Track: Ya Tseen’s ‘Knives’ Works Towards Emotional Normality



Many of the day-to-day emotions we take for granted have been atrophied by the pandemic, and artists have begun to explore how we can return to emotional normality. In anticipation of his upcoming debut album Indian Yard, Indigenous Alaskan artist Ya Tseen released a teaser single “Knives.” Receiving support from fellow Alaskan rockers Portugal. The Man, the track explores vulnerability in love through a garage-psychedelic-rock lens.

The musical atmosphere of the track is defined by an interlocking mesh of reverberating guitar patterns wedged between celestial synthesizers and driving metallic basslines. The intermingling of live and programmed drums leave the listener with fleeting impressions of 80s progressive pop, amplified further by blurry falsetto vocals from Portugal. The Man frontman John Gourley. Lyrically, the track takes a cynical approach towards love, with the narrator (Ya Tseen frontman Nicholas Galanin) skeptical of receiving affection after years of calloused emotions. As the character’s cold shell begins to melt away, the production warms up as well: the tone of the bass loses its metallic edge, ethereal female vocals (presumably belonging to the narrator’s beloved) ornament the mix, and the drums soften in line with the singer’s heart. As the scenery returns to familiar ground, the build-up to the final statement of the chorus lacks the dynamism that the listener might expect from the arrangement, choosing instead to melt away into the ether.
In line with the rest of the group’s offerings, “Knives” is a song about interconnectedness and feeling, themes that are promised to be explored on Ya Tseen’s upcoming debut. Indian Yard is due out April 30th via Sub Pop Records, with additional features from rum.gold, Nick Hakim, and Shabazz Palaces, among others. After a year of missing out on authentic connection, “Knives” shows us how we can slowly warm ourselves to feeling from the outside.

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