Based on the dizzy spell singer/songwriter Nicholas Merz projects in the peculiar sounding “Drifting Palomino” love makes you do and sing unexplainable things. “Drifting” is the newest track from L.A.’s Merz, a guy who took to the big city after his early years in a smaller setting, and is from his upcoming full-length release, God Won’t Save You But I Will, via Aagoo records, dropping May 22nd. Drifting and dropping – Merz has the listener by the ropes in the roots rocker “Drifting Palomino”.
At times the guitars sound searing, almost blush against the cool percussion beats. Merz’s vocal delivery is suave and deep. The western tones and steel riffs call to mind a modern cowboy, he’s not in the bro-country realm, but more of an urban hipster/cowboy. His looks matches that sound – the video is just as trippy. Director Michael T. Workman’s storyline has Merz performing as a singer in dive bars, and when he’s not on stage, the video’s character is wearing a horse mask or being nudged (and even kissed by a selfie-taker) in the streets of Los Angeles or back alleys.
What makes the song confusing and the video is the delicious lack of formal music structure. Sure, there is some, but lyrically, Merz meanders his way around the words in an almost prose spun wheel. He gets stuck on certain repeats and during other special moments, his voice changes range and it’s a magical effect. He sings “I’ve been out here all night / everything is fine” and then he strums the guitar, gets the listener situated. Then keys change and a bit more dramatism with “I’m in love / I’m in love / I’m inside of love / I think I’m in love / So I must be in love.” He has a conversation (sung beautifully, of course) where he answers “yes, maybe that’s the answer” and then the unmistakably infectious “that drifting palomino is like falling through me the air / it’s like falling through the air / and I’m falling through the air”. One has to surmise that his emotional roller coaster of falling in love has him all astray. His instinct might be to flee (run for the hills like a horse) or keep falling into blissful love.
Workman’s and Merz union on the music video is pretty interesting. It doesn’t look like a direct interpretation of the song (the way I interpreted it) but it’s quite an artistic achievement. As is “Drifting Palomino” – Nicholas Merz has the goods. Merz’ biography materials mentions Orville Peck and Bambara – “brooding western gothic rock sweeping the underground” as similar artists. I agree. What makes Merz just as interesting is his brighter guitars and keen storytelling. He grabs you with his voice, steels your heart with his guitar and basslines and seals the deal with his lyrics. His musical arrangements, while unique, are actually quite stable. “Drifting Palomino” is on track to be rounded up as one of the best for 2020. It’s that good.
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