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The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Music Monday: "The Beautiful Game" by RAC feat. St. Lucia

A month ago, I published my Summer 2017 Playlist, and I think it turned out pretty well, all things considered. Except for one thing: the perfect song for a Summer 2017 Playlist came out two weeks after I published that. I hate it when stuff like that happens, except we got a great song out of it, so it’s hard to be too mad about it.

RAC is the stage name of André Allen Anjos; it used to be an actual group of musicians under the full name “Remix Artist Collective”, but as far as I can tell, both of those things are in the past. Now it’s just one guy and three letters. I started listening to them/him (I’m always confused on which pronoun to use for “bands” comprised of one person) in 2014, after they/he released the album Strangers. That wound up being one of my favorite albums of the year.*

*Although, surprisingly, nothing from it has found it’s way onto one of my playlists yet. Maybe someday…

I waited for the follow-up anxiously. In 2015, RAC started releasing some new songs once a month, with the intent to have a 12-song album at the end of the year completed, but that trailed off after six songs in seven months. Finally, a full album was announced along with the debut single “This Song” featuring Rostam, which was a promising start. Three more songs would be released in the lead-up to the release of EGO last Friday. After a couple of listens, it’s probably one of my favorite releases of the year so far, but I want to focus on the third song that same out pre-release:

“The Beautiful Game” (featuring St. Lucia)

I was a little underwhelmed by the first collaboration between these two. St. Lucia and RAC are two of my favorite artists/bands*, but “Ready For It” was outshone by so many other songs from Strangers. “The Beautiful Game” works so much better, thankfully. From its opening, bouncing bass notes, it grabs your attention with an instantly distinct sound and builds anticipation for what’s coming. From there, it’s a slow layering of guitar, drums and vocals from Jean-Philip Grobler, and more guitar accents (I especially love these little whammy bar hits, which play into a larger, sort of off-kilterness of the song in contrast with how tightly it’s structured and orchestrated) into a chilled groove that feels perfect for a summer song and made me instantly regret not being able to include it on my list.

It’s no-nonsense though, jumping into the chorus around the forty-second mark. And what a chorus it is. Patti Beranek, the other vocalist of St. Luica (and Jean-Philip’s wife, which is kinda sorta significant here) jumps in, and crescendoing multi-voice choruses are always great in my book. The words are memorable, especially their delivery, with almost a pause between the syllables of the last words in the first two lines. It’s just strange enough to catch your attention and stick in your mind.

To mark the start of the second verse, we get a slightly-detuned piano, another unusual accent that catches your attention. Then we get the vocals, with Jean-Philip and Patti trading off on “It’s too fast/It’s too slow”, which I really like for reasons that I can’t fully articulate other than it’s a really cute symmetry between a married couple (of course, in the opening verse, we get the line “But symmetry looks good on you”, which makes this feel like a tie-in). The interplay of their vocals is great; “Ready For It” in comparison feels really disconnected. “The Beautiful Game” in contrast feels like something sung between the couple of a rom-com, and just makes you feel really happy as a result.

More layering of synths happens throughout the second verse as it builds up to that fantastic chorus again. It leads into a bridge of “oohs”, a shimmery synth riff, and a riff from the super-tight marimba-sounding synth that came in during the back half of in verse two, which again gets at the sort of contrast I mentioned between sounding “wobbly” and incredibly balanced.

And then, we get the spacey, slowed-down bridge that offers a nice break, and just as inevitably leads into the song’s big finish. Everything gets brought in for the finally; a new synth sound, vocal samples, all the previous stuff, en route to a final repeat of the full chorus. And then there’s the final chorus repeat that starts stripping parts out of the dense orchestration until it’s mostly just the two vocalists, drums, bass, and a few accent parts. And then, the song slowly works into a fade-out, shedding parts as it works into an airy sound, then a new guitar riff that transitions into the next song on the album (which I found out on Friday is the also-fantastic “Johnny Cash” featuring Scavenger Hunt, but maybe that’s a story for another day).

Something about “The Beautiful Game” feels cinematic in it’s grand lusciousness and contrasts. Add in the chemistry between the vocalists and you can easily conjure up an entire visual scene. That and the feelings it brings up, combined with the relaxed groove at the center, makes it feel like a perfect song for a summer day, the perfect compliment of good feelings to go with any variety of summery activities.