At the start of the pandemic, I went on a sort of retro-binge of music I’d been heavily into during various stages of my life. Among the bands that made that rotation was the Australian duo An Horse, whose fantastic Rearrange Beds is so great I’ve been afraid for a decade to listen to their other music.
I pulled out Rearrange Beds again recently—“Company” is my go-to track, but “Shoes Watch” is up there—and it did make me want to start delving into the other records. I’d tried Walls before and had some trouble with it because I felt some of the songs sounded musically too much like the songs on Rearrange Beds. Not that you don’t want a band to sound like itself, but I kept thinking of songs from Rearrange Beds instead.
This week I dove headlong into their most recent album, Modern Air. Somehow, this is An Horse sounding like An Horse without sounding (to me) self-derivative. It’s also very difficult for me not to want to just listen to the lead track, “This is a Song” on repeat.
The song made me think a bit about anthems, and whether or not the core of any good anthem effectively is either “it will be okay” or “I see you”. It got me to thinking about anthems because for months my resources have not entirely been able to keep up with the demands being placed upon them, and so all my skins have been particularly thin. The reality is that, listening to “This is a Song” on my way back from a grocery errand, I broke down at the delivery of the simple-seeming lyrics, “And this is a song I know, I know.”
Anthems don’t have to be specific. There’s an argument to be made that they sort of can’t be, because the point of an anthem is to hit something deeper and divorced from specifics—or, rather, to work for any number of the boundless specifics the music and words and their delivery is going to encounter in listeners.
It’s why Kate Cooper’s plaintive “I know I know” became my tipping point. The song itself rises to meet whatever travail by not finding the words, left only to offer simple recognition.