By: Thomas Rodriguez
Life is all about change: familiar faces disappearing from memory, semesters coming and going, playlists being added and deleted, your hometown shifting to a new address. As times change, however, we always have some sort of music to remind us of the old days, something that can trigger a flashback to older, possibly brighter times. Music has a timeless, almost cathartic effect that can transport your heart and memories to anytime, anyplace.
Japanese American singer-songwriter Lea Thomas takes full advantage of this healing, nostalgic effect of music with her latest single, “What Did the Music Sound Like.” The song is a wonderful ballad that evokes blissful nostalgia, queasy uncertainty, and hopeful optimism all at once. It’s one of my favorite songs of the year…so let’s dive into why you should give it (and Lea Thomas) a listen.
Once “What Did the Music Sound Like” starts, the instrumentation puts your heart into a different planet. The use of folky guitar licks from Thomas and Nico Osbourne, Brendan Mulvihill’s steady bass and John Thayer’s soft percussion paints the track as a moody utopia. The sound of the song lies line between folk pop and indie rock, but the blues-like twang to the production makes it stand out in a fascinating way. On a purely sonic level, its gorgeous: I can totally see myself listening to it as I stare at my bedroom ceiling on the floor or playing it on a countryside drive. As a delicious guitar solo rolls in the back half, I can’t help but subconsciously feel the melancholic emotions Lea sings about in my bones…in other words, a perfect beat to accentuate the lyrics.
And speaking of Lea Thomas’s lyrics, they hit. The song isn’t just thick with emotion: it captures the confusion and uncertainty of change in a really gentle, poignant way.
“You were going to see the city looking for a “change”/What a loaded word, you would never be the same” Thomas softly sings into the mic. Off the bat, Thomas’s lyrical style is biographical, personality-driven, and interesting. The song, dedicated on the music that Lea Thomas listened to during the great changes in her life, centers on this reflective, is an earnest look at Thomas’s psyche and love of music. Rather than listing band names or playlists, Thomas takes a much more interesting approach, reflecting on the confusion that can arise from (what I interpret) as a new job, new city lights, and reflective car rides. With lines such as “A little more than a microdose, you were wide awake. Seems like the shadow work paid better than your day job,” I feel like I’m sharing a one-on-one conversation with Thomas as she discusses her past, present, and future. Throughout the song’s verses, she details the emotions she carried on her journey in life…but the sadness seems to melt away on the chorus as she returns to music. While it is simple, the chorus is far too catchy to ignore: I’ve been humming “What does the music sound like?” for weeks now…
So, yes, the song is beautifully written as well.
What more do I need to say? Beyond being a front-runner for one of my favorite songs this year, I think “What Does the Music Sound Like” is a much-needed soundtrack for those who may have gone through any big changes this year. I know I certainly have, and many have those around us. Change is inevitable, but Lea Thomas and her crew have given us a a fantastic song to carry us to the new destinations we hit in 2021. Give it a listen!
“What Does the Music Sound Like” by Lea Thomas, via Spirit House Records, released April 27, 2021. The link to streaming and its music video are below!
Special Thanks to Spirit House Records Publications, Lea Thomas, and all other parties involved for sending us this awesome song! We hope you guys continue to do your great work in the future!
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