In Hasten Mercy’s “These Things,” the synthesizer initially comes on so strong that you’re likely to think you’re sinking into a drone piece just before the beat really begins to take shape, but all things considered, this introduction is essential to appreciate the depth of emotion and sonic ambition sitting on the horizon in this single. “These Things” flirts with an almost Nick Cave-like dark melodicism, but the bread and butter of its existence lies in physicality that, for all intents and purposes, begins and ends with the synth we meet in the track’s first ten seconds of play.
There’s a ton of angst beneath the smooth surface of the jet black synthesizer in this song, and it doesn’t take anything more than the lead vocal to shake it loose. Every component of the arrangement is made to exude a bit of frustration, but without the finessing of the rhythm, I don’t know that we would ever be able to understand the balance of emotions Hasten Mercy is trying to depict in this single. Depending on how you interpret the lyrics, there’s definitely an observational point of view to be acknowledged here, and its leering commentary winds up being some of the most exciting content in the track (as I see it, at least).
The soft voice surrounded by subdued chaos in “These Things” is conflictive with the instrumental componentry in the master mix, but hey, if you can get along with this kind of hybridity without sounding like you’re completely lost and fragmented in your experimentations, more power to you. You’ve got to credit Hasten Mercy with going out on an aesthetical limb in this performance – though somewhat suffocating on the sonic front, this single is brooding in ways that other pop songs just haven’t touched on, despite an uptick in insular artistic themes recently.
This arrangement doesn’t ask much of any one specific instrumental part, and I would argue that it’s because of the minimalistic approach to structure that Hasten Mercy is able to get away with coloring outside of the lines to the degree they are in “These Things.” Rebellion doesn’t always have to come in the form of a chest-beating groove or even a riff stylized to quake the floorboards beneath your feet; it can be completely and utterly clandestine in nature, much as the textural elements in this recording are.
A startlingly immersive piece that took a couple of listens for me to understand and love, “These Things” by Hasten Mercy will get in your head long after you’ve stopped listening to its labored melody. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to a lot of really smart, inventive independent music through the COVID age in pop songwriting, but I’m admittedly a sucker for the simpler side of the avant-pop movement, particularly as it stands when brilliant minds get together to make it better. Hasten Mercy scores big points on this end with me in “These Things,” and I think other critics of the underground are going to share my enthusiasm for the single and its music video’s unique qualities.
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