How do I describe The Birthday Letters' sound? Truly a kaleidoscope of overlapping musical intentions, the songwriter's newest single 'Dirty Crusty' is a wonderful amalgam of lightly biting overdriven guitars, soft folk melodies and funk danceability. The way this track starts out, you might've thought you'd be in store for a typical singer/songwriter effort, but from very early on it's clear that Joseph Hughes is far too inventive to put out anything run-of-the-mill.
Sliding up and down the neck with wonderfully shimmering open string chords, the track's melody feels at once pleasant yet intriguing in its harmonic decision-making, moving to a totally unexpected, yet entirely satisfying inflection at the end of each of its mini-verses. Listen to the first time Hughes hits the notes of
"in The Yard
"in the dark"
every single time proving to be a quite entirely brilliant melodic choice. Suddenly the track is invaded by android synthesiser 'voices', not unlike those that sparked The 1975's 'The Ballad of Me and My Brain' and though this is absolutely a left-turn, it works exceptionally for the tune.
Then, the beat kicks in. Dear lord. The tune is now a funky, dancefloor-sliding celebration of an awkward date at the theatre, and the transition was effortlessly seamless. The track is joined by a driving, hyper-processed drum loop, an intermittent chorus of sparse backing vocals, and a bass tone that the artist should be *particularly* proud of. The bass-line is reserved, but a screamer of a line in its own right that perfectly compliments the tune. An exceptionally satisfying rhythm break at [1:20] is exactly what the tune needed to keep things interesting, and as Hughes lyricises
"the space between us disappeared"
so too does the track.
Just passing the two minute mark, 'Dirty Crusty' gets itself going straight away, doesn't fuck about and finishes while I'm desperate to hear more and that's perfect. I keep returning to the track every time it runs out on me, desperate to relive time and time again the brief moment of awkward romance that this song wonderfully conveys.
What an excellent single. Prepare for more music from the East Londoner in 2020, and prepare for us to talk about it all the same. I demand that you listen to this hidden gem right this second.
- great -
Ben Wheadon is editor and founder of Slow Motion Panic Masters. He is a Welsh musician and English Literature student at King's College, London and he should be writing a dissertation instead of creating a blog. Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England. Subscribe to our mailing list below to be alerted every time a post is published on the site. Follow us on instagram, like us on facebook and subscribe to our mailing list below to be alerted every time a new post is published on the site.