Welcome to Jukebox Breakdown, a column where we write about songs we love. Less about overarching themes or through-lines, Jukebox Breakdown is simply a space for our thoughts on perfect tracks.
Jukebox Breakdown: Ryn Weaver – “OctaHate”
by Chad Jewett
2014 has been a downsize year for pop. Barring a fourth-quarter out-of-nowhere Beyonce sequel or Yeezus follow-up, the year will likely be remembered for records like Taylor Swift’s 1989: a very good pop album that nevertheless finds its chief value in texture and mood rather than show-stopping hooks or big-tent songcraft. Lana Del Rey dropped a solid LP that was similarly about aura and subtext first and foremost. The same goes for the formerly bombastic Coldplay and U2, the latter of which should have called their free iTunes surprise In Search of Choruses. If the American economy is slowly limping back to pre-recession fighting weight, whatever you might define as “mainstream” pop has largely stuck to the more life-sized, economized proportions that characterized everything from Rihanna’s spacious “Stay” to Pharrell William’s pared-down “Happy.”
But there are exceptions, and chief among them is “OctaHate”, the vibrant, effusive debut single from twenty-one year old indie-pop singer/songwriter Ryn Weaver. The most compelling of a very good four-song EP, Promises, released earlier this year through Weaver’s SoundCloud, “OctaHate” is a playful mix of contemporary electro-soul, Kate Bush/Annie Lennox left-field balladry (there’s a bit of “Walking On Broken Glass” shimmer in the song’s jittery major chords and Weaver’s skyscraping melody), and indie-pop auteurism. Indeed, co-produced by Charli XCX, Passion Pit mastermind Michael Angelakos, the song trades on the strengths of both; the sultriness of the former and the ecstatic upswing choruses of the latter. Similarly, the song’s verses offer XCX’s sort of digitalized R&B minimalism while the refrains bloom into the type of grand-scale indie-pop that powered Passion Pit’s great 2012 LP Gossamer (think, for instance, of the perfect hooks of “Carried Away”).
Yet “OctaHate” is moving, essential, and just about peerless in 2014 thanks to the nimble force of Ryn Weaver’s voice and knack for rhythm. Capable of spry warmth during the song’s slinky verses and sheer bombast during its massive choruses, Weaver lends the song a captivating assurance and canny sense of self. It’s not just that Weaver has arrived with an impressively re-playable song; it’s also that the singer has the instinct for balance and proportion to weave her way in and out of the tune’s peaks and valleys like a seasoned pro, knowing when to almost whisper and when to push the highest edges of her expressive alto (which stretches to a keening falsetto). In the song’s finest moment, Weaver sticks to the chorus’s pounding staccato — “I. Can’t. Take. It.” — giving “OctaHate” an almost overwhelming structure of build and release, each hook arriving as a sudden burst. The song is one of the best of the year, succeeding by keeping avant-pop’s taste for exacting production, while letting that craftwork loose on a song of cinematic sweep and radiant energy.