Song of the Day: The Drums - I Can't Pretend

Song of the Day
06/29/2015
Jacob Webb
photo by Bebe Labree Besch (view set)

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “I Can't Pretend” by The Drums from the 2014 album Encyclopedia on Minor Records / INgrooves.

The Drums - I Can't Pretend (MP3)

Drawing from the diversity of their previous bands and spanning nearly as much stylistic ground in their own work, '60s pop melodies drive the post punk-filtered tunes of Brooklyn's The Drums. The roots of The Drums lie in Elkand, an electronic group formed by childhood friends Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham that released one album in 2005. Although that group dissolved a year later, the duo continued their collaboration a few years later with a new project, christened The Drums. Joined by guitarist Adam Kessler and drummer Conor Hanwick, the group were one of 2009's most hyped groups on both sides of the Atlantic. Upon its release in June 2010, their eponymous debut album was met with a warm reception but in the wake of extensive touring, Kessler left the band. Their second album, 2012's Portamento, was subsequently written as a trio, but after its tour had ended, the band once again lost a member, with Hanwick departing in late 2012. After spending a year pursuing solo ventures, (Pierce under the moniker Jonny Pierce and Graham under the moniker Cascading Slopes) the remaining two members regrouped and returned with their third studio album, 2014's Encyclopedia.

When Pierce sighs "it's too hard to begin/when you know it will end" on the fragmented, airy "I Can't Pretend", he channels Morrissey in all the best ways. Emphatic and unabashed in his vocal performance, Pierce's magnetic moan is languidly carried by the array of programmed sounds and floating guitar lines until the song reaches a noisy fade out. Considering how many times the band has splintered in the past few years, it's no surprise that The Drums effortlessly capture a sense of surreal tumult in "I Can't Pretend". The most impressive part, however, is that they do it with an atypically pop arrangement and in such a fascinating, flickering manner.

The Drums are finishing up the summer with a run of European and North American West Coast dates (no Seattle show though). Keep up with the band on their website and Facebook, and watch the band play "I Can't Pretend" live on KEXP last year.

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