Every now and again, someone with a brave voice comes around to say the things that need to be said the most without even batting an eye, and for fans of mild-mannered pop/rock, Dane Maxwell could be that someone in 2019. His new single, “Where I’m Seen,” takes a somewhat basic bassline, shy string melodies and a white-hot vocal and adds in some lyrics that are as sharp as a butcher knife, all in the name of putting a stop to bullying at every stage of life. Dane Maxwell means serious business with this track, and he throws down some serious tonality to prove it.
There’s an intergenerational appeal in “Where I’m Seen” that hasn’t been present in a lot of pop music in the 2010s. I hear classic pop roots in the beat, a contemporary adrenaline in Maxwell’s delivery of the verses, and a really experimental bonding between the two that sounds unlike anything I’ve heard in the surreal soundscapes making noise this summer. Harmonies of the grandest quality are around every corner, and there isn’t any of the Millennial snobbery that many indie aficionados have grown quite tired of in the last year and a half.
Black and white percussive tones are the key ingredient to this song’s swagger, and Maxwell loads us down with as many as his drummer can muster in the three minutes and forty three seductive seconds that the track goes on for. The textures in the strings make everything gel together as though it were a part of some classical symphony, and there’s never any disconnect between the vocal track and the instrumentation (a feature that essentially dismisses any notion of Maxwell trying to appease R&B crossover fans exclusively with his particularly soulful singing). “Where I’m Seen” is surreal, but it isn’t ambient eclecticism at all.
I might have liked a little more of a push from the strings as we get into the chorus and less of the overdriven bass in this single, but were I hearing the song in a club somewhere, I don’t believe that I would make the same adjustment. The bottom-end in the hook here is what gives “Where I’m Seen” its danceable feel, and were it not as enveloping of the acoustic guitars in the transition, the track would be a lot more depressing in nature than it was ever meant to be. Dane Maxwell is full of surprises, but his skilled arrangements are going to become something that I imagine I’ll be hearing a lot more of this fall.
“Where I’m Seen” is bold, beautiful and bringing Dane Maxwell out of the woodwork this year through its unmatched melodicism and lyrical punch. I don’t usually care for this kind of pop, but with the heart that this songwriter has put into this single, it’s impossible for me to repel his charming musicality. This is a very important time for music, and I’m happy that Maxwell has come into the fold with the release of this positive piece about bullying. He’s got my attention, and I’m not the only critic to say so.
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