I don’t really consider myself a hipster.
Sure, I wear glasses, but that’s because I actually, desperately need them to see things. I happen to own three acoustic guitars and a banjo, but that’s because I really use them all for different things. Yeah, I wear more flannel than the average person, but I wear less flannel than the average lumberjack. I swear, I’m not a hipster.
Except when it comes to Eighty Ninety. I was talking about them wayyyyy before it was cool.
They broke onto the indie music scene with the absurdly catchy/heartbreaking “Three Thirty,” which my brother and I loved when we found it with less than 10,000 streams on SoundCloud. If you’re an avid Two Story Melody reader, you might remember them from a piece Jon wrote a while ago; we covered their first single from their soon-coming, long-awaited sophomore EP, “Your Favorite Song” (aptly named, if you give it a listen or three). In an interview where they talked about their roots, their plans, and their songwriting, they actually gave what I still think is the most intriguing piece of songwriting advice we’ve ever gotten from an artist:
Start from a place of forgiveness.
I don’t know – for some reason that’s always stuck with me, and I’m still trying to figure out how to use it well.
Brothers Harper and Abner James make up the core of the band (they have other musicians play with them during live shows), and their sound is unmatched in the industry. Call it “bedroom-arena,” “808s-and-telecasters,” or just “sad-love-songs-that-are-happy-somehow,” but there’s really nothing to compare it too. Their melodies are ridiculously catchy. The vocals are whispery and dream-like, lulling you into the story they’re telling – until heavy, arena telecaster riffs tear through the song like a pack of wolves, leaving you wondering how something so intimate became so loud and crowd-pleasing.
After “Your Favorite Song” and “Dream” (which might be the easiest song to get stuck in your head of all time), the brothers are back with “10K Summer Nights,” momentarily abandoning the synth-pop that came with “Dream”, and opting again for the soft acoustic guitar/vocal emphasis that marked their first EP, Elizabeth. Instantly showing their cards with another melody as brilliant as it is familiar, the song breathes with emotional strain for lost love right from the very first lines.
You said, “Promise you’ll never forget,”
as you lit the last one of your cigarettes.
You were wearing my coat, I could see your breath
through the smoke; I fell in love with a silhouette.
A sweet scene, until you notice that it’s in the past tense – the moment is gone. The lyrics speak of smoke and silhouettes, two things that mark the end of something that used to be bright. This relationship is nothing more than a memory now. A fond memory, but still a memory.
A kick drum comes in for the chorus, giving the story a heartbeat. The melody flows effortlessly from Abner’s voice, but there’s strain there, too.
I would’ve loved you for the rest of my life.
It should be you and me, ten thousand summer nights.
It’s clear that their relationship did not end mutually, or if it did, he regrets it. And as if it wasn’t enough for him to wallow in his sadness, he’s forcing that sadness onto you under the disguise of perfectly layered harmonies, synths, and arena drums. Heartbreaking, and masterfully written and produced. It couldn’t get worse, but it couldn’t get better.
And then it does.
Forever driving with your hand in mine,
chasing the horizon from the county line,
just wishing I could see your face one more time
but for now, I’ll stay up hoping that you find me in your next life.
Geez. It’s the ending of La La Land all over again; Abner makes you swim in what could have been, while you’re already drenched in the knowledge that it will never be. The production swells to a climax, pauses, then flushes back into a final two choruses.
As great as the lyrics are, I’m telling you, there’s no production team doing anything similar to Eighty Ninety. To fully feel the emotional weight of this song, you need to listen to it, because the production is what takes it to the next level. Flawless guitar tones, killer drum samples, and perfectly mixed vocals put “10K Summer Nights” right up there with the duo’s past masterpieces. Their songs always seem to be the perfect soundtrack to a summer night, and now they’ve acknowledged it, providing the perfect soundtrack to ten thousand of them.
And just think – listening to them now will mean you can call yourself a hipster when they inevitably blow up.
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