A long time ago I decided it was a profligate task to simply merge music properties and treat singular attributes as interchangeable elements. Imagine that drummer from Talons smashing skins behind the melodic patience of Jason Molina. Fantasy bands existing purely on imaginative stages. Music isn't science. And it's not a recipe either. There's more to the whole process than simply taking measurable quantities of particular elements you enjoy and working out some form of logical arrangement.
Similarly, I've always purposefully avoided comparing music, instead attempting to take everything on it's own isolated measure. A principle most likely earned from those endlessly operating press bots that take on the arduous task of filling my inbox everyday with over-stretched references and/or barely recognisable merged attributes — "Michael Stipe's lyrical playfulness with the audacity of a young Black Key".
All that said, I'm sure my love of Singles is at least partly because of a connection my mind creates between this and one of two of my favourite bands of all time — Royal Headache and The Hold Steady.
I care little for the music of Royal Headache or The Hold Steady. That is, the drums and guitars and tambourines and whatever is being played behind the curtain. No disrespect intended, it's just our ears transport music to that unmanned device in our heart/mind in different manners. And I've spent years training the filtering abilities of that particular mechanism, taking the compositions as a requirement, but only a platform for the vocal delivery. And at the pinnacle of that pile is the blunt determination of Craig Finn and the wide-ranging passion of Shogun.
Whilst taking three isolated approaches to their craft — Finn, Shogun and Future Islands vocalist, Samuel T. Herring, are all bound by a unified approach to conviction. They give a shit. Furthermore, they're overwhelmed by a requirement to present their shit-giving desires, proudly displayed in varying degrees of compassion.
Shogun strangles out each lyric, with every sentence equally valued in significance. Finn stands on the pulpit of life experience, points down as us and tells us how it has been before, how it is now and how it always will be. Amen.
Herring switches between two similarly arranged delivery methods. He's calm and matter-of-fact. "People change, even though some people never do". Shrugging in the general direction of Finn, who nods in agreeance. Neither are invested in the wasteful energy of changing the world. Both know it's a lost cause.
But there is an investment in the everyday. The relationships. The love. The wanting. The associated pain of all those activities. "That's cuz I always know, she's always coming home". A line we could all imagine passing the tonsils of the Royal Headache frontman. Expressed as a final proclamation of hope, as well as a loving declaration of commitment.
The source of my love of this album is overly specific and personal. I'll give you that one. But it doesn't change the fact that Singles is an amazing piece of work. Heartfelt, assertive and, above all, original. My comparisons to other entities obviously dilutes the legitimacy of that last characteristic, but really, the combination of emotion and pop sharpness here is absolutely enthralling. The composition precision would sound too disconnected and impersonal, without the bleakly delivered lyrics. And the converse is true also, whereby those words would become lost in themselves, all closed off and insular, without all that danceable dorkiness. A balance that not only indadvertedly captures the personalities of two of my favourite lyricists of all time, but also stands on it's own two feet — proud to operate in a middle ground between compassionate and commandment, lighthearted and loneliness, heartache and hedonism. A complex mix of big picture visions and quotidian details, all neatly packaged within magnificently simplified pop parameters.