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“Just for Now” by Michael Crean: An Ethereal Plea for Intimacy

MCC

I’ve always loved a certain kind of piano balladry: not the clumsy, over-earnest kind performed by the Lewis Capaldis of the world, but something more delicate and ethereal. These sorts of songs stray from the traditional pop chords and structure, building to a shimmering climax or disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived. Thom Yorke is a master of the form, both solo (“Unmade,” the live version of “Dawn Chorus”) and as a member of Radiohead (“Pyramid Song,” “True Love Waits”); there’s also White Chalk-era PJ Harvey and Ruins-era Grouper.

In the same vein, we have “Just for Now,” a new song where English singer-songwriter Michael Crean proves his chops as an ethereal balladeer. The song begins with a stately, one-chord piano pulse, sounding curiously far-off: it’s as though you see a person’s silhouette off in the distance, pacing up and down the horizon. Electronic treatments, as well as a good old-fashioned sustain pedal, makes the notes blur into each other, emphasizing the lingering undertones of sound behind every press of the keys.

Crean’s voice is lovely in a way that’s not entirely dissimilar to Thom Yorke – he sings with a similar tenderness, and he occasionally bends his notes in a similarly jazzy way. But Crean also remembers something that mere imitators forget: he sings with power. He projects. Rather than staying in a generically pretty head voice, he lets his voice ebb and flow with the song, and he sounds perfectly in his element. As “Just for Now”’s strings bubble to a boil around him, his voice similarly builds in power until he’s belting from his chest. It may sound obvious when it’s written out like this, but in the moment it lands with an exhilarating impact.

The lyrics resonate, as well. Written and recorded in Crean’s shed when he was locked down in 2021, “Just for Now” describes a desire for physical intimacy and peace of mind – two things that are in very short supply during lockdown. “Feel me,” he murmurs, before urging his partner to “breathe into the sky” as they metaphorically float away. The song’s title suggests that this intimacy is only temporary, as is the inner peace that comes with it. But that only makes those brief, blissful moments that much more impactful, and “Just for Now” carries with it the power of a small epiphany.

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