A lot of people view ‘pop’ music as formulaic: an overly systematic process constantly churning out music that all seems to sound the same. But I’d argue that pop music’s structural foundations actually force an artist to become more creative. It may seem paradoxical, but I feel that there is something about setting limits that demands musical and lyrical ingenuity from artists who have to hook your ear within the boundaries of a ‘pop’ song. To me, that’s part of the beauty of pop music. In “Roaming Hearts,” indie super-group Shasta does just this. Their new song is ‘pop’ in the best ways, with laid-back but insightful vocals, frequent but not oppressive synth loops, and precisely placed instrumentation that goes well with a more experimental sound.
Like all the best indie bands, Shasta began…in an alley. Micayla Grace (who you’ll remember from the punk band Bleached or playing bass for Charli XCX and Albert Hammond Jr.) and Jennifer Duardo met in the Mission District of San Francisco, quickly striking up a musical partnership that would grow to include Cecilia Della Peruti (who is known also as Gothic Tropic and has toured with Beck, BØRNS, and Charli XCX) and Jon Sortland (who plays drums for The Shins). Shasta is a dream come true for indie-lovers. The result of this partnership is a wonderful sound that combines the best of all four artists to create a distinct sound that captures the timeless essence of California cool.
While the sound of “Roaming Hearts” is carefree and sunny thanks to the dreamy synths and groovy drums and guitars, the lyrics cut like a knife. “With open eyes I’m alone again,” Grace sings, “I will try to pass the time / when you’re not by my side.” Grace’s vocals grow more aching as she continues on to sing about her loneliness and regrets. You’d expect her to descend into a pit of despair, but the chorus ends with triumph as she joyfully cries out, “Roaming hearts!”. This refreshing take on heartache is a cathartic release for both the artists the listeners—you just can’t help but join Grace as she dances and sings, reveling in the roller-coaster ride that is her relationship.
After the second chorus, the synth is stripped away and Grace is accompanied only by drums and a guitar as she considers steering the happy-go-lucky song towards more “serious” topics like “devotion”. It’s a welcome vibe check that reminds you of the extremely personal nature of the lyrics, but as soon as the synth returns and the tempo picks back up, it’s clear that “Shasta just wants you to dance” (as they promise on their website).
Shasta’s “Roaming Hearts” is a song layered with duality. It’s an intimate song about heartbreak that insists on remaining chilled-out. It has a timeless sound that incorporates both experimental and traditional harmonies and instrumentation. This is what makes it so effective and, in my opinion, one of the best songs you’ll hear this summer.