Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by John Richards, is “Sometime Around Midnight” by The Airborne Toxic Event from their 2008 self-titled LP on Majordomo Records.
Just over two years ago The Airborne Toxic Event-lead singer Mikel Jollett was a struggling writer on the verge of completing his first novel. This changed over the course of a week as Jollett was bombarded by increasingly bad news — a painful break-up, his mother’s cancer diagnosis, and the onset of his own difficult health problems — inspiring the realization that his unfinished work was less novel and more the lyrical framework for a previously unthought of album. Jollett and drummer Daren Taylor spent four months cobbling together the skeletal outlines of their original music before gathering together a a talented trio of musicians (including classically trained violinist Anna Bulbrook and jazz-bassist Noah Harmon) to bring these compositions entirely to life.
With a tendency towards sumptuous orchestral arrangements and soul-bearing lyrics, The Airborne Toxic Event have quickly drawn comparisons to indie-stalwarts like The Arcade Fire. Jollett’s insistence on hyperliterate, narrative-driven lyrics (the band does derive its name from Don Dellilo’s National Book Award-winning novel White Noise), and the aching timber of his voice, brings an emotional intimacy to the songs that borders on brilliantly uncomfortable confession, more Okkervil River than Arcade Fire. Take “Sometime Around Midnight”, a heart-wrenching, honest description of a love lost, found and lost again, that in the wrong hands could fall victim to cliche. Buoyed by cutting lyrics and the expansive swell of strings, “Sometime Around Midnight” eschews the obvious and becomes a driving, intimate portrayal of disappointment and longing.
With appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Conan O’Brien already in the bag, as well as a deeply supportive critic and fan-base, The Airborne Toxic Event are already being heralded as the next coming of Los Angeles-based indie bands. Currently, you can catch them as they work their way through the Southeast. Find out more at their MySpace page. Here they are performing a fully acoustic version of “Sometime Around Midnight”: