Of all the potent ways in which music can tug at the psyche, my absolute favourite is how it can conjure up vivid images of an idealized elsewhere.
There are particular songs that create a feeling of escapism that’s rarely tied to a specific time or place. Instead, subtle flourishes in the music tap into a jumbled Rolodex of emotions and experiences that builds up and swells in the mind over time. The result is a clear picture of a vaguely defined place that forms as the song unfolds.
In this case, the song in question is “Palo Alto” by the Toronto-via-Halifax electronic duo Southern Shores, a song that a friend described to me as a shot of serotonin. It didn’t take me long to realize what she meant.
“Palo Alto” is off the band’s upcoming full-length entitled Loja, out today, September 2 on Cascine. According to their Bandcamp page, Southern Shores (Ben Dalton and Jamie Townsend) intended Loja to be a “reflection on travel and its ability to unlock a larger worldview”. If the first single is any indicator, the duo certainly held true to their intentions. “Palo Alto” is pure, well-crafted escapism. It unfolds with a simple drum pulse and lush samples that build on, and bleed into one another, creating a gorgeous soundscape. The band finds a harmony between the exotic and the familiar in a way that recalls artists like Tycho, Bonobo, and even Slowdive.
There is no question that “Palo Alto” makes a pretty overt beeline for the brain’s pleasure centres, but it also lacks the kind of mindless hedonism present in a lot of modern electronic music. It is a song that is best enjoyed solo, in order to fully immerse yourself in the expansive world it creates.