Isolation is a tricky feeling to capture with a pop song perhaps because by the act of making a pop song you are willfully inviting other people into a certain aspect of your personal space. You may be writing about a song to say that surely no one, nowhere, has ever felt any more alone than you. Yet from the moment that that song was distributed, you have made a conscious decision to make a slight connection to another person. Even if the listener is experiencing the song in an empty room, and thinking that no one, nowhere has ever felt more alone than them.
Up All Night, the new album from Toronto based band The Airfields captures a very subtle sense of isolation that comes from a feeling of not really being isolated at all. Very few of these songs are about feeling like the loneliest person in the world, but rather the near misses that far to often occur when you reach outside of your safety zone to make a connection with another person. The song opens with the cleverly fatalistic, "Prisoners of Our Love." "Oh, fly away," the narrator sings, "You'll be back, we'll remain, prisoners of... prisoners of... prisoners of our love." These oddly reassuring words are sung over an easy, resolved jangle that is promptly obliterated by the next track, "Never See You Smile."
In a way, you could almost compare the way this album unfolds to the way that a first conversation might unfold, the opener is friendly, relaxed, and clever. However, once you realize that the respective guard of each party may have been let down too much too early on, you present something a bit noisier to help recreate a bit of the distance that has been lost. Unexpected outros are included throughout the album to the fascinating effect of keeping the listener wholly engaged without allowing them to be absorbed by it. Kind of like the inevitable awkward pauses of a first conversation.
"Icing, sugar," may be the best example of this, as isolating either the intro (though the song does reveal itself to be built around this very intricate intro,) or the outro could never prepare someone for the song that they encase. "I wait for you, I always do..." begins the lyric. I can't quite determine whether the song is about a failed relationship, or a relationship that was never able to get off of the ground. I suppose that you could consider the two things different versions of the same feeling. The longing for what could have been vs. the reality of what was lost. "Your headphones and songs how they push you along your lonely life, how I hope they give all you'd ever need to know," is the final message that the narrator chooses to send to the one he loves, or perhaps it's directed at himself, or both of them. Of course a pop song could never give you all you'd ever need to know, not even close. The narrator of the song is surely aware of this fact, but he also must be aware that for some people it's the only thing that they have the ability to know.
The recording quality throughout the entire album helps to add to this sense of distance, and subtle isolation with it's extended dreamy echo. And, ultimately, isn't that the best way to establish yourself in any kind of conversation?" Leaving most everyone that you meet wishing that they could know so much more.
You can pick up a copy of Up All Night by the Airfields through Humblebee Recordings, here, or you can download it from itunes.