The best laid schemes of mice and men right? It’s a cliche I didn’t fully understand until yesterday when, assuming something was happening long-term, an email landed in my inbox to shatter that reality and offer up an alternative filled with the kind of insecurity and uncertainty that would have made me queezy two days ago. Music has an important role to fulfil in times like these, when everything seems to be collapsing around you but, in all probability, isn’t. There are the tracks that we soak in, mired in self-doubt and uncontrollably angsty thoughts, but which make us feel more appropriate for harbouring these sentiments in the first place so we crank them up to 11 and let it all breathe. There are the tracks that we turn to in an attempt to pull ourselves out of that swampy soup of unease, high on the synth and happy vocals levels and which, almost inevitably, precipitate a decline into the first category of emotion when we can’t properly engage with them like we used to when things were normal. Finally, there are the tracks that, for one reason or another, have not particularly appealed before but now sound as though they were written to intricately describe every crease and crevice of our misfortune. Terraplane Sun – a band I only heard about for the first time yesterday – and their track ‘Get Me Golden’ are of this latter category.
The name irks me in the first instance; it rolls off the tongue like nothing, instead bunching up between the tongue and palate and requiring real effort to actually be produced as sound. That said, once it is said, the hard part of digging ‘Terraplane Sun’ is in the rearview. The band, a five-piece from Venice, California, one of which a friend here in New York actually knows, thus the recommendation, is easy to like. ‘Inoffensive’ is normally a term reserved for derision but in this case, it is one of the first things about Terraplane Sun that recommended them to me. Ben Rothbard’s vocals are the least traditional element in the blues/rock mix but even then, are made familiar by obvious referents. With only a day of analysis behind me, I’d suggest the slightly-nasal voice that inhabits ‘Get Me Golden’ is somewhere at the intersection of Empire Of The Sun’s Luke Steele, the more psychedelic sounds of Alt-J’s Joe Newman and the vocalist of every blues/rock band you’ve ever loved, from Mumford to The Black Keys and everywhere in between. My inside source suggested that the band played a residency at The Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas a couple of years back and though I asked why at the time, the answer is obvious. It’s the same reason Citibank signed on this song for a national advertising campaign, it was featured in the remake of ’21 Jump Street’ and the lads inked a deal with EMI/Universal this past Friday: they’re good.
They might not be as good as some of those bands, mentioned above, that are real trailblazers for their respective movements and at times, you can hear the effort that goes into crafting their tracks. The awkward tonal shift that accompanies an equally awkward crescendo around 2’20” is perhaps the best evidence of this. Riffing on the sound of the time doesn’t necessarily come easy for the boys, but they have worked hard to make their songs engaging enough that the energy poured into them fades into the background, somewhere between the handclaps and guitar stabs. ‘Get Me Golden’, specifically, caught my ear yesterday with its sense of hope, the way it chugs along, reinforcing that message and the trumpets, always the trumpets. That key, uplifting refrain (I’ve got a plan in the palm of my hand to get me golden’) is tempered by Rothbard’s vocal delivery of it so that it is infused with some of the vulnerability and hesitation that naturally accompanies any such claim. Released as part of the band’s 2012 EP ‘Friends’, this track represents microcosmic photosynthesis, taking in Californian sun and sand and transforming it into the kind of song that is universal enough to make its warm charm felt on the other side of the vast continent. It might be familiar, but when everything else is in flux, a bit of familiarity goes a long way.
Terraplane Sun – Get Me Golden