Fingertips Explores the Archives: Pela - Episodes
Jeremy from Fingertips joins us each month as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.
This week we bring you "Episodes (Diphenhydramine)" from Pela.
I have discovered a previously unrecognized affection in my musical tastes for the sort of voice that Pela singer Billy Swanson has. I will now describe it: okay, I can't describe it, not really, other than to say it's high, somewhat roughed-up, vaguely muffled and yet also incisive, with a keen edge. Beyond Swanson's immediate appeal, this strikes me as a cool song for a variety of reasons. To begin with, it utilizes the trick of having the accompanying music playing twice as fast as the melody line, which achieves the pleasing effect of it seeming like a fast slow song or a slow fast song. I also like the mysterious use of wordless vocal accents in the extended bridge-like section after the verse--by now we completely buy into the sense of movement and urgency, and yet the resolution is delayed by those ghostly "aaahs." The underlying sense of tension increases when Swanson dives next into his lower register ("as if I really knew myself," he sings, with an unexpected bit of Morrisseyan phrasing). Then arrives the great release with the strange one-word chorus ("Diphenhydramine"--which is by the way an antihistamine), sung with a fluttery array of chiming guitars floating almost out of earshot in the background. This song was one of five on the Brooklyn-based band's debut EP, All in Time, released back in May 2005. The band released one more EP and one full-length CD before breaking up in the fall of 2009.
- Jeremy Schlosberg