I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but here in Seattle, it’s no secret that Jeff Bezos is completely, thoroughly despised. What Amazon has done to this city is so astronomical, from changing (read: massacring) our culture, landscape, and housing costs, it’s hard to imagine it ever being undone. And now that our resident Mr. Burns is more interested in traveling to space than selling books, it only makes him look like more of a complete dick while the people who actually work for him are peeing in bottles in order to fulfill the orders of his monolithic company.
The plight of these underpaid and overworked laborers is exemplified in the video for chamber pop duo Takénobu’s new single “Traveling Light.” In it, Nick Ogawa plays a rodent trapped in the literal rat race of working day-in-day-out in a warehouse at a company called Amazing. With the same logo and colors as the Bezos-owned company, it’s less a wink and more a shove at who Ogawa’s referencing.
Following the lyrics of the string-plucked song, “Every day the same old song /Burn the midnight oil till dawn /Breaking my back for the sake of the company,” Ogawa’s mouse character spends his days packing and taping boxes while dreaming of when he finally has a day off to spend with his wife, played by his real-life wife and now-bandmate Kathryn Koch. In the end, he settles that for the sake of quality of life, he’s got to shun the (mouse) trap of capitalism by quitting his dehumanizing (derodentizing? No, stop Jasmine) job and eschew the need for material goods.
“Traveling Light” is the lead single from Takénobu’s forthcoming album Always Leave a Note, out September 3rd. Initially the solo project for the singer-cellist, this album marks the first start-to-finish collaboration with singer/violinist Koch. As a former touring member of Kishi Bashi and composer for NPR's Invisibilia, Last Chance U, and the documentary 42 Grams, Ogawa’s orchestral meditations have likely wormed their way into your ears whether you realized it or not.
The Atlanta-based duo recorded Always Leave a Note last summer and, in the midst of the pandemic and political strife, the songs that were coming out were unsurprisingly angsty and political. “Honestly, though, that became a drag,” says Ogawa in a press release about the album. “It started to drain me. So I very consciously went in a more hopeful direction. It seemed like the only way to make it through this whole thing.”
“Traveling Light,” with its pointed aim at the dark aspects of Western capitalism, is perhaps one of the more political songs on the album. Elucidating the themes of the record, Ogawa explains, “It begins with an anti-overwork, anti-exploitation vibe, critiquing the banal slog of pointless employment, and goes on to explore the disenchantment of falling prey to such a hollow interpretation of the American Dream.”
“You know—the workaday world, but party on the weekends and forget your troubles,” he continues. “But the downfall, which we sing about in 'Got to Get By,' is where all the excess catches up with you. There’s definitely an arc to the record—by the end, there’s this realization that you just want to be in a good place mentally. Really, that’s all you can hope for.”
Always Leave a Note follows 2019’s Conclusion and is out September 3rd. Watch the video for “Traveling Light” below and/or catch Takénobu in Portland on Friday, October 8th at The Old Church.
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