Hit the Coast

Last summer, when I started writing down the names of songs for future posts on Song of the Day for Today, one of the first titles I recorded was “Hit the Coast,” by the Baltimore, Maryland, USA-based synth-pop group, Future Islands. Soon after, I added their hit, “Seasons (Waiting on You).” The latter track was honoured as the best song of 2014 by two online publications, NME (New Musical Express) and Pitchfork. I’m sure I’ll post it sometime, too.

On my first and every subsequent listen, “Hit the Coast” has always grabbed me with its dreamy synth line, steadily thrumming bass and, of course, the inimitable vocals of the band’s frontperson, Samuel T. Herring. After selecting the track for today’s post, I searched for a video accompaniment, and landed on an instalment from the Tiny Desk Concert series from NPR Music (National Public Radio, headquartered in Washington, DC, USA). NPR Music, like many organizations, went into a “work from home” mode during the pandemic. This video shows how they carried on their work creatively under the restrictions needed to preserve the health of artists and production staff. (In the credits to the video, they even list two people as Covid-19 compliance officers!)

In “Hit the Coast,” the singer seems numb with grief at losing an intimate relationship, though he is determined to move on and continue his life in a new place. While travelling there, he listens to music that evokes memories symbolized by the old tapes they used to listen to together, now relegated to bake in the sun on the car’s back seat.

In the Apple Music album notes, Herring writes about a tabletop desk recorder the band used for jam sessions, which one can hear in the song. He concludes, “Sometimes I think a record label will usually tell you to start big, go with your hit, go with your single for the first song, and end things more sombre. And we just wanted to flip it on its head. It made sense to end on this kind of triumphant note.”

“I can’t feel
I can’t feel for you
I’m just fine, as is
I don’t mind if that’s it
If I can’t feel, I can’t fight for you
It’s not my right
If I can’t fight, I can’t lose for you
So without you

I’ll hit the coast
Hit the coast
Hit the coast
Hit the coast

Pressing play on this old tape was a bad move
Reduced to hiss, some record I loved
Some record I’ve missed, just static, an absence
And I heard you say you didn’t need me
Or any of these things these tapes
And these days they’re frying in my backseat
But I’m flying and free
I’m not crying but I can’t even look to think

Hit the coast
Hit the coast
Hit the coast
Hit the coast

Driving in silence in my car
It’s all that I can take and nothing I could do
I put my whole life in my car
Oh, when you go just take what you can take
And change what you can do
I’ll hit the coast”

“Hit the Coast,” by Samuel T. Herring, Gerrit Welmers, William Cashion.
Lyrics retrieved from AZLyrics.com.

Watching the video, I was immediately drawn in by Herring’s stage presence. Of the several Future Islands songs I’ve heard, the inflection in his voice in this one is more melodramatic than the others. And in the video, his dance moves are theatrical, some of them reminiscent of 1980s club dancing styles. He’s a unique, quirky and unabashedly delightful performer, and I’d genuinely love to see the band play live someday.

“Hit the Coast” is the closing track on Future Islands’ sixth and most recent studio album, As Long As You Are (2020).

Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here. Please enjoy.

Here’s the video that includes “Hit the Coast” from the official NPR Music YouTube channel. The piece is first up in a four-song, 18-minute set.

With my best wishes,

Steve

3 thoughts on “Hit the Coast

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