Spencer Radcliffe – “Mermaid”

“Mermaid” opens Spencer Radcliffe’s upcoming debut album with a sigh and a clamor. The Chicago songwriter builds around an orchestra of familiar sounds — a seesaw creaking back and forth, a motor revving up. These little touches are the real world creeping in on the one he’s constructed for himself, and they continue through to the end of the track, providing texture to an existence that feelings increasingly slippery. “I wasn’t born as a vampire,” he begins in absurdist fashion. “I wasn’t born with a mask on my skull/ I wasn’t born for the sick jokes/ I was born for nothing at all.” Like all of Radcliffe’s songs, meaning unravels in fits and starts. “Mermaid” swells with a grand, wilting defeatism — it sounds like it’s drowning, if there were anywhere deeper to go. But Radcliffe manages to make it feel hopeful, like maybe the absence of ambition just means there’s more room for possibility: “We dared not dream at the same time, so we would dream of nothing at all.” Listen to the song via Spin below, and check out our recent Artist To Watch piece.

Looking In is out 10/2 via Run For Cover. You can pre-order it here.