I first heard this song on a long drive back sometime this spring. From where, I don’t remember, but I was heading in some direction on the Turnpike, and when I drive the those kinds of highways, I often like to listen to the radio. Whatever market it is, I just pass the time by sipping coffee and scanning the stations. So much through the midstate is country or Christian or talk radio. I wind up listening to NPR a lot, and on this particular occasion, the program had an interview with PHOX and played their single “Slow Motion.”
I enjoyed it – her voice especially, and that banjo riff – and then I found myself wondering about all the little bands out there with their new, derivative sounds, and could this one cut through the noise? It wasn’t until this played during a set change at a local rock show last night and I recognized the hook that I remembered them. In the past two days, I’ve played it about eight times.
From the creator’s perspective, you always strive for your work to be memorable. In the highest of daydreams, your work connects to others in a way that inspires them, that heals them, that gives them better perspective to understand the world or their lives or our times. But this goal is also really flexible. Just giving someone an enjoyable few minutes is success. The next listen, or the next listener, becomes a better marker for how well the work connects overall. That lasting potential is the elusive ingredient.
I’m feeling a weird listener’s guilt for enjoying this song earlier and then not checking out the band further, as is my usual mode of finding new music and enjoying artists. But, since it came back around and I recognized it, I’d say PHOX did their job. Tough to not like that hook. I’ve decided it’s a sweet new tune to kick off a week of muggy, wet summer, something to interrupt the daily doldrums and constant mental maladies. It is not quite happy, but it is perceptive and wandering and patient, and full of air and lightness.
I’m surprised I like this. I don’t love this formula. And I usually hate whistling in songs. Like really hate it. It’s kitschy as hell. But I don’t mind it here, it works – maybe because it’s followed by such a heavy, up-front bass, and the banjo is charming, and the oboe solo (!!!) before the bridge is pretty magnificent and rich and unexpected. I really appreciate the fullness this song builds to, and the skill required to make it sound cohesive with so much going on isn’t nothing. Bands like this can get so overanxious and obnoxious with too many elements weaving in and out of another, but this builds really well, like a long and winding road, with honeysuckle vocals and blue bonnet bells dotting the path.
I checked out some of their live material on YouTube and found it really interesting. Better playing than expected, and a bluesy vibe lurking under the strings. While that interest may rise and fall, or pass with time and other surprises, I feel it is worth recognition, if just the lesson: one simple – albeit instrumentally complex! – song can be heard once and promptly forgotten for a myriad of reasons, and then catch you off-guard as a perfect fit. No matter how long it lasts.
“Everything I do, I do in slow motion
I don’t know what to say
Everywhere I fall, don’t know name or location
Baby, I’ll just find my way, I’ll find it
Heavy is my sleeping, terror is my dreaming
While you are pretty through the night
You may taste the salt that rolls off my cheekbone
But you don’t know why I cry.”