Last May, I saw Capital Cities perform live at a music festival. We’ve all heard “Safe and Sound,” but since the group stood out to me, I looked up more of their music after the festival. Unfortunately, “Safe and Sound” seemed to be just about the only song they had at the time. Recently, however, they released a deluxe version of their album and, since I’m one of the few people who likes to check out deluxe albums, I decided to give them another shot. I was pleasantly surprised. Even with remixes, duo Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian may not have exactly mixed up their sound, but there are absolutely some fun tunes in the album.
“In a Tidal Wave of Mystery” begins with “Safe and Sound,” and the drawn-out vocals and dance-pop beats make it clear why the song became their number one hit. Synthesizers and bubbly lyrics characterize the album as pure summer fun. Capital Cities gives us songs we can dance to outside or listen to with the windows rolled down.
One distinctive quality of Capital Cities is that you can hear the trumpet quite clearly in most of their songs, a distinguishing factor from many bass and electric guitar-driven bands today. The song “Kangaroo Court” is especially representative of what the trumpet can do for a song. Lyrics such as “There’s a dark part of town where the girls get down” and “Bad luck shoes and every excuse to dance these blues away” create an aura of 1920s jazz age clubs, emphasized by the trumpet while the rest of the sound is modern.
Both the original “Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast” and the Napoleon remix sound at first like almost entirely different songs. However, listening more closely, you can hear the original song in the remix. What they chose to do with it is interesting: instead of adding electronics and dance-heavy sound to the original, they actually took a lot of that out. What remains is a much more personal song, similar to the style of a fast-paced song broken down into a cappellaor acoustic form.
In “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Capital Cities conforms to the obviously essential internet slang that pop artists have taken to titling their songs with. As one might assume from the title, it’s a classic love ballad, comparing the freedom of being single with wanting somebody. In this song, the lyrics “Since you’re gone I can do whatever I want” represent the first few days or weeks after a relationship which, classically, are either very hard or full of joy. But with that also comes the loneliness that is also sung about, though still in an upbeat fashion.
The album ends with a typical remix of “Safe and Sound,” revitalizing the song and adding beats, upping the tempo to almost double-time. This brings the album full circle and leaves us with the same happy, carefree feeling that we started out with.