Last year, the Brooklyn synth-pop outfit Nation Of Language caught our attention with a couple of highly addicting singles — including the propulsive and furious “Indignities” and “I’ve Thought About Chicago,” a wistful meditation about all the other lives you could be living. Frontman/NOL mastermind Ian Devaney’s modern interpretation of ’80s new wave tropes yielded something only of this era: A group that seemed to collapse different levels of nostalgia and experience together in an attempt to parse contemporary life. The music they’ve released so far is impressive, and it landed them on our list of the best new bands of 2017. We also named them a Band To Watch a couple months later upon the release of their last single, “On Division St.”
Today, the band is back with another new track ahead of their upcoming tour in Italy. It’s called “Reality,” and this is what Devaney had to say about the inspiration behind it:
The song revolves around a person whose everyday life has become so mundane and frustrating that they retreat into their own head. These days it’s really easy to create these illusions in our minds and then use the internet to make them seem real. I think there’s definitely a way to use that power in a constructive way, but in this case the end result is merely inaction.
Narratively, “Reality” captures that feeling perfectly, opening with a sense of quotidian numbness as Devaney sings “He’s sick of waiting for the sound of something more,” before the protagonist has a certain kind of breakthrough in the chorus: “I will synthesize/ Some kind of waking dream/ Reality’s nothing to me.” Taken at face value, that seems like bleak surrender, a melancholic escape into an imagined place because real life has nothing more romantic to offer.
But as has been the case with several of Nation Of Language’s preceding singles, the music here is so lush, so emotive, that you could just as easily read the chorus as a flash of hope. From the minor throb of the verse — a sound that mimics the deadening of banal daily routines — that chorus blooms into a yearning sigh. While Devaney’s story behind “Reality” might make the beauty of that sigh feel like a digital mirage, it’s the kind of place you do want to escape into. And it’s the kind of place that, once you come back from it, can make the real world feel vibrant and colorful and electric once more. Check it out below.
05/19 – Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA
05/26 – Otis, MA @ Welcome Campers
06/02 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere
06/05 – Milan, IT @ Ape Nel Parco
06/07 – Parma, IT @ Fattoria del Vigheffio
06/08 – Rome, IT @ Le Mura
06/09 – L’Aquila, IT @ Garbage Live Club
06/17 – Brooklyn, NY @ Alphaville
08/11 – North Haven, ME @ Lungfest
“Reality” is out now. It’s available via all the usual streaming services and on Nation Of Language’s Bandcamp.