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Song Premiere: BRAINSTORM, 'Flat Earth'

Brainstorm is from Portland, Ore.
Jaclyn Campanaro
Courtesy of the artist

I'm a sucker for a stuttered guitar sound. It's a sound I came to love listening to Fela Kuti and other African greats in the '70s and '80s. American rockers often tend to crank their gritty guitars to 10 — they get loud and gritty about two and a half minutes into the tune. But it's that sweeter, stuttered sound that grabs me right away; you can hear it these days in bands like Fool's Gold or Vampire Weekend.

BRAINSTORM is from Portland, Ore., and has an album coming on Oct. 2 called Heat Waves. I asked the band to tell us about "Flat Earth," a tune that seems to be about two people with diverging visions of life. In an email, drummer and singer Adam Baz told us what he hoped to convey in the song, as well as its inspiration.

"Flat Earth" is kind of our take on your classic heartbroken love song. Yet, both lyrically and musically, it presents those themes abstractly. The song is about a relationship that dissolves because the two lovers have fundamentally different beliefs in life. There's no fight, infidelity or tragic accident, as you might expect from a song of that nature. The conflict is deeper. It sits in the very ways they approach the world. She is rational, a traditionalist. Straight in her course, she knows the world is round and that fate is uncontrollable. He is a lost dreamer. The earth appears flat to him; he believes that fate will hold them together, and he can't see the world as she sees it. And so she slowly fades away from him, and his world becomes dark.

I think those themes just followed naturally from the nostalgic throwback feel of the beginning verse. We were riffing on classic '60s groups like The Ronettes or The Shangri-Las. There's some perfect teenage couple driving on a winding road overlooking the city, listening to a crackling AM radio; that archetypal kind of American imagery. The middle section of the song, which has a much more driving and ecstatic feel, came later, and was inspired by '70s Afro-Colombian songs. Given the change of mood that this section created, we decided to make the lyrics shift, as well. All of a sudden, there is hope for the despairing lovers: Opposites attract, the poles rejoice, and maybe they find some common ground in the end.

You can find out more about this album from the Tender Loving Empire.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.