October 19, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

The quest for the “perfect song,” subjective as it is, remains an everlasting one. A song can be technically, lyrically or emotionally perfect to you but boring and unaffecting to someone else. It probably is, in fact. It could come to you at a time and place where you need it most, but didn’t realize how much you needed it until you heard it. It’s an unmatched high, being in the presence of perceived perfection. When I see or hear something that I consider perfect, it’s often akin to staring at the sun or standing next to a jet engine. It’s all-consuming, blinding and deafening, inescapably dangerous.

This recurring column will explore and attempt to pinpoint what makes a “perfect” song, to me at least. Right now, “Lost” by Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room is The Perfect Song.

Andriano has always been the secret MVP of Alkaline Trio. Matt Skiba writes and sings the hits in the band, and to be sure, he’s written dozens of good-to-great songs as part of the Trio. But while Skiba was writing those hits, Andriano has been off to the side writing the true gems, those songs like “You’ve Got So Far To Go” and “Crawl” that made their way onto an interminable amount of mixtapes, most of which were artfully crafted on Saturday afternoons on my bedroom floor. For being such an integral, impossible-to-replace member of a long-running band, he seems to be hopelessly and perpetually underrated as a vocalist, lyricist and bass player. Is Skiba’s shadow really that imposing?

Little by little, Andriano has been stepping outside of Skiba’s, and to a likely larger degree the Trio’s, shadow with various projects. He moonlights in The Falcon along with The Lawrence Arms’ Brendan Kelly and Neil Hennessy, and, as of this new album whenever it comes out, Dave Hause. Talk about a punk supergroup. His own solo work has taken on a life of its own too—dubbed Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room, he’s released a pair of albums: 2011’s Hurricane Season and this year’s Party Adjacent, both via original Alkaline Trio label Asian Man Records. While the former was largely an acoustic showcase for Andriano’s songwriting, the latter exceeds it in just about every way imaginable by pairing the talented musician with other talented people, namely Jeff Rosenstock, who produced the album, Hard Girls/Shinobu guitar virtuoso Mike Huguenor, and Bruce Lee Band drummer Kevin Higuchi. Their talent and creativity makes for a diverse record and an invigorating backdrop for Andriano’s songwriting, given that for better or worse, Alkaline Trio’s aesthetic is pretty much etched into stone at this point.

One of the centerpieces of Party Adjacent is “Lost.” It’s actually the penultimate track on the album, but centerpieces can come in any spot in the rotation as far as I’m concerned. While the entire album is eminently enjoyable and replayable, “Lost” in particular feels like the perfect marriage of Andriano’s hooky songwriting and the talents of the players around him. Everybody is putting their best foot forward here. The song begins with disparate-but-quick percussion from Higuchi before dirty, distorted bass rounds out the rhythm section. Andriano’s vocal melodies pop in and, even though he’s sort of just singing over the music instead of along with it, the unconventional rigidity of its presentation works, mostly because of how cool the instrumentation sounds and how sheerly catchy Andriano’s vocal melodies are and how Huguenor’s guitar work initially dances around it. The song, quite frankly, would’ve been perfect just by repeating this pattern for another minute or so, but instead, the guitar fades out for the first chorus. That leads to a moments of subtle, low-end bleeps and bloops among some near-choral oohs before the song breaks wide open into a straightforwardly fast, guitar-driven, driving anthem. Andriano elevates his vocal energy just a bit, not much really, as this happens, and as Huguenor rapidly solos the same couple of notes over and over to build tension toward the song’s coda when those oohs and that bass returns to the forefront. It is, at the moment, the Perfect Song.

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