearer to 30 than I’d like to admit, farther from any sense of love or career or belonging than I hoped I’d be. The people I think of at night, I wish I wouldn’t; the ambitions I have, I wish would die with dignity; the things I feel are even more deadening knowing they’re millennial bullshit, nothing profound. All this is to say that I am in no place to hear “I love these streets, but they weren’t meant for me to walk” objectively; it’s perfect. The rest is near-perfect too — as coming-down music, “Vermillion” is rivaled only by Fever Ray, and as urban disenchantedness, “The city is big, but I don’t grow with it / I throw on some heels to get in the spirit” is rivaled only by Tychonaut’s “Spike and the Wheel” and “This is not Sex and the City / it’s just loneliness in high heels” — but that one moment, when there’s nothing but solo piano and that line, is indelible.

Danilo Bortoli: “I love the people but they never seem to wanna talk” is pretty much a line Cat Power wrote when she tried to express her feelings over the places where she has been and the people she has met: despair, insecurity and the general sensation of alienation and lack of strength, an outcome of the simple act of existingand (sometimes) getting your heart broken. In Sofi’s case, “Vermillion” shows she has other ways of expressing these perceptions; the song’s Italo-disco background suggests an evocative atmosphere, but its dreamy influences never make it feel torpid or dormant. There is neither escapism nor numbness here. Instead, Sofi’s persona is very conscious of the problems that arouse from a city (and eventually a lover) that doesn’t seem to care about her individuality. Therefore, “Vermillion” seems to encapsulate the universal feeling of unbelonging while still being very realistic about its themes.

Alfred Soto: Moving and well-observed, and de la Torre’s lived-in performance deserves the credits; she includes a ooh-ooh-ooh! bit where she jumps an octave that’s goose-pimply. The Minogue-Robyn-esque arrangement isn’t up to her commitment though; it doesn’t surprise.

Hazel Robinson: Oh my god, some nonsense breathy hipster girl electronica I hadn’t already discovered! And it’s got a BPM above 90 and is a song about feeling out of place in and simultaneously in love with your home city, something I empathise with so incredibly strongly it’s like having my heart gently lasered out of my ribcage. It’s gentle, audiohug class and full of such affectionate sadness I can’t do anything but fall into it.

Anthony Easton: Genuinely heartbreaking (the heart small and tight and refusing to open), and a surrounding aesthetic of almost oppressive production, shoving and pushing until the loneliness gives itself up. The tension and the failure between production and lyrics simmer and the listener waits for the track to explode.

Iain Mew: "Heart on Fire" hasn’t even been released yet and already there’s a track that will fit perfectly alongside it on a soundtrack to internal retreat! This calls for a celebration. No one is invited.

Luisa Lopez: A little eruption in the night, as if stardust woke up in a jazz club. The lyrics are weirdly intimate, a little too specific; listening to this song is, at certain moments, like taking a phone call in the middle of the night from someone you love whose voice is covered in static. The smallness of a solitude made large, turned into the agonizing repetition of noise, compelled into footsteps that form the bass line of what is a real, breathing, living city drained of people but full of stone. God, I can’t wait to dance to this one when I’m falling down sad at 3 AM.

Dorian Sinclair: I’m from a moderately-sized Canadian prairie city, or at least I spent most of my childhood there. I’ve visited a lot of bigger cities though, and there’s a weird feeling you sometimes get in them. A city is a big place, and when it’s not your city, it’s easy to simultaneously feel attracted to but very, very apart from it. There’s a fascination combined with a distance, like watching the world through glass. I haven’t found many songs that capture how I feel in a city at night! But Sofi de la Torre gets it, and pairs it with an instrumental track that perfectly captures and magnifies the impact of the lyrics. It feels like this song might have literally been written for me to walk to in the evening.

Josh Winters: There’s a sense of adventure you experience in the solitary act of going around your town at night. When everyone has gone to bed and all that remains are the lights that illuminate the city, the empty streets feel like yours to conquer with every step you take. It gives you a strong, validating rush of power, but it’s a rush that dies quick once you realize your true place in the grand scheme of things. I would know: I forced myself to do this for about a month last winter, the goal being to get out of my head by getting out of my room. It’s something Sofi de la Torre also knows very well. “The city gets bigger but I don’t grow with it,” she observes with nothing but an insistent 4/4 drum and brooding bass propelling her forward, the destination unclear. The rapturous synths stab like thunderbolts as the sky opens up, revealing the deity that is her sunset, a sight so spectacular in its grandeur. She’s drawn to it with awe and fear, unknowing of the true power it holds. The last minute of “Vermillion” is a thrill ride of its own, one that may feel a bit brief, but like watching a sunset, the allure is in its fleeting nature.

Brad Shoup: I feel like I must assign that ending (that funky trebly figure, the backing vocals throwing themselves in front of the dancefloor cannons) to a narrative, whether it’s some frantic downtown activity getting in our hero’s business, or possibly the sound of de la Torre forcing herself into more fun in case something happens. Otherwise, not drawing it out is a lost opportunity. Before that, there’s lots of fun with pauses; she says she loves the streets and everyone in them, but each time she gets quiet, like she’s hoping the sentiment will finally connect. Those thunderstorm synths will be a fabulous element in the remix, and the theme will be weaponized.

Megan Harrington: Sunset, 10K runs, late night cab rides, photos of your childhood home — there’s a certain hollowness to the medium experience, powerful enough to gut you but too temporary for scar tissue. “Vermillion” calls them all to mind and frames them with the heart-wrenchingly ordinary “I don’t want to feel empty anymore.” It’s an incurable desire, one you can place but you’re helpless to remedy. As much as de la Torre sings to someone specific, she’s also lost in a cosmic rift with her world. Connecting with someone, anyone would tether a woman lost in the familiar but “Vermillion” ends in ache.

Will Adams: “Vermillion” doesn’t just speak to the anxiety of missing someone at night. It speaks to the anxiety of feeling alienated in a large city, when your friends are so close — less than a subway stop away — but you can’t help feel lonely. Each line cuts deeper than the last: “I love these streets,” over a major progression, followed by a repetition of that line over a more unsteady chord progression, and amended: “But they weren’t meant for me to walk.” And even more heartbreaking: “I love the people, but they never seem to want to talk.” All the while, the music expands, the bass throbbing, trance synths pouring in during the second chorus, emphasizing the line about the city growing bigger while Sofi stays the same. “Vermillion” has fleeting moments of euphoria, but they are always tempered by the isolation, anxiety, and emptiness of a broken promise discovered when the big city turned out to glimmer less than it seemed.

Jonathan Bradley: There’s Drake in her cadence — she piles into each line like Aubrey does in, say, “305 to My City” — and as well as fitting it’s perhaps intentional. “I don’t want to feel empty anymore” is urban ennui in classic Nothing Was The Same mold, and Drake is probably mad he’ll never be able to use the line “I throw on some heels to get in the spirit.” The soft sadness, though, the bruised void that is the sunrise-scarred sky of the title, is a subtlety belonging entirely to de la Torre. The pulse is the kind that suggests not vitality but its absence; in this drift through dim-lit city streets, life is elsewhere. Even the guitar flicker that arrives as a false climax is too brief to prevent “Vermillion” from sounding anything but utterly bereft.

Edward Okulicz: “Vermillion” comes from that place where you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel like your face is alienly unlike everyone else’s, where your voice sounds halting and awkward like it does when you hear it on tape, where you feel so self conscious when you’re dancing or singing or just walking that you think you’re not doing it right and you long for the automaticity and freedom that everyone around you seems to have. It’s a place where all the electronic bleeps and soft, friendly beats can’t make that dancefloor or pub or whatever a place of easy comfort, even around your own people. I feel like she’s singing it to me, empathising with me, telling me that everyone feels like this sometimes and it’s okay to feel like you have to try so damned hard to fit even in the place you feel the most comfortable. “Vermillion” is a paean to a hard-to-define feeling of emotional displacement, but it’s also a song of strength and self-awareness. Two verses, two choruses, a brief wonky freak-out, and where Robyn might have put in a victory lap final chorus that goes up another gear like it does halfway in, “Vermillion” ends there having made no statement of resolution, and it’s perfectly fitting. I’ve loved many a three minute pop song for how it gives me a glimpse of feelings I don’t really have, but rarely does a three minute pop song take the weird feelings I do have and sound like it justifies them.

[Read, comment and vote on The Singles Jukebox ]

A song like this invites the personal, but I refrained from doing it here because a) I figured other writers would capture why it cuts so deep better (they did) and b) I’m planning on working into a larger piece. Still, it’s damn perfect, and I listened to it seventeen times in a row on the train as I left New York.




I almost met Carly Rae Jepsen last night. I could have met Carly Rae Jepsen last night. I had the chance, possibly two, possibly three. And I didn’t take it.

The company I’ve been working for this summer manages Walk The Moon, a competent and likable enough indie pop group from Ohio. Last…

omg, i stop to read it till you said MAGIC MAN IS BORING ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Credit where it’s due: they put on a great show and they seem to be one of those bands who make more sense to me live (I file Fitz and the Tantrums in this category, for example). Their album isn’t bad, per se, but I feel like there are so many acts that do what they’re trying to do but better and more interestingly.

I almost met Carly Rae Jepsen last night. I could have met Carly Rae Jepsen last night. I had the chance, possibly two, possibly three. And I didn’t take it.

The company I’ve been working for this summer manages Walk The Moon, a competent and likable enough indie pop group from Ohio. Last night they were supporting Panic! At the Disco at Madison Square Garden Theater, and the company got tickets for my co-workers and me. I arrived early and sat in my assigned seat; my co-workers trickled in throughout the night. First up was Magic Man (whose recent debut record I found totally boring and totally derivative), and next was Walk The Moon (who put on an great set that endeared me to them, despite the lead singer sporting a mullet).

And then, after Walk the Moon left the stage, the lights went up, and I saw three people walking up the aisle looking for their seats. The person in the middle had a VIP pass around her neck, and had an eerily familiar, youthful face framed by light brown bangs. My eyes widened; I knew exactly who it was. It couldn’t be. What would she be doing at a Panic! concert? And why would she come out to the general audience to watch them? And why did no one else in the quite young crowd notice her? My heart rate doubled as she and her two pals — a woman who sort of resembled her, and a taller, burly man who I suspected was her boyfriend — made their way to the seats: exactly two rows in front of me.

I wanted so badly to talk to her, to tell her that I love her, and that I loved her album, and I love her artistry. I wanted to take a picture with her, so I could always remember that night. As my co-workers and I schemed of how to approach her when the concert ended, a series of fears ran through my mind: 1) what if it was not Carly, and I ended up weirding out an innocent woman; 2) what if her maybe-boyfriend didn’t want me talking to her and making a scene around all these people; 3) what if she left before I had the chance to talk to her. The fears cycled through in a sequence, as they usually do when I am facing a personal challenge. Fortunately, I took care of the first fear, and craftily; I spotted the Carly-maybe taking an Instagram photo of the stage. I whipped out my phone and searched her profile on Instagram. Sure enough, it was her. The second fear subsided over time — what would he do, rough me up? — but the third was the most persistent. Panic! At the Disco played for an agonizing eighty minutes, and after each song I tensed up, worried that Carly and her cohort would leave the show early. There was no use trying to talk to her in between songs. There was not enough time, it was too loud, and it would have been rude to distract her from the concert and her maybe-boyfriend. But if I could catch her right as the concert ended and say what I wanted to say without making a scene…

Panic! returned for a two-song encore. The crowd screamed when Brendon Urie announced that the last number would be their biggest hit, “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies.” I screamed along as well, though that had nothing to do with the song; I knew it was the last song, and within minutes I would need to spring into action, my phone’s camera at the ready, the lines rehearsed over and over in my head (“Hi, uh, Carly? I just wanted to say I’m a big fan and I love you so much… Do you mind if I take a photo with you? I totally understand if not, I know it’s really crowded…”). I shivered with anxiety. I danced awkwardly to the music, trying to expend the nervous energy. And then, as Brendon, wearing nothing but skin-tight leather pants, launched into the last chorus, I saw Carly Rae Jepsen, her friend, and her maybe-boyfriend swiftly walk toward the aisle. I saw them preparing to go. I was standing at the end of the row, ready to give chase. My eyes followed them to the aisle. I hesitated, and only as they started to walk down the steps did I half-heartedly run after them for just a few paces, yelling, “Carly!” at a volume so trumped by the screaming fans and Brendon’s wailing that I barely heard myself say it. I was too late: within seconds, Carly Rae Jepsen had disappeared into the throng, well on her way back to the exclusive backstage area.

When the lights came up, I slumped down in my seat. My friends were gushing over the show; they saw my expression and realized that she’d gone. They didn’t quite know how to treat the situation; they alternated between sour grapes appeals (“She probably sucks, anyway!”) and tough love (“You were right there!”) and sincere consoling (“That sucks”; “I’m so sorry”). I couldn’t hide how heartbroken I was. With each of their attempts to connect, I tried to deflect with a joke; each time I would just end up staring into the middle distance, wondering what I had just done, hating myself over and over again. 

It felt oddly familiar, the sense of disappointment, but never had it felt so strong. It was a cold reminder of a problem I feel I’ve had for a long time; being too shy to do something for myself, especially when that involves interacting with another person. Asking someone on a date; asking for help on a project or life; being honest if something is troubling me; saying hi to a person I admire. When this happens, I hide that shyness with a veneer of conscientiousness. I’m just being considerate, is all: I don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable; they probably don’t want to talk to me; she just wants to enjoy a concert and not be swarmed by fans. But being stopped by my own lack of courage really hit hard that night, and had me fearing that this problem will stay with me for a long time; that I’ll be too shy to ask someone to be in a relationship, or contact venues to perform in, or ask someone for a job. It feels dramatic to envision these scenarios, but sitting in that seat, twisting up my mouth as the security guard asked me to leave, I realized that this problem, for the first time, had gotten in the way of something I really, really wanted.

London Grammar - Hey Now (Sasha Remix)

I still haven’t gotten into London Grammar’s original stuff, either because of laziness or because I prefer Hannah Reid’s gorgeous voice in dance settings (like this remix, or “Help My Lose My Mind”). Sasha’s remix is far more subdued than the more popular rendering by Arty, and it’s more effective for it. Give the build some patience, and you’re rewarded with a sublime breakdown that leads into a drop that is intermittently glitchy, but mostly lush.

Songs That I Like in 2014: A Memorandum

Well, we’re 57.8% through the year, so it seems like the perfect time to list out some songs that I like enough to put on a running year-end playlist. Listed alphabetically by artist, just to keep you guessing ;)))

  1. Ace Wilder - Busy Doin’ Nothin’
  2. Alex Banks ft. Elizabeth Burnholz - Be the One
  3. Alexandra Stan - Cherry Pop
  4. Ariana Grande ft. Zedd - Break Free
  5. Betty Who - Heartbreak Dream
  6. Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne - Rather Be (Jack LNDN Remix)
  7. Coldplay - A Sky Full of Stars
  8. Colony House - Lose Control
  9. Deadmau5 ft. Colleen D’Agostino - Seeya
  10. Duke Dumont ft. Kelli-Leigh - I Got U
  11. Foster the People - Coming of Age
  12. Foxes - Let Go For Tonight (High Contrast Remix)
  13. Future ft. Pharrell, Pusha T & Casino - Move That Dope
  14. GRL - Show Me What You Got
  15. Hundred Waters - Out Alee
  16. Kate Boy - Self Control
  17. Katy B - Blue Eyes
  18. Kira Isabella - Quarterback
  19. Lana Del Rey - Brooklyn Baby
  20. LIZ - Turn Around
  21. Monarchy - Living Without You
  22. Ms. D - My Pen
  23. Neon Jungle - Braveheart
  24. Neon Trees - Sleeping With a Friend
  25. Paramore - Ain’t It Fun
  26. Polly Scattergood - Subsequently Lost
  27. RAC ft. Body Language - Ello Ello
  28. The Raveonettes - Summer Ends
  29. Rita Ora - I Will Never Let You Down
  30. Röyksopp & Robyn - Sayit
  31. Sakanaction - Eureka
  32. Seven Lions ft. Kerli - Worlds Apart
  33. Softengine - Something Better
  34. SOHN - Artifice
  35. Tiësto & Hardwell ft. Matthew Koma - Written In Reverse
  36. Tokyo Police Club - Miserable
  37. Vic Mensa - Down On My Luck
  38. Victoria Duffield - More Than Friends
  39. Warpaint - Drive
  40. Yelle - Bouquet Final