Travis Atreo teams up with Neko X James for the collaborative twosome’s new single “Automatic,” and describing the chemistry that they share in its three and a half minutes of pure sonic bliss as off the charts-level excellence almost doesn’t do it justice. We start off with a jazz-inspired swagger that suffocates us in the form of a blustery bass. Slowly but surely, the rhythm of the song wraps around us, constricting tighter and tighter, until we reach the smoking chorus. Out of the ashes of a blazing opening synth salvo, Atreo strikes his serenade into the melody of the instrumentation in the backdrop and floods the track with a supple harmony that will leave even the most discriminating of audiophiles begging for more. Relentlessly rhythmic and stocked with a host of textured grooves and passionate poetry, “Automatic” is a poppy tour de force that sees all of its players firing on all cylinders and dispensing an anthemic song that has the potential to soundtrack some of the summer’s most exciting moments.
The lyrics have a melancholic nature and describe the erosion of a relationship in enigmatic rhymes, but there’s no argument to be made as to whether or not optimistic sensibilities of Atreo’s vocal changes the narrative of the words (it definitely does). We never feel like we’re listening to a dirge that’s been retooled for the nightclub here; instead of placating us with a lot of predictable pop themes, Neko X James and Travis Atreo treat us to an intimate lyricism spiked with vulnerability that is much more than just a cut above the status quo.
The conceptualism that Neko and James are toying with in this track is hopefully just a taste of what’s to come in the next three singles that they have queued up for release this spring, and if it is indeed representative of what those singles have in store for us, then I have a feeling that this is only the first of many headlines that this collaborative project is going to be making as the year comes to pass.
2019 is barely in full swing, but “Automatic” is definitely among the very best material that I’ve heard out of any artists so far this year. It’s got enough of a polish to appeal to the mainstream pop scene, but bears an independent ethos that influences its finer points enough to here I can see it being just as much of a smash hit with fans of the underground sound as well. There have been so many musicians on both sides of the dial dabbling in elements of surrealism, but I don’t know of a single band or solo act that is applying it to their music in the same erudite way that Neko X James are. They’ve had their hands in a lot of hits over the years as two individual players on the international level, but if you ask me, this is the most complete, charismatic and affectual work that either of them has ever turned in.