Friday, December 21st, 2012

Delta Spirit – California

Amazon says it’s the best song of the year. What do we think?


Patrick St. Michel: “Being young is way more fun than being old, and being a punk is way more fun that being a square,” goes the YouTube description for “California.” The accompanying clip stays true to that, but Delta Spirit’s actual song sounds like the product of growing up and being unafraid to express deeply uncool sentiments. “I want you to move to California for yourself/I want you to find whatever your heart needs,” before singer Matthew Vasquez emphasizes this person should be doing it for themselves, “and not for me.” The music chugs ahead the whole time, morphing from melancholy surf rock to a swelling Arcade-Fire-lite climax. It matches the realization at the center of “California” wonderfully — letting someone go for their own good can be tough at first, but ultimately liberating. That’s a lesson that comes from age.

Josh Langhoff: Any given year the local AAA radio station is good for one bittersweet rocker that motorvates and rends hearts. Previous titles include the Foo Fighters’ “Long Road to Ruin” and Brett Dennen’s “Sydney (I’ll Come Running),” and “California” belongs in their company even if it doesn’t totally slay. It moves blockily from bit to bit, but adventurous guitar and synth dissonances help with the rending. Much better than all those floor-stomping acoustic collectives hellbent on taking over the format with their God hollers.

Edward Okulicz: Upon hearing this was Amazon’s song of the year, and was indie-rock, I prepared myself to deploy a whole slew of uncomplimentary adjectives with vigour. Then it started with damn “Take On Me” drums and the chorus had iterations of “ooh” that betrayed real weary longing and regret and I got sucked in like a floppy-haired, skinny-jean wearing wimp. The charging bass and overdriven guitars made me compare this (favourably) to Longwave, with a bit of bloody “Dakota.” Matthew Vasquez is a better and more empathic singer, though, so while it ticks the “kind of lame” box, it’s also surprisingly heart-tugging. It’s a big gloopy cry-fest you can (slightly) rock out to as well.

Anthony Easton: Gorgeous and well constructed, and the lyrics are fantastically anti-utopic, while still maintaining the idea of California as a place of personal liberation. 

Will Adams: The ulterior motives are on full display here; it’s in those Beach Boys harmonies after the verses, and the beautiful guitars, which sound like they’re being played from the bottom of a well. The underhandedness may be off-putting, but damn if this doesn’t remind me of cruising on PCH as the summer sun descends into the Pacific. 

Brad Shoup: This thing is produced like a motherfucker. The guitars explode, the drums patter like a-ha. And it puts a fine cap on a great year in concern-matchmaking. The twist is she’s too good to be with him, but he still knows what’s best for her. Gross.

Jonathan Bradley: I’m always up for Californian modern rock groups behaving as if the mere act of being on the West Coast is a spiritual experience (c.f. Phantom Planet, Coconut Records), but Arcade Firing up the form doesn’t do it any favors. “I want you to move to California for yourself, but not for me,” Matthew Vasquez passive-aggresses over ringing guitars that only sort of soar and backing vocals that “ooooh-oooh” with at least half their might. The sentiment has the makings of a good pop chorus, but it can’t get there with so little heft behind it. Why would anyone move to California for Delta Spirit anyway?

Alfred Soto: I can almost look past the Julian-Lennon-meets-Gerry-Rafferty vocal lilt and the post-Bloc Party percussive breakdown… but can’t. They manage to make “I want you to move to California for yourself” sound imperious and mean.

Iain Mew: This is pure indie comfort listening. Every element is familiar. They’re also all so gorgeous sounding that they’re still more enchanting in total than I would have thought something sounding like this could be. Well, the singer is merely fine, but the vocals are just there to glide over the actually important bits, like I talked about with Ulises Hadjis. The synths give impetus and motion, the drums are as crisp as MIA.‘s, and the guitars simmer and rush and constantly thrill.

Ian Mathers: The noisy intro was good enough that the actual verses were a letdown the first time through, but by the end when all the “ooh ooh ooh”s kick during the verse in that whole thing gels, and on my first few listens I can’t detect any hint of passive-aggressive manipulation in “I want you to move to California for yourself, but not for me.” This might be the only time I’ve heard a guy in a band tell a woman that she’s better off without him that I’ve actually believed that he believes that. (Especially seeing as how he doesn’t reveal any misconduct on his part, which means the song reads for me like he just knows they’re at different places in their lives at the moment.) For one song at least, this seems like a guy trying to be a good guy and actually mostly succeeding, and that makes it surprisingly endearing.

6 Responses to “Delta Spirit – California”

  1. Thank you to Derek who suggested this because my year isn’t complete without one song like this and I’d never heard of it because I live in a cave.

  2. Sorry I missed it, though I would have brought the aggregate score down significantly. (Surprise surprise.)

  3. Love the totally conflicting psychological readings.

  4. This sounds like every song from Jimmy Eat World’s “Bleed American” distilled down into one (admittedly pretty damn good) song.

  5. That saddens me, Andy. I love Bleed American.

  6. It definitely pushes some of the same buttons as “The Middle” but it’s definitely not as good a pop song as “The Middle”.