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The story goes this way. Ian Richard Devaney’s band The Static Jacks had recently come apart and he was in a car with his father when his father put on a song he hadn’t listened to in many years: “Electricity” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (aka OMD). It evoked a great measure of nostalgia in him and he decided to try to write a song in a similar vein. He never meant it to amount to anything but this playing around with synths eventually brought us a new synth pop act out of Brooklyn. Nation of Language became a trio when Devaney added Aidan Noell for more synths and vocal support and former Static Jacks guitarist Michael Sue-Poi on bass.
They released a string of EPs and singles between 2015 and 2020 but I didn’t get to hear the group until they released their aptly named debut, “Introduction, presence”, in 2020. And even then, I didn’t catch up with this fine album when it was first released in the spring. It took a Spotify playlist, ‘made especially for me’ sometime in the fall, to include a song that made my ears prick up, had me reaching for my iPad to discover what song was playing, and then, had me googling a band name that had previously escaped my attention.
That song was “On Division St.” by Nation of Language.
“A song so sweet
From back when I was born”
Originally released as a single back in 2018, it was re-recorded for our collective “introduction” and it was well met, indeed. It is a lovely and sad thing that feels like I’ve known it all my life, grew up listening to it during my ansgty teen years. It is just over three minutes of romance unrequited, a rain soaked black and white photograph, discarded scarf, and a single dried rose. It is a drum machine set to weep and a flickering and fluttering arpeggio of synths. It is a solo form dancing and singing to him or herself in the middle of a long emptied dancefloor, still waiting and hoping for the appearance of a dream.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2020 list, click here.
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