Toronto celestial pop weirdos Absolutely Free, a band whose top song on Spotify is four minutes of orchestral intergalactic radio static, have been silent since their 2014 self-titled debut, which featured production from Fucked Up’s Mike Haliechuk. Since it’s been a while, a refresher: the prog-pop band formed from the remnants of art punks DD/MM/YYYY in 2011 and put out two EPs plus the aforementioned debut, which was nominated for the Polaris Prize. During their hiatus, they’ve toured with Alvvays and Preoccupations and scored several films.
Today, we’re premiering their first original music in four years, a single called “Still Life.” Upfront “Still Life” appears more accessible than we’ve heard Absolutely Free before: a subtly off-kilter ’80s-reminiscent pop song built on a steady mid-tempo drumbeat, thick guitar lines, and a zippy synth, with nonchalant choral, almost folky vocals. It lands somewhere between disco and chamber pop but grows psychedelic as it progresses. The beat and synths get squirmier and nervier, squawking flutes are thrown in, and swelling clouds of sound, courtesy of producer Jorge Elbrecht (Ariel Pink), engulf everything.
They’re glibly existential as vocalist Matt King sings: “I can see the picture without the frame/ I know we all have a cross to bear/ But I’ve been carrying this feeling around with me for awhile/ But I don’t care.” The gloom is intensified by the Christina Battle-directed video, which features an anxiety-inducing slideshow of seemingly random objects, scenes of decayed homes and natural disasters, and TV static — superimposed with ominous instructions like: “LOOK AROUND YOU” and “STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING” and “THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE,” suggesting that “THE FUTURE IS A DISTORTED LANDSCAPE.”
Absolutely Free shared this via email:
“Still Life” starts in a familiar universe and bubbles up into another. The shift illustrates an appetite for personal, political & stylistic change, boiling over. The song examines feelings of being worn down and halted by progress, stagnating both in society and individually. It is about breaking free from patterns of still life defined by cyclical, repeated forms of inaction, and predictable modes of conformity.
We collaborated with Christina Battle on the video. Her series of animated gifs, the world is a distorted landscape, brings a wider perspective to our song. Today’s news can debilitate you. Christina’s unrelenting juxtaposition of rusted objects, fossils, and natural disasters makes individual problems seem insignificant in the face of millions of years and forces greater than humanity. That perspective can help assess what we can do as individuals to steer the ship to a better place.
Watch and listen below:
12/01 – Quebec City, QC @ Le Scanner w/ Scattered Clouds
12/02 – Montreal, QC @ Casa del Popolo w/ Scattered Clouds, Eliza Niemi
“Still Life” is out now. Buy it here.