December 7, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

What really constitutes a great song, anyway?

For some, it’s a level of emotional connection with the subject matter, an empathy and understanding for the lyricist’s own shortcomings, fears or anxieties. For others, it’s a collection of great guitar riffs, memorable vocal melodies, or otherwise proficient technical musicianship. Very generally speaking, there are two types of music fans: Those who pay great attention to lyrics, and those who just want to hear great music, however they deem it. There’s some overlap of course, but you’re, again, very generally speaking, one or the other.

I’ve always thought of myself as more concerned with the music itself than any lyrics. Sure, I’ve identified, often intensely, with the lyrical subject matter of songs in my nearly 31 years as a living, breathing human being, but for the most part, I’m here for riffs, for an unexpected melody, for proficiency. Like I said the other day when writing about Kylesa, I’m here to be in the presence of people smarter and more talented than I, to be in the presence of greatness and hope that by some weird osmosis I can absorb some of it and apply it to my own life, or at least strive to be better in my own projects and relationships. That’s what moves me, man.

The Artists Formerly Known As The Weaks really accomplished something special with Bad Year. It’s an album full of quick, punchy rock that straddles a fine line between conventional rock song ideas and idiosyncratic weirdness. Just as a ripping guitar solo is beginning to border on cheesiness, it ends. On to the next thing. Just as a hook—and there are more decorative hooks in this thing than a goddamn Bed Bath & Beyond—is beginning to establish itself, the song often just ends. How great is that? The songs never try to do too much; instead, and quite brilliantly, the Superweaks always leave the listener wanting more. “Hammers” is actually one of the busier, less austere cuts on the album—it uses flashy percussion, with lots of cymbals and floor toms, and jangly guitars in the verses to make the riffs and hooks in the chorus and coda soar even higher. The quiet/loud dynamic has been done a billion times in a billion songs, and will be done a billion more times, but it’s still an immensely satisfying thing for my brain, that swell of anticipation when I just know shit’s about to cut loose. And then, just like that, it’s over and we’re on to the next thing.

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