Hope and despair live close to each other. Euphory and melancholy are siblings. Can there be happiness without sadness? Can there be joy without pain? It's the kaleidoscope of emotions that makes us human.
To me, there's no other art capturing our inner mysteries as powerful as music. It's a constant source of fascination.
And today, we take a glance through the colourful imagery of feelings, notions, and impressions of humankind in music, from the valley of pain and suffering to the highest peaks of ecstasy.
One of 2020's songs stuck with me: Rub My Eyes by the Austrian group Hearts Hearts. Although I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across the track, it immediately got hold of my soul. This erring piano intro, the suffering tone in David Österle's voice, the sound's urge to plough forward no matter what.
In the meantime, Hearts Hearts have released their third record, Love Club Members. And this week, the band won the FM4 trophy at the Amadeus Awards. There's no way around it: Hearts Hearts walk the stairway to music heaven.
On Friday, the quartet dropped a live recording of Rub My Eyes. The song loses nothing of its qualities; no, it instead gains traction. This version is raw; you can feel the depth in the sound; it's euphoric in how some aspects of the composition take centre stage. The guitar scratches on the shiny surface, the strings dance bolder than they did in the song's studio version. It's all you can wish for in contemporary pop music.
Sometimes a song needs more time to grow on you. It was the case with Velvet Volume's In The End – the first single of their upcoming third album. My last impression of the three Danish sisters was I Think I Need You, which made it in the "songs of the week" playlist by Negative White back in 2017. It was a wild, punkish rock inferno.
Some time has passed, and Velvet Volume grew older. Now, the sisters explore a much calmer side of their creativity. "Uncertainty and melancholy has a place in all three of us, and we have long been wanting to celebrate and explore this in our music, "explains the trio. In The End is the first mark on their softer musical path.
An almost electronic drum builds the song's foundation. On top, Velvet Volume sprinkle dark piano notes. The singing remains borderline monotonous, adding to the sinister feel, while the rough guitar provides a solid contrast to the otherwise dreamy soundscape. In The End is not easily accessible. You have to invest, circle around it, find your way into the song. But once accomplished, In The End keeps you in its labyrinth.
They are a nine-headed hydra of musical extravagance: Jungle by Night. For more than a decade, the Dutch ensemble has thrown everything into the melting pot: jazz, electro, krautrock, afrobeat, and funk.
There are too many inspirations, one might say. But Jungle by Night prove the doubtful wrong with their latest single, E17 Snack. The title references one of the band's favourite spots, a small truck stop along the E17 in Belgium when they return from touring in France.
And there's clearly a drive to E17 Snack, a reference to more carefree times, the thrill of being young, breaking the rules, and many first times. Jungle by Night capture the youth's feeling brilliantly by an anticipating groove, the exciting brass section, and the playful synth melody. E17 Snack is full of musical counterparts that on paper shouldn't even work, yet they do because they all, in their essence, contribute to the songs meaning.
For those, let's say, longtime subscribers of Weekly5, Odd Beholder is not a new kid on the block. In April, I've featured her single Disaster Movies, "a stunning track, shimmering and dreaming" that carried a sharp commentary about society's destructive consumerism.
On Friday, the Swiss artist Daniela Weinmann has revealed Odd Beholder's sophomore record Sunny Bay. It's a wide-ranged spectrum of gleaming art-pop music, laced with a lot of electronica silk.
The song chosen to represent this new album is called Birds – an almost purely instrumental track. There's an overwhelming nature to the music; decrypting its parts seems an impossible challenge because you feel the Birds' complexity without actually hearing it. Instead, the technoid ambience, which is drastically opposed by swirling synth spikes, drags you down in a danceable maelstrom.
This entry comes with a fair warning: Dynamite might be unsettling to some people. It left me shellshocked, uncomfortable, and scared, but also endlessly fascinated.
Lizki, a young Munich artist trained in piano and opera, recorded Dynamite in just 30 minutes. It's a spontaneous emotional explosion after a break-up.
I planned a future for us, for me and you. And now I'm dynamite.
The horror is real, eternalised in surreal sound. Dynamite shakes you to the bones with its icy breath. Lizki's voice screams pain; the music offers no hope, no relief, only a leaden blanked holding you down. The grief, at its core a profoundly human emotion, is monstrous. The synthesiser rattle, wash back and forth on the clouded shores of broken hearts. No light shines on this godforsaken place that exists within.