I’ve been sitting with this track for a good month now and found it pretty difficult to construct logical, legible sentences to describe just exactly how intensely it has rocked me to the core. Indie music is experiencing a renaissance unlike any other at the moment; on one end you’ve got alt-country kids like Night Beds rolling out of the darkness with impeccable portraits of lament and self-doubt, while at the other pole, jerky math-rock bands like Foals have graduated to full-blown metal riffage because they feel like they’ve earned it. In fact, its colliding with the mainstream at such a consistent rate that once you peel off the top layer of Biebers, Brunos and boy bands, what’s happening underneath is starting to look a lot like the news feed on the music blogs we grew up with. This means the capacity to be surprised or enthused by a new piece of music from the ever-growing genre, whether that be in the form of electronic bleeps, strummed chords or hip-hop beats, is significantly diminished. We already heard your band when it was called The Postal Service. We liked this back when it was called The Futureheads. Et cetera. I don’t think it’s a grand statement to say that I’ve absorbed more of this stuff than the average music lover. Which is precisely why when I tell you that you absolutely have to stop what you’re doing and listen to Autre Ne Veut, you better believe I mean it.
We’ve had a lot of talk on this site lately about artists who work really hard on crafting a musical ‘persona’, whether that be a look or a sound or a back story, and then promptly ditch it to go onto an idea that actually becomes their saving grace. This includes guys like Fyfe on a minor scale but can be bumped all the way up to Lana Del Rey or Lady Gaga. By all accounts, the one-man genius behind Autre Ne Veut – French (I hope) for ‘I think of none other’ – has done a bit of a turn from recalling the slink of D’Angelo on his debut and going hell-for-leather on his follow-up, Anxiety, which sounds like what happens when you take every Prince scream from every song ever and re-imagine it for the earbud generation. All of those are sweeping generalisations to help describe something I find quite impossible to pigeonhole and even more difficult to stop playing. ‘Play By Play’ was not the first single to be released from Anxiety, but it’s surely the best. A twisted, hand-wringing trip through classic soul, throbbing electronics and post-rock, all-in aesthetic, ‘Play By Play’ is so emotionally involving that you’ll feel like you need to lie down after listening to it. It careens wildly from half-time jams to four-on-the-floor pumping, layering crystal clear, superbly executed vocals and synth parts on top of each other to the point of them almost being unbearable before bursting into flames all over the place. And it rains, that fire. For at least three minutes.
I’ve had to review albums – entire albums – in the last six months that have fewer ideas in them than this five minutes. It’s taken the best of ’80s without being kitsch about it, the passion of the ’90s without lapsing into throwback and the technological innovations of the new millennium – the really cool, cutting edge ones – without letting them obscure the melody. And the melody here, whichever one you choose to latch onto once they start flying thick and fast, deserve to be the main focus. It would be overdone, you know, in the Antony & The Jonhsons sense, if it wasn’t so goddamn compelling. From the two minute mark, when it becomes the companion piece to Usher’s ‘Climax’ mixed with an entire choir worth of glitter-drenched pathos, it’s unstoppable. Sometimes there is just a song that you have to show everyone, because it really is fucking amazing.
This is it.
Autre Ne Veut – ‘Play By Play’