It’s approaching midnight on a Monday, and I’m laying here trying to dissect the ease with which “Mercedes” is tumbling out of my speakers. My first instinct is to declare I’ve heard this song before, or at least a hundred facsimiles of something similar — but that’s really not being fair. Sure, the track’s got that sort of straight ahead pocket groove that borrows from any number of indie pop, alt-rock, and emo touchstones (sometimes all at the same time), and everything resolves a bit too neatly to account for the anxiety and messy tension the song is describing. But listen more intently and the clues start to snap into place.
There’s the aqueous thrust of the guitars, for one — driving with just the right amount of melancholy. There’s the song’s pensive gloom, never cloying or pretentious, which provides a much needed emotional anchor. But mostly there’s bandleader Weston Taylor, whose understated vocals are the unifying force that binds this beguiling puzzle together. His voice isn’t explicitly powerful in terms of weight or force, but here at least it’s a commanding one, carrying shades of Peter Gabriel or Guy Garvey of Elbow.
Directed and edited by Chad Tennies, the video is visually impressive; from the grisly aftermath of a car accident to the intimate close-ups of each character, the camera frames the narrative in such a way that the viewer is drawn into each scene, creating an atmosphere of disquiet that gradually yields to something far more empowering. Thematically it’s familiar territory — how tragedy and trauma can either break us or provide us with the strength to find our better selves — but the melding of sound and image is both lyrical and uniquely compelling.
Watch it above.
Ayo River’s debut full length, Failed State, is out today.