True love can be fleeting, and when it is, it’s usually stronger than we know what to do with. The High Plains Drifters are exploring what it means to briefly grasp happiness through romance in their new single “The One That Got Away,” and while theirs isn’t the first such track to cover this kind of subject matter, it’s one of the more sleekly designed that I’ve had the chance to review in 2022. Powered by a pop beat and clandestine but textured melodies, “The One That Got Away” is a fully-loaded ballad of introspection and instrumental depth the same.
These lyrics aren’t commentarial in nature, but instead rather brooding and aimed more towards the listener than introspectively. Our lyrical protagonist is relating to us like we’re a pair of friends sitting at the bar drowning our worries away, which requires a lot of personality on his part and that of the percussion shaping this groove, but neither disappoint in any capacity here. This isn’t quite as forceful a piece as some of the other material this act has released thus far, but it doesn’t need to be – the statements put everything on the table, with little additional clarity required.
This groove is influenced as much by the synthetic melodies in the mix as it is by the traditional synth-pop model on its own, and I don’t know that there’s a way to break this song down without acknowledging the post-punk edge it rocks so perfectly from beginning to end. Some critics might listen to “The One That Got Away” and hear a lot of retro vibes, but I think the framework of this single is much too artsy and emotional to stand in the past entirely. The High Plains Drifters are reflecting on influences, for sure, but they’re not paying homage with this song exclusively.
Not all of the melodic fabric of “The One That Got Away” feels artificial, and I think the inclusion of the guitar accent in the mix contributes a bit of life where there would otherwise be a robotic rigidity to the music. Juxtaposition is something this band uses very conservatively, but I think this is a performance that would warrant its employment in future works, primarily to see if The High Plains Drifters are able to get as much out of another winding jam as they were with this swaggering new studio cut.
If you want surprisingly strong pop beats with a lyrical center that isn’t completely made up of hokey predictable poeticisms, The High Plains Drifters have got you covered with “The One That Got Away” this May. It might not have the presence of some of the heavier pop tracks that have been gaining traction on the American side of the Atlantic lately, but this is nonetheless a song that has a haunting sound I don’t think I’m going to get out of my head before the week is over. To summarize it, “The One That Got Away” is a look at what this band can do when they’re operating above critical expectations.
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