“None of These Things” isn’t the kind of song that you’ll likely find on your local Top 40 radio station, but for those of us who prefer to go underground when looking for new artists, Nate Smith’s slab of bluesy revolt is exactly the kind of song that belongs on our favorite playlist. It’s just a taste from his new album Some Kind of Dancing, and it isn’t the only reason why critics from coast to coast are calling it the smart and cerebral release of the decade. Whether it’s the red light dirge of the first half of the album or the stone cold bark of the second half, there’s so many elements to dig into with this record that even music’s most devoted students are going to have a lot of fun peeling away the layers. I took my shot at getting to the bottom of Some Kind of Dancingover this past week, and while it was a deeply involved and somewhat emotionally taxing experience, it’s one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
There’s no getting around the protest-heavy themes of Some Kind of Dancing, but when we look past the articulate lyricism that Nate Smith will almost certainly receive universal acclaim for, we find what I like to call the nucleus of his artistry: the music. From the string parts to the haunting rumble of the low fidelity percussion, there isn’t a single piece of Smith’s instrumentation that isn’t working in tandem with another. Take “The Sliver Moon” for example – in just the opening bars of the song, the vocals and the gentle plucking of a guitar seem to almost meld into piano and its warm reverberation. Everything can is clearly defined thanks to the even mix of the track, and by the time it fades to black we’re left to question whether we just listened to a man playing music or music playing a man. I found myself most affected by the ballads on this album where the tempo is slowed for this exact reason; when Smith takes it slow and simple, we’re able to appreciate just how textured his compositions can be.
The future of pop music is in the hands of those willing to push the envelope and constantly evolve their sound, and if you’ve listened to Smith’s first record Around and Around, you’ll instantly see that his style isn’t settling into its ways but merely beginning to blossom into its own. In an election year we always anticipate hearing a lot of politically motivated material, but the big difference between Some Kind of Dancing and most of its likeminded contemporaries is that its principal songwriter isn’t trying to level an attack on one side over the other but on the entire established order of things as we know it. As anyone with a rational logic knows, corruption exists in every branch of our government, and it’s up to those of us who can see beyond blue and red to do something about it for the ignorant fools around us. Nate Smith is doing his part, and I think he’d prefer it if we were doing ours, too.