In the melodic “What We Breathe In,” The Chordaes elevate their sound to a level that was only teased at in 2016’s Touch the Ground while staying true to the aesthetic that brought them out of the woodwork and into the underground spotlight some three years ago. Leo Sawikin’s folk syndicate are sounding tighter than they ever have in the past here, abandoning hesitations that had perhaps hindered their melodies from being the larger than life elements they are in this single, and finding new and exciting ways to put together harmonies that aren’t as easy to categorize by normal genre parameters as they are to become addicted to. The Chordaes hold nothing back from us in “What We Breathe In,”
The framework of this track is very experimental, but the beat that the percussion churns out is actually pretty conventional and steady. There’s no outrageous breakaway from the rhythm that we start off with, but there’s a slight shift towards the urgent as we move into the final chorus of the song. I like that the drums are as prominent in the mix as any of the melodic components are, but more importantly than that, there’s nothing getting between us and their sly grooves. If it’s zero-filler alternative music that drives you wild, “What We Breathe In” and the EP it was cut from should be considered required listening when assembling a list of end of the year recordings that deserve a second look.
“What We Breathe In” has a string centerpiece that stands out among even the most divinely conceived, guitar-powered compositions that I’ve had the chance to analyze in 2019, but it isn’t so intense a focus that it dwarfs the other melodic facets in the master mix – the exact opposite, actually. By making the strings the bedrock beneath the lyrical strike at the top of the track, there’s as much for us to appreciate in the instrumental half of the harmony as there is the vocal itself. This is a single defined by its dualities, and in an era that has afforded us a lot of one-note pop songs not even slightly as engaging as this track is, it’s all the more a special treat.
“What We Breathe In.” has something here for audiences of all tastes – shades of folk are crossed with fundamental pop standards, rock n’ roll with and classically-influenced integrity of songcraft that is all too uncommon to find nowadays. It’s a colorful cocktail that is almost guaranteed to leave you as intoxicated as you are inspired by the message behind the narrative in its lyrics, and for those who have been hoping to hear The Chordaes at their full potential, this just might be as close as one could get without actually seeing them live.