Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Sofi de la Torre – Vermillion

Is it a dethroning ’cause there’s four more blurbs? Statheads will argue for years…


Katherine St Asaph: There is a way a city looks walking home alone, after enough drink that everything around you looks and sounds magnified, including your regret. There is a way the sky looks under a bridge when passing taillights hit rust, deepening the light; Sofi’s voice sounds like it was recorded there, standing in the tunnel. The synths sound like she’s running, like footsteps and whirring-by neon, and the kick drum gets louder each verse, like it’s throbbing out of her skin. It’s not just lonely, it’s desolate; not even that M83 riff at the end can make it sound remotely celebratory. I am nearer to 30 than I’d like to admit, farther from any sense of love or career or belonging than I hoped I’d be. The people I think of at night, I wish I wouldn’t; the ambitions I have, I wish would die with dignity; the things I feel are even more deadening knowing they’re millennial bullshit, nothing profound. All this is to say that I am in no place to hear “I love these streets, but they weren’t meant for me to walk” objectively; it’s perfect. The rest is near-perfect too — as coming-down music, “Vermillion” is rivaled only by Fever Ray, and as urban disenchantedness, “The city is big, but I don’t grow with it / I throw on some heels to get in the spirit” is rivaled only by Tychonaut’s “Spike and the Wheel” and “This is not Sex and the City / it’s just loneliness in high heels” — but that one moment, when there’s nothing but solo piano and that line, is indelible.

Danilo Bortoli: “I love the people but they never seem to wanna talk” is pretty much a line Cat Power wrote when she tried to express her feelings over the places where she has been and the people she has met: despair, insecurity and the general sensation of alienation and lack of strength, an outcome of the simple act of existing and (sometimes) getting your heart broken. In Sofi’s case, “Vermillion” shows she has other ways of expressing these perceptions; the song’s Italo-disco background suggests an evocative atmosphere, but its dreamy influences never make it feel torpid or dormant. There is neither escapism nor numbness here. Instead, Sofi’s persona is very conscious of the problems that arouse from a city (and eventually a lover) that doesn’t seem to care about her individuality. Therefore, “Vermillion” seems to encapsulate the universal feeling of unbelonging while still being very realistic about its themes.

Alfred Soto: Moving and well-observed, and de la Torre’s lived-in performance deserves the credits; she includes a ooh-ooh-ooh! bit where she jumps an octave that’s goose-pimply. The Minogue-Robyn-esque arrangement isn’t up to her commitment though; it doesn’t surprise.

Hazel Robinson: Oh my god, some nonsense breathy hipster girl electronica I hadn’t already discovered! And it’s got a BPM above 90 and is a song about feeling out of place in and simultaneously in love with your home city, something I empathise with so incredibly strongly it’s like having my heart gently lasered out of my ribcage. It’s gentle, audiohug class and full of such affectionate sadness I can’t do anything but fall into it.

Anthony Easton: Genuinely heartbreaking (the heart small and tight and refusing to open), and a surrounding aesthetic of almost oppressive production, shoving and pushing until the loneliness gives itself up. The tension and the failure between production and lyrics simmer and the listener waits for the track to explode.

Iain Mew: “Heart on Fire” hasn’t even been released yet and already there’s a track that will fit perfectly alongside it on a soundtrack to internal retreat! This calls for a celebration. No one is invited.

Luisa Lopez: A little eruption in the night, as if stardust woke up in a jazz club. The lyrics are weirdly intimate, a little too specific; listening to this song is, at certain moments, like taking a phone call in the middle of the night from someone you love whose voice is covered in static. The smallness of a solitude made large, turned into the agonizing repetition of noise, compelled into footsteps that form the bass line of what is a real, breathing, living city drained of people but full of stone. God, I can’t wait to dance to this one when I’m falling down sad at 3 AM.

Dorian Sinclair: I’m from a moderately-sized Canadian prairie city, or at least I spent most of my childhood there. I’ve visited a lot of bigger cities though, and there’s a weird feeling you sometimes get in them. A city is a big place, and when it’s not your city, it’s easy to simultaneously feel attracted to but very, very apart from it. There’s a fascination combined with a distance, like watching the world through glass. I haven’t found many songs that capture how I feel in a city at night! But Sofi de la Torre gets it, and pairs it with an instrumental track that perfectly captures and magnifies the impact of the lyrics. It feels like this song might have literally been written for me to walk to in the evening.

Josh Winters: There’s a sense of adventure you experience in the solitary act of going around your town at night. When everyone has gone to bed and all that remains are the lights that illuminate the city, the empty streets feel like yours to conquer with every step you take. It gives you a strong, validating rush of power, but it’s a rush that dies quick once you realize your true place in the grand scheme of things. I would know: I forced myself to do this for about a month last winter, the goal being to get out of my head by getting out of my room. It’s something Sofi de la Torre also knows very well. “The city gets bigger but I don’t grow with it,” she observes with nothing but an insistent 4/4 drum and brooding bass propelling her forward, the destination unclear. The rapturous synths stab like thunderbolts as the sky opens up, revealing the deity that is her sunset, a sight so spectacular in its grandeur. She’s drawn to it with awe and fear, unknowing of the true power it holds. The last minute of “Vermillion” is a thrill ride of its own, one that may feel a bit brief, but like watching a sunset, the allure is in its fleeting nature.

Brad Shoup: I feel like I must assign that ending (that funky trebly figure, the backing vocals throwing themselves in front of the dancefloor cannons) to a narrative, whether it’s some frantic downtown activity getting in our hero’s business, or possibly the sound of de la Torre forcing herself into more fun in case something happens. Otherwise, not drawing it out is a lost opportunity. Before that, there’s lots of fun with pauses; she says she loves the streets and everyone in them, but each time she gets quiet, like she’s hoping the sentiment will finally connect. Those thunderstorm synths will be a fabulous element in the remix, and the theme will be weaponized.

Megan Harrington: Sunset, 10K runs, late night cab rides, photos of your childhood home — there’s a certain hollowness to the medium experience, powerful enough to gut you but too temporary for scar tissue. “Vermillion” calls them all to mind and frames them with the heart-wrenchingly ordinary “I don’t want to feel empty anymore.” It’s an incurable desire, one you can place but you’re helpless to remedy. As much as de la Torre sings to someone specific, she’s also lost in a cosmic rift with her world. Connecting with someone, anyone would tether a woman lost in the familiar but “Vermillion” ends in ache. 

Will Adams: “Vermillion” doesn’t just speak to the anxiety of missing someone at night. It speaks to the anxiety of feeling alienated in a large city, when your friends are so close — less than a subway stop away — but you can’t help feel lonely. Each line cuts deeper than the last: “I love these streets,” over a major progression, followed by a repetition of that line over a more unsteady chord progression, and amended: “But they weren’t meant for me to walk.” And even more heartbreaking: “I love the people, but they never seem to want to talk.” All the while, the music expands, the bass throbbing, trance synths pouring in during the second chorus, emphasizing the line about the city growing bigger while Sofi stays the same. “Vermillion” has fleeting moments of euphoria, but they are always tempered by the isolation, anxiety, and emptiness of a broken promise discovered when the big city turned out to glimmer less than it seemed.

Jonathan Bradley: There’s Drake in her cadence — she piles into each line like Aubrey does in, say, “305 to My City” — and as well as fitting it’s perhaps intentional. “I don’t want to feel empty anymore” is urban ennui in classic Nothing Was The Same mold, and Drake is probably mad he’ll never be able to use the line “I throw on some heels to get in the spirit.” The soft sadness, though, the bruised void that is the sunrise-scarred sky of the title, is a subtlety belonging entirely to de la Torre. The pulse is the kind that suggests not vitality but its absence; in this drift through dim-lit city streets, life is elsewhere. Even the guitar flicker that arrives as a false climax is too brief to prevent “Vermillion” from sounding anything but utterly bereft.

Edward Okulicz: “Vermillion” comes from that place where you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel like your face is alienly unlike everyone else’s, where your voice sounds halting and awkward like it does when you hear it on tape, where you feel so self conscious when you’re dancing or singing or just walking that you think you’re not doing it right and you long for the automaticity and freedom that everyone around you seems to have. It’s a place where all the electronic bleeps and soft, friendly beats can’t make that dancefloor or pub or whatever a place of easy comfort, even around your own people. I feel like she’s singing it to me, empathising with me, telling me that everyone feels like this sometimes and it’s okay to feel like you have to try so damned hard to fit even in the place you feel the most comfortable. “Vermillion” is a paean to a hard-to-define feeling of emotional displacement, but it’s also a song of strength and self-awareness. Two verses, two choruses, a brief wonky freak-out, and where Robyn might have put in a victory lap final chorus that goes up another gear like it does halfway in, “Vermillion” ends there having made no statement of resolution, and it’s perfectly fitting. I’ve loved many a three minute pop song for how it gives me a glimpse of feelings I don’t really have, but rarely does a three minute pop song take the weird feelings I do have and sound like it justifies them.

Reader average: [8.76] (42 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

46 Responses to “Sofi de la Torre – Vermillion”

  1. So. Close.

  2. Do any of you think it’s going to become big in the US?
    (I hope it does.)

  3. Nope!

  4. I’ve long given up on the music and/or critical industries legitimizing or even acknowledging my taste, but then I’ve given up on basically everything.

  5. I genuinely didn’t expect other people to go for this! Super super glad to see it rating so high.

    (Also good writing work on the alienation aspect, everyone <3)

  6. I would say very little chance. Dave M wondered on Tumblr what this year’s Jukebox peeps would make of Medina’s “Kun For Mig” and I’d say that there’d be a fairly strong chance liking one means you’d like the other and I suggest the same thread would run through “Solo Dancing”.

    Medina got on the US dance charts and “Solo Dancing” was at least a top 20 single in the UK so somewhere there is a little market for this, but I suspect it’s only little. I might actually suggest the concision would make it unsatisfying for radio. Add another chorus after that M83 riff and you might have something more conventionally palatable and easier to latch on to for crossover potential.

  7. i guess if her record label gets some kind of aggressively good deal for her, she could. it’s hard to hear this song selling something though, right? also hard to hear it as a TV soundtrack, except used in the same way “Fade Into You” was on Gilmore Girls but for alienation. And US TV doesn’t generally acknowledge alienation that straightforwardly. nothing becomes a US hit without significant cultural or financial backing, so it seems pretty unlikely.

  8. I like that my first published blurb is also my first ten.

    It’s all downhill from here, folks.

    (As far as USA success I feel a really good tv use could do for this song what Six Feet Under did for Breathe Me–but scenes like the Six Feet Under finale aren’t super common, y’know?)

  9. I can see something like the “If You Want Me” scene from Once, but I also didn’t expect that to become a huge thing either.

  10. So many [10]s. It’s beautiful.

  11. Also I can’t help but think that if somebody redid Frances Ha with a different soundtrack, this would basically be the theme song.

  12. not really, frances ha was a fucking wish-fulfillment movie, both in general and compared to this song

  13. Whoa whoa whoa. While this follows the Slipknot Rule (all songs entitled ‘Vermillion’ have to be great), this just… Ends.

  14. YES. what i wouldn’t give for my years long downward spiral to end with me settling for a cozy second place and a cute boyfriend. This is a good song for Chris dying in Cassie’s arms or something grim like that.

  15. guys this is the same song as “solo dancing” which was also not as good as beyonce

  16. it isn’t the same song as solo dancing at all! they do two completely different things

  17. they’re cousins, but to me “solo dancing” exists in an enclosed space and “vermillion” lives out in the streets.

  18. to me “solo dancing” is determined and confident and predatory, whereas “vermillion” is defeated, after whatever happened in the former didn’t quite work out per plan

  19. Agreed with Katherine and Josh completely. For me it’s also the (a) reverse of Ukendt Kunstner’s “Neonlys” (which I picked for Amnesty last year), except not by a man or in Danish.

    Great writing across the board everyone!

  20. Yeah, vermillion is the slightly grubby sort of self-romanticisation you engage in after completely emotionally excoriating yourself to the point where you can literally only listen to old rave records of the type where (like, say, Livin Joy’s Dreamer) the euphoria is all the adrenaline-burst of the first choked sob in a very long cry. It’s the freedom and the numbness of a disconnect, the need to self-narrate that comes from losing all the people/thing/personal landmarks that had formed the sandbox game you’d made your life into. It’s the breathtaking opportunity and total exhaustion of not being able to go back to a previous state. It’s broken but it’s making itself happy with the repeat function. It’s the smile you raise when Haddaway’s What Is Love comes on while you’re standing, exhausted and lonely and edging-into-hangover waiting for the first tube train, watching the sun bleed into a city that doesn’t love you but hasn’t beaten you. It’s me lying on my bed listening to Tove Lo on repeat, it’s the emotional beat in this chapter of your life, it’s the gifset that’s going to go on Tumblr and some utter wanker will completely misunderstand the gothic, tragic core of the romance. It’s the quiet moments on My Chemical Romance’s first album and not Burial’s debut but the emotions you experience listening to Burial’s debut while wearing not-quite-enough layers of slightly rain-damp clothes and trying to find your lighter for a stranger at a bus stop. It’s all my middle-class white girl late twenties life stage self-remodelling bullshit.

    Solo Dancing (which, eh) is by contrast about making sure you have done your eyeliner well enough to run into someone you hate.

  21. HAZEL <3

  22. that is the greatest thing I have ever read

  23. Reading that back I want to shoot myself, which is also an essential element to the song.

  24. god hazel such good writing.

  25. also, I should mention that she is on a major and I found about this from, of all places, FUCKING VEVO, so there is hope!

  26. is there some kind of back story to this that partially explains the sky-high ratings here? I’ve never heard of this woman, and while this is a more-than-pleasant song and arrangement, I’m struggling to hear what is so revelatory about it.

  27. It didn’t get any out of the ordinary treatment behind the scenes. Very few of the writers would have had any idea of what anyone else thought of it. So I think it is pretty much just that everyone liked it!

  28. So this is the best song of 2014 so far in here, huh?

    Didn’t live up to the hype for me.The lyrics read like a tumblr post (you guys pummeled Tove Lo – Habits (http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=8811) and this follows a very similar theme but you all find Sofi’s lyrics somehow more intense?)

    Also the music doesn’t have anything that stands out to me from the other 1,000 acts that are imitating this sound every year. I mean yes, I love this sort of gloomy R&B but this doesn’t feel to me like deserving of a 9, let alone track of the year.

  29. Some may also enjoy de la Torre’s “Noir,” which has the most out-of-place rap feature I’ve ever heard.

  30. Actually, thinking about it, the fact that it came out of nowhere probably helped it to score so well on average (same for “Solo Dancing”). No one who didn’t really like it was as likely to be motivated to come out and give it a low score, or even to give it the further listens to confirm one, compared to Haim or Paramore or something.

  31. I gave this a final two listens last night before resubmitting, and it still sounded like a strong 6 or 7.

  32. Also: the song doesn’t sound like vermillion to me. Sepia maybe.

  33. I actually prefer Tovo Lo’s “Habits” to this! But then, I like more poppy things in general. There is something that seems to build more in “Habits”; this song certainly builds, but it seems to be holding back. Perhaps the holding back is intentional — it certainly goes along with existential despair — but it leaves me wanting more, personally.

  34. ha, I think my initial pitch for this was “like ‘Habits’ if it wasn’t awful”

  35. Goosebumps

  36. Reading Edward’s blurb was so surreal for me. It’s like…someone finally put into words all my insecurities and made me feel less alone in them. I felt so understood. Thank you.

    Not feeling the song, though.

  37. also my twitter header photo is literally a picture i took of “the sky of vermillion” so no shit i was gonna give this a [10]

  38. so far i know sofi is not signed to a major and releases her tracks independently with her manager
    only her publisher is major (Sony ATV )

  39. Aw thanks Sam. I am so happy that my one paragraph made you feel like this pop song made me feel.

    Also <3 :D :D :D HAZEL never leave us again.

  40. @Edwardo: I actually put Vermillion into Garageband and made an extra chorus for myself (basically putting the vocal and piano chorus from the beginning over the ending of the song looped.).
    It worked decently, actually!

  41. Kinda feel like it’s a 2014 answer to EBTG’s “Missing.” (Which I’m completely fine with!)

  42. She now has an EP out with Noir, Vermillion, and a new one called Give up at 2.

  43. thanks for the heads up, josh!

  44. This isn’t the best song of the year, full stop, but the reviews are great and put a the best possible shine on it, for sure.

  45. well, EVERYONE here loved the song so much:So is it a collective mirage? no. the song IS great. And does deserve these beautiful/beautifully written reviews.

  46. grimes posted it too!