"There are a lot of people who feel very lost – a lot of people who feel very lonely. I don't see it as any different to an epidemic."
Songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Tay Salem is sitting back on a plush sofa and discussing the end of the world. Or rather, the idea everyone thought the world was going to end in the year 2000 but instead things have seemingly got worse and worse from that point. The Twin Towers fell, the financial heads fucked away our futures by creating the perfect storm for the credit crunch and recession, and everything you've probably read on your Twitter feed in the past few years has been dire. Ultimately, it's led a lot of people to feel depressed or alone in the world.
Having already released his Night Mill EP in 2016, the 24-year-old is prepping a bunch of new music – some of which tackles or at least touches on the issues mentioned above. That approach is kicked off with today's release of double a-side single "Rivers" and "A Real High", two songs that demonstrate Salem's knack for penning a tune that sits somewhere between the melodics of Frank Ocean and the subtle groove of James Blake. Listen to both of them, premiering below.
Salem says that the second of the tracks, "A Real High", directly addresses the idea of preparing for the end of the world only to see the millennium pass without fail, all of us then sitting on the dark other side. "The chorus is a damning repetition of we set up for nothing," he explains. It's a track with open, major 7th, baroque chords – all of which sounds welcoming, pretty and nice, but in fact covers over the darker lyrical content hiding underneath the surface.
"If you had to encapsulate the world we live in it's that," Salem explains of the dichotomy between the chord sequence and the lyrics. "Everything below the surface of beauty is a load of shit." Well, damn. It's not really a surprise, then, that he'd been influenced by Elliott Smith as a teenager – one of the luminaries of darkened, blue-tinged songwriting. Except this time around that shit is on steroids.
The first side of the single, "Rivers", has a relatively similar tone but comes backed up with a strong, synth led groove. It's the kind of thing that aims to wrap the listener up, casing them in a wall of sound. "I took a different approach with the new stuff," Salem says, of how he started writing songs first and then producing them, rather than going straight into production software and writing on top of that. The result: something that feels far more alive.
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