vienna is a classic slow burner, with a bit of a difference.
The thing with a slow burner is that the early part of the song needs to be very strong; it needs to hook you quickly, even if the reeling-in may then take a while. vienna absolutely did that for me, right from the first moment. The track opens with a nicely mellow, muted electric guitar strum (a bit of a Wolf Alice / Don’t Delete the Kisses vibe) with some subtle, lo-fi toms. The vocals come in at just the right level, matching that chilled guitar perfectly.
Then it’s a bit more guitar, swathed in reverb, a little bit of vocal harmony, and a careful development of the lyrical theme: “I need a way out, give me a pill that’ll break my will to focus on you … I need a way out … Won’t you let me sleep …”
Heralded by a very slight increase in vocal intensity, the drums finally kick in just before the 3-minute mark. I love the way this has been done. You can feel the working out of a conscious, measured decision – a great sense of patience; the song waiting for just the right time to begin to let go, so that, when the time feels right, it happens decisively.
From there, you’re taken along for the ride, all the way home. After the beautifully judged ascent, this part of the song evokes a euphoric feeling of release. You’re free to go as you begin a long, effortless slide downhill.
There’s a gradual increase in intensity and volume, and at the same time the noodling guitar that appeared earlier in the track just keeps on going – right through to a lovely fade. You don’t get fade-outs so much these days, and I think that’s a shame. Done well, there’s nothing better, and I’m really glad that Ten Hands High made that decision here. It suits the mood of the track: one of wistfulness but undeniably tinged with hope. There’s a relatable feel – it’s the kind of song you want on your side when you’re feeling in that mood.
Ten Hands High formed in 2019 and seem to have established themselves quickly, while at the same time exploring styles and resisting getting stuck in an indie guitar rut. This track is part of what the band have called “Phase 4”: four singles released throughout the year (the previous three being i don’t need a lobster, meet me by the apple tree, and sunkissed). The four tracks have been compiled into an EP, also named vienna, released on 13th October.
vienna was my first experience of Ten Hands High, and I’m very grateful that the band shared the song with me a few days ago. Their previous release, sunkissed, was played on BBC Radio 1, and they’ve had airings on 6Music and Radio X, too. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot more exposure for them before too long.
The band are in the middle of a UK tour right now. If you’re quick you can catch them Crofters Rights Bristol (27th October) a headline show at PowerHaus in Camden (4th November) and finally Komedia Brighton (9th December).
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Words by Phil Taylor