Bartees Strange – Mustang (Memory Music)

Bartees Strange – Mustang (Memory Music)

After a run of The National covers Bartees Strange comes back with original material with big 00 indie energy on single Mustang. 

Bartees StrangeArtist: Bartees Strange
Track: Mustang
Label: Memory Music
Released: 23 July 2020
Find it: Spotify | Bandcamp

How quickly the Mustang – horses roaming American West often symbolising freedom, power, and the vast space and possibility of the Frontier – turned from wild spirits to feral pests. From running free, flowing mane and thundering hooves it turns out the breed was only really acceptable when it was controlled, when its remarkable resolute nature had limits on it. Now it is truly free, swelling in number, its reputation as started to slip from defiantly free to inconvenient pest.

Whatever it symbolised to settlers and their descendants, the changing perception means it remain viable symbol – now of rampant consuming and destruction of lands – for modern America. Wild may equate to free, but it doesn’t always mean care or respect. And so it is to this backdrop the symbolism of the Mustang becomes the title of the new single from Bartees Strange, as well as the name of the town in Oklahoma where he grew up. The track reflects the volatility and fragility of self and society, the lasting damage as well as the sanctuary of home, and sets it all to big naughties indie rock energy.

‘Last night I looked at you I knew I didn’t really fear that much’

Straight off the back of releasing a run of covers of The National songs this original track comes from a forthcoming debut album. It sets sharp synths and guitars into big rolling riffs, clipped beats and shimmering percussion into thundering runs, and a stream of consciousness vocal into soaring sing-a-long choruses. The simmering frustration spills over, a quickening to a screaming emo-esque conclusion.

Even while recognisably indie-rock Strange – the son of an opera singer mother and military dad, born in England but displaced to his dad’s postings until the family settled in Oklahoma when he was 12 – blends in a heady mix of styles. From the clean and bright synth lines, to the raw emotion vocal this is a compelling and vital listen.

The album is said to range wider still – with jazz rap, soul and more – while covering themes of racism, identity, and acceptance. One to watch out for later in 2020 and get this on repeat in the meantime.

Find Bartees Strange: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp | Spotify

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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