Saturday, December 11th, 2021

Porter Robinson – Look At The Sky

But can you ever really like, see the sky?


Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Beaming, gleaming noise that feels utterly limitless during five tight minutes. 

Claire Biddles: Nobody told me Owl City had made a comeback in 2021.

Ian Mathers: I’d like to be clever or even just a bit less raw about it, but the simple fact is that the last time a chorus stopped me in my tracks and scooped out something from inside of me (something that probably needed to come out, in the surgical sense) as sharply as “Look at the sky, I’m still here/I’ll be alive next year/I can make something good” did it was a song that I’d find out years later was written and sung by a total piece of shit. I’d be sitting here quietly shellshocked regardless, but due to circumstances beyond Porter Robinson’s control I find that experience matched with the oddest sense of gratitude for having (this really cheapens my experience of both songs, but I can’t think of a fuller way to phrase it) a replacement.

Iain Mew: I totally get “Zen Zen Zense” vibes from this and its joyful zigzags, only slowed down to five centimetres per second. It works out about as effective.

Michael Hong: Nurture‘s simplicity often arises in simple monosyllabic metaphors, the same way you would explain difficult topics to children. When Robinson sings “I can make something good” it feels like both an affirmation for himself and a promise to someone else that he’ll keep trying. The static never really leaves him, but sometimes it does get easier to hear the beautiful parts like that gentle piano line. “Look at the Sky” is a rundown house, with half the side collapsed inward. Broken, but the light that streaks through shows you can rebuild it into something good.

Tim de Reuse: It’s a tricky thing to evoke a sense of child-like wonder, and though rules are hard to pin down, I find generally that the harder you try, the less convincing the result. Now, take the rousing climax, the tinkly piano, the breathy vocals, the uplifting lyrics which cast a net so wide as to address all possible negative human experience: none of these are deal-breakers on their own. Together, though, they are cloying and over-sweetened, magnifying each other until it’s all self-celebration and no substance — polished so thoroughly I can’t see a tune through the shine.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: The best songs off of Nurture are the ones where Porter Robinson is clearly messing around — not necessarily by doing big dramatic EDM flourishes but by stacking together layers of sound, creating kinetic displays of rhythm and melody that he keeps in perfect control. “Look at the Sky” doesn’t quite do as much — it’s instead something closer to an extremely synthetic, indoor kid take on U2-style stadium rock-gospel, working mostly in terms of big sustains and even bigger feelings. It’s ambitious but slightly self-satisfied, a grand statement that just barely doesn’t live up to its billing.

Nortey Dowuona: The best thing here is the piano motif. Without it, a title like “Look At The Sky” just feels rote. Instead, the notes jumble together, buoying thin, toneless voices of Porter into powerful, determined edicts from the open, oxygen filled sky. It’s such a miracle how Porter cobbles together another stinging guitar motif that breaks every last frozen heartstring, then mends them with a slithering synth that slogs under the piano as Porter’s voice, so cracked and thin and TINY, seem like the most significant thing in the world. All eyes on this guy, amirite? And with the fuzzy, neatly dissolved piano motif and Porter’s cracklings voice, you just watch, and cry. There’s no one you’d rather be with next year.

Vikram Joseph: In the sweeping universalisms of his glistening synth-pop, Porter Robinson attains scarcely conceivable levels of dewy-eyed sincerity; it’s not that far from some late-period Coldplay singles, but Robinson commits much harder to the bit, for better or worse. Listening to “Look At The Sky”, though, it’s hard to shake the feeling that for a song so overtly sentimental – one that strains so very hard to invoke feeling – the emotion sounds strangely ersatz. Which, for something so obviously heartfelt, is kinda sad – a failure of execution rather than intent. It instead just feels a little cloying, with cheap-sounding synths and obvious builds that consistently fail to set off synapses in the way Robison obviously wants them to.

Katherine St Asaph: A test for your level of irony poisoning: does this sound buoyant or cynical? Are you uplifted, or are you reverse engineering the surge parameters of each “Run Away With Me” synth, each break in the beat thwack, each plaintive little voice delivering big hopes (I was about to gripe about yet another uncredited female guest vocalist, but apparently the higher vocal is also Porter, which, assuming it’s true… I guess that’s another way to get the effect) every other dopamine button being relentlessly mashed? Does your life feel affirmed, or are you waiting for the Lego dudes to come out and segue this into “Everything Is Awesome“? I do see the appeal.

Alfred Soto: Its wide-eyed credulity shades into imbecility when the beats nod toward mid decade. The breathy vocal doesn’t help either. Still, I’m glad someone still likes nature, I guess. Maybe Porter Robinson’s a better poet than singer.

Edward Okulicz: This is emotionally garish, self-consciously breathy and wispy and completely insubstantial. But complaining about that is missing the point, because there are times when an emotionally garish bit of fanfare bosh is just the perfect salve. A most suitable anthem for pensive staring at the year’s end and not seeing an abyss. I don’t know why Porter Robinson abandons everything great for that wobbly ending, though.

Will Adams: Seven years — the gap between Nurture and Porter’s previous album Worlds — is a long time. It’s enough time for audience expectations to mount beyond capacity, to feel one’s place in the world shift drastically, to notice how deep into sadness you’ve sunk. March 2020 onward presented its serious challenges, but there were anxieties and fears festering well before then: complete loss of confidence in my musical ability, trying to live in a big city without being swallowed in it (plus ca change…), the creeping sense that all the great things I was destined to do from a precocious age have melted into a puddle. For all those worries, Nurture and its opening single “Look At the Sky” were a balm. “Look at the sky, still here / I’ll be alive next year / I can make something good” is a mantra as direct as it is beautiful, and Porter’s buoyant synthstomp propels it to another realm, of hope, of healing, of patience both with oneself and the process. I can make something good, I can tell myself. It will take time. But time is still something I have.

Reader average: [10] (3 votes)

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2 Responses to “Porter Robinson – Look At The Sky”

  1. there are a LOT of old songs ian could be referring to with that description but im glad porter achieved that

  2. I was prepared to suggest this exact song for reader’s week, so I’m happy to see it covered here (and scoring fairly well to boot!)

    Anyway this song is a 10 and Nurture is easily one of the best albums this year had to offer