Posted on January 11th, 2020
[as seen on Pitchfork]
Under the tear-stained moniker Water From Your Eyes, Rachel Brown and Nate Amos make music that, like their name, pushes simple concepts towards inventive and imaginative ends. Like their peers in bands like the Cradle and Lily and Horn Horse, the Brooklyn duo makes eclectic, hard-to-define experimental pop, half digital and half not, that always takes familiar ideas to refreshingly new spaces. After several pleasant releases, their latest record, Somebody Else’s Song, combines the freedom of exploration with poignant introspection.
For all of Water From Your Eyes’ confidence in splicing different genres and feels from acoustic twee to indie-electronica, the emotional undercurrent of Somebody Else’s Song is more uncertain. The songs focus on the push and pull between the comfort of dreams and a hazy reality. This idea arrives promptly on the titular opener, when Brown admits, “I try to sing, I get the words all wrong/’Cause it’s somebody else’s song.” (Both musicians assuredly sing their own words on their respectively lovely solo projects, Brown’s thanks for coming and Amos’ This Is Lorelei.)
But the record is never bogged down by unease thanks to the pair’s impressionistic storytelling, dreamy melodies, and Brown’s bittersweet warble. On “Somebody Else’s Song,” their voice floats in a ray of sunlight over a simple guitar loop and a steadily tapping foot, evoking the wistful sing-speaking of K Records folk-poppers. But this tranquil soul-searching is shattered by “Break,” a 10-minute barrage of dizzying drum machine rhythms and creeping keys. Brown’s unvarnished vocals immediately grow cold, hardening into the stiff monotone of an automaton. Without anything resembling a concrete chorus, the track spirals confidently towards euphoric oblivion. “Break” seemingly shares little with its delicate predecessor. But the connective tissue is a yearning for connection, a theme that endures throughout the record.
Though the gear shifts are never as jarring as the transition into “Break,” across eight tracks, Somebody Else’s Song bends into new shapes as it dives into various sonic rabbit holes. The barebones title track is revisited in the back half of the album and blossoms into “Bad in the Sun,” a vocoder-soaked dose of electro bliss. Seemingly melancholic lyrics now feel full of potential, like a nightmare you can laugh off in the morning. A brief blip of harmonized vocals titled “Look” is transformed by a little bumpy guitar melody into the eerie closer “Look Again.” The song concludes with a painfully corporeal depiction of longing: a face gazing through a window at a chain-link fence in the distance, feeling the sensation of wires pressing into their skin.
The best manifestation of this internal conflict is “Adeline,” an off-kilter admission of all-consuming and possibly misplaced devotion. “Nobody else could make me leave me behind,” Brown sings, a heartbreaking, self-aware confession. While wading through Water From Your Eyes’ whims is a delight in itself, discovering the unexpected loveliness buried within is especially worthwhile.