12/18/16: The Features – I Should Have Known Better

Listen along! I Should Have Known Better

To residents of Nashville and the surrounding area, The Features are nothing new. They’ve been a staple at local bars and clubs for over 20 years. Though they have opened for Kings of Leon on several occasions, and have reached number 33 on Billboard’s “US alternative” chart, they haven’t gained much traction on a national stage. Unfortunately, that means little chance of seeing The Features in concert for those of us who live outside Tennessee.

Their fifth album, Sunset Rock, was released earlier this year, but was just recently added to streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. The album is relaxing, fun, and emulative of a sunset. It’s barbecue/summer party music – the type of music you would hear below laughs around a fire place. Since listening to the album, I’ve created a Sunset Rock playlist, and I’m waiting for July to break it out. (July’s 1st & 10 segment will rank the best 10 sunset songs.)

“I Should Have Known Better” begins the album with soft, but steady guitar picking. The guitar adds structure to an otherwise free flowing song. When lead singer, Matt Pelham enters, he almost seems unaware of the instruments. His echoing voice confuses the tempo just enough to keep the listener interested.

When heard separately, it seems like several aspects of the song shouldn’t fit together cohesively. It’s difficult to discern whether the verses are in 2/2 or 4/4 time. Pelham’s voice is relaxed, but the guitar riff is not. The switch into 6/8 time going into the chorus is sudden and unexpected. Other artists could have attempted the same song, and ended up with a messy disaster, yet somehow, “I Should Have Known Better” works. I’ve been dancing around my house while singing it for a week now.

“I Should Have Known Better’s” musicality makes it a great song for picnics, cook-outs, parties, and bonfires. It’s lyrics make it a perfect song for sunsets. The summer before my Senior year of college, my friend Tanya showed me the importance of sunsets. We would walk down Sands Beach in Isla Vista, CA to watch the sunset a couple times a week.  The evening ritual served as a debrief session, with each of us taking turns letting out frustrations, sharing highlights, and pointing out our favorite trees. Once at the beach, we would comment on the sky’s shades of pink, watch the surfers, and gossip about the cute employees at Woodstock’s pizza, where we usually drank after the sun went down. As the sun lowered, Tanya would talk about feeling complete. Watching the sun disappear helped the frustrations of the day disappear as well. It provided a much needed sense of temporality and simplicity.

The Features capture that essence of simplicity with “I Should Have Known Better.” The first line states, “If you feel like the path you’re on is wrong, turn around. Turn around.” Though the message is simple, it takes a song or a sunset to make us listen sometimes. Without a break to watch the sunset, life can be overwhelming. The current path can seem like the only path. “I Should Have Known Better” reminds us that it’s not.

The Features concocted a heartwarming “waving goodbye to the sun” song, and inspired me to think of sunset rock as its own genre. For that, they are my Sunday’s Best.

Honorable Mentions:

Pharrell Williams (Crave): For making me even more excited to see “Hidden Figures.”

WEIRDO (Attitude): For releasing his third straight fantastic single. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to WEIRDO yet, I highly suggest him.

Wale (Groundhog Day): For releasing a fresh single in the midst of the last few weeks’ string of disappointing hip hop albums.

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