Standout Track: No. 1, “Impala”—a kinetic track from Near Northeast’s recent album Curios—that fuses Graceland grooves with ornate, chamber-pop flourishes. While the song’s verses feature percussive guitar and violin interplay, the chorus is driven by a biting riff and the pessimistic conviction of vocalist and violinist Kelly Servick’s lyrics. “We’re waiting for a signal in the dark, but I can’t hear it,” she sings. “Impala” has accessible and arresting nuance, both in its melodic layers and its thoughtful exploration of love and mortality.
Musical Motivation: The songwriting process for “Impala” was truly a team effort: Guitarist Avy Mallik composed the bulk of the instrumental arrangement, Servick wrote the melody and lyrics, and bassist Austin Blanton handled the production. Servick calls “Impala” a “love story that takes place over an archaeological time scale,” and her lyrics celebrate the immediacy of existence before it’s lost “in the big scheme of things.” Mallik’s chord progression similarly juxtaposes joy and darkness, while his shifting time signatures in the song’s instrumental bridge lead to a dizzying, cathartic climax. “As a music geek it kind of unsettles you,” he says.
Blissed Connections: Mallik, Servick, and the band’s original drummer Alex Pio met when they all responded to a Craigslist ad seeking backup musicians for a traditional Indian dancer’s benefit show. They immediately hit it off and, once they began writing songs together, used Craigslist to recruit Blanton. Mallik and Pio both live in Near Northeast—the neighborhood, that is—while Servick and Blanton live in Columbia Heights, but they were drawn to the phrase as a band name because of its vague, abstract nature. “You’re close to something but you’re not quite there, and that’s like how a lot of our music works,” Mallik says.
Stream “Impala” after the jump.