“Please No” by Your Friend Brennan

Your Friend Brannan [ Ritchie Hemphill]

I’m a fan of songs that always seem to stay one step ahead of me. Ones that shift and change shape as they are being moulded. Often songs like that show up in the places you’d least expect, and needless to say, I did not expect a disorienting track like “Please No” from Your Friend Brennan, the same artist who previously delivered the calmingly ambient album, Seas of Noise. If you’ve ever wondered what sound a mashup of experimental-post-punk-spoken-word-piano and chimes would create, “Please No is your answer. It’s difficult to pull apart distinct sounds and craft them on their own, let alone combine them and make them all sound cohesive without sacrificing the song’s entire structure, but the Vancouver-based composer constructs something impressive. It’s incredible.

Right from the onset, “Please No” begins with the raspy voice of an old man and an incessantly beating drum bashing behind him before we are flooded with a crash of pianos, synths and the younger voice of Brennan Doyle screaming “Goodbye.” You start to realize that the competing sounds are, in reality, building upon each other. The cerebral intensity of the first opening seconds is topped only by the startling bursts of anxious reckoning that follow. Throughout the track, Your Friend Brennan scrambles audaciously to bind everything together with a synth and electro beat in under four minutes.

“Please No” is undoubtedly sonically aggressive and if you were introduced to Your Friend Brennan through his 2022 release, Seas of Noise, the tonal shift might be a bit of an adjustment. Rather than the expected flow of tender piano and brass, this track is frenetic. In a sense, the change feels more like flipping to the opposite side of the same coin, like being able to tap into calm because you have known the opposite. “Please No” is, as Doyle describes it, “a dark sibling to Seas Of Noise that spirals towards more existential forms of catharsis.” The chaos is the feeling of a mind coming to grips with wasting its life away while simultaneously convincing itself that it’s okay: “There’s always a reason, I tell myself, I tell myself that there’s a reason. I tell others, anyone, I give myself a reason.” 

Curiously enough, after spending half of the song wondering which direction the music would take next, the closing softens as synths and a sax glisten towards a satisfying end. The screams, mixed with his jangled piano, create an experimental ballad that is addictingly weird. This juxtaposition makes “Please No” such a strangely tactile experience and, by far, the most refreshing thing I’ve heard all week.

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