I’ve always hated bands that release an album to some success and follow it up with a record that’s more or less the same in its bare bones both lyrically and musically, but features a much more pronounced volume than what their previous work had contained. You can’t make something louder and consider it creative growth; it’s cheap, easy and doesn’t do much to ensure your longevity in this business. Young artists looking for guidance should follow the lead of The Chordaes, who last year released a much anticipated follow up to their debut full length album Touch the Ground, an extended play titled In Itinere, which not only ushered in a number of evolutionary changes for the band, but also highlighted all of the key themes that made their initial offering so easy to get into.
The primary single from In Itinere, “California,” is climbing through the indie ranks this summer at rapid speed, and it isn’t because it’s a more amplified version of “What Do You Want From Me,” the song that brought The Chordaes into the public fold for most of us following the New York scene in the last few years. Accented with a laid back vocal and dexterous conducting of the strings, “California” slickly invokes sentimental vibes alongside reflective ones to make a benevolent environment that circles us like a shark hunting its prey in the first stanza before devouring us during the chorus. The Chordaes aren’t trapping us in their gaze; they’re inviting us into their trance and letting the music finish us off.
The tonal balance of “California” is one that is sadly becoming all too sparse in pop music lately. So many artists are illiterately stabbing at existentialism and self-absorbed subject matter and classifying it as woke contemplations, but few are giving us much more than one perspective to observe things from. The Chordaes don’t stumble into megalomania, and they make a serious effort to avoid trite marketing devices to appeal to people’s pseudo intellectualism. “California” could have been recorded under a much more predictable premise sonically, but the band resisted the urge to splurge and we, the listeners, are the ones to benefit.
Creating a song that is mellow and yet still full of lively energy isn’t as easy as some of the greats have made it seem. We can listen to a track like this and take away from it the amiable tone of wonderment that is created by the lyrics, or we could just as well become magnetized to the conflicting melancholy in the song’s music that arguably makes “California” such a brilliant listen. When a band can create music that is as multidimensional as this is, I try not to pick at it too hard critically. This kind of music is, in essence, the basic definition of art; totally open to individualized interpretation.
The Chordaes left plenty of room to stretch out with In Itinere, and smart money says that “California” is likely just a glimpse of what’s to come for this group. As provocative and enthralling as their music is, the exotic undercurrent of their present style leads me to believe that there’s a lot more experimentation left to be done in their upcoming work, which hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to hear. Their time is now, and I must say, what an awesome time it is.