As the fog lifts over a stirring acoustic guitar melody, we’re greeted by the first couple of beats that will guide us into the arms of The Noted’s new video for “I Am.” A rousing look at patriotic themes from the likes of Portland’s most intriguing generation of singer/songwriter acts to date, this video doesn’t take its time with getting us immersed in the themes of the music through its enticing visuals. Images of the red, white, and blue slide over to an elusive backdrop, leading us into surreal territory a lot sooner than one might be anticipating in a pop video.
There aren’t a lot of props, nor does it ever feel like we’re watching a video in the traditional sense of the branding. Implicit lyrical themes aren’t rolling across the screen as we look on at the cover of an album or some other mundane shot; we’re on a rollercoaster ride of pure emotionality in “I Am,” with The Noted deciding where we’ll end up around every turn.
The guitar is the most muscular element in this mix, but it surprisingly doesn’t impose any sort of overly earthy effect on the lead vocals or the percussion as it comes swaying in and out of focus. I like how the drums seem to swell between the ridges of the bass parts, creating this sense of intimacy between the audience and the singing that just wouldn’t exist in another scenario.
There’s so much weight in this song’s best elements, but I’m hesitant to describe it as being a heavy pop single in general, mostly because of how sleek its grooves feel when we’re barreling into the chorus’ hook. This must be a favorite song of everyone connected with The Noted because if it weren’t, I don’t think they would be able to have put as much kick into it as they did without adding a lot of external components into the master mix. Listening to this track makes me think of a relaxing ocean breeze amid a hot afternoon; it’s wondrously refreshing, never asking anything in exchange for its endless catharsis.
“I Am” fades away with as much panache as it first rises from the silence some four and a half minutes earlier, and even though it’s on the shorter side as far as contemporary folk songs go, it’s an easy single to play over and over when you appreciate its harmony-laden stylishness. The Noted aren’t trying to alter the model of pop as we’ve all come to know it in their new release, but I don’t think there’s any question whether or not they’re looking to make a positive impact on their listeners this October with the message they’re sending here.
They’re not that deep into their discography, but taking into account how long it takes a lot of today’s biggest independent names to put something together in or out of the studio, they’re already making strides toward mainstream exposure via multiple outlets. For what I want in singer/songwriter content, this hits the mark.
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