Part of the difficulty—and the joy—of writing about music, is that it forces a more active engagement with the material in question. It makes you consider the song, album, and artist from all possible angles, compelling you to plumb your innards for a more nuanced response that transcends the initial, more visceral reactions. In other words, it’s a great excuse to listen rather than just consume.
This act of listening serves two purposes: it builds a relationship between music and listener, and it can lead to a better understanding between listener and self. It allows us to soften, to dig in, and know ourselves just a little bit better. On “These 3 Things”, the first single off their upcoming record Room Inside the World, Ought’s lead vocalist Tim Darcy concerns himself with just that: turning an ear inward to better understand the composition of self, in a world where self-display holds sway over self-reflection.
On their previous records, Ought’s music earnestly celebrates humanness in the face of the monotony and superficiality of our constructed lives. “Beautiful Blue Sky”, off of 2015’s Sun Coming Down, finds a silver lining in the laundry list of social niceties and small-talk talking points that have become foundational methods of communication. “Today More Than Any Other Day”, from 2014’s More Than Any Other Day, finds beauty in the grocery store runs and routines that bridge our days and nights. “These 3 Things” still stresses the importance of embracing the idiosyncrasies that make us human, but does so by stripping away the external to reveal the messiness inside. Darcy is intent on giving credence to the emotional mechanisms that colour his world. The song’s impassioned hook of “Will I hear my soul?” is a desperate cry for the continued prioritization of emotional efficacy, passion, and sentimentality in our lives.
Where much of Ought’s earlier music is characterized by taut, dizzying post-punk structures, “These 3 Things” sets itself apart with hearty new-wave drums, a driving bass line, and more pronounced bottom end. Darcy follows suit, employing a warm, heartfelt croon, which only bolsters the ponderous yearning of his lyrics. His ability to utilize different vocal styles over the course of Ought’s discography is a testament to his efforts to understand himself through his art; he is a performer deeply in touch with the myriad characters that populate his brain.
Technology gives us the ability to understand ourselves, in real time, better than we ever have before. That said, the way we use the Internet, social media, and the like, seems ever-more geared toward curating synthetic representations of ourselves—personalities and mannerisms that are digestible on a mass-scale, that display who we want to be rather than who we are. The implicit danger in all this curating and fine-tuning is permanently losing touch with our authentic selves. With “These 3 Things”, Ought implore us to never lose touch with who we are when everything is stripped away; to never completely sever the essential connection between body and soul.