I think music can tell a story, beyond the lyrics, with the tempo, measures used, melody and instrumentation. I began listening to Rare Futures’ album ‘This is Your Brain on Love’ and was immediately pulled into what Steve Spignesi called ‘skull cinema’ when describing what he felt when reading writer Robert McCammon’s work, that it was like watching a movie in one’s head. And I can’t agree more when applying this to Rare Future’s music, the opening chords and beats from ‘The Pressure’ are an incredible example of using music to evoke a feeling within the listener. It built tension within me, it made me feel anxious until the crescendo broke into the chorus and I felt a rush of release with the cymbals and percussion. The turmoil of being in a relationship but wanting someone else is one of the most confusing and revealing situations a person can go through. I imagined the protagonist driving home to their significant other, but feeling drawn to make a quick U-turn to go to the person who has made them question their feelings. The video for the song takes a different direction than my skull cinema, but it pairs so well with the ‘The Pressure’. The little touches and attention to detail in the stop-motion animation sold it for me, similar to the layers of rhythm and melody finessed into the song that makes it stand out.
Another track, ‘Hope’, speaks on being on empty, not having much to go on and holding onto the one thing you can’t lose when you’ve lost everything, hope. What I enjoy the most is that the song doesn’t preach to you, it’s not littered with platitudes to buck up. The music just lives in that emotion of desperation but rises up to the chorus, searching and crying out for hope to help. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried a little during the song, the vocals mirroring how I’ve felt recently. Putting your all into surviving and wanting to succeed, and finding it all dashed to bits and then what…? What do you do? To paraphrase the song, “…Can you find hope?’ I am working on it, this song helped guide me to that step and I’m glad I got to hear it.
The instrumentation and vocals in this album are an aural delight. I was impressed by the level of virtuosity of it, and really excited to hear the electronic elements used in a way that didn’t overtake the traditional instruments. Instead, they gave nuance to the chords and percussion that I would have missed otherwise. The track ‘Reminding Me To Live’ exuberates wonder and excitement for life. The choir like vocals drift into the bridge and float over the bass lines and mellow chording, ending in a safe, warm place. I keep certain music in my arsenal to help me recover from a bad day, ‘Reminding Me to Live’ is now part of that catalog.
From what I understand, fans have been waiting on this album for years, and I completely get it. It was worth the wait, it’s clear that the band created this experience, this journey into questioning what it is you want and what you need in this life. If you need a soundtrack to getting your sh*t together, this is it. I’m sure you have felt that there was more to explore outside your current station in life, but may have felt scared or over cautious to venture into the unknown, but unable to stop wondering about what if or what could be…I think if I could name the central theme of ‘This is Your Brain on Love” it would be to keep going, to push through. Progressive and groove rock’s instrumentation always invites you to think and explore, which is what Rare Futures’ music does, except they give you a purpose in doing so. Examine your life, decide what’s important to you, pursue the thing you need/want, and (in the words of every Star Trek captain) to make it so.