Speak softly and carry a big stick is a term that should be used carefully, especially when referring to music. Usually reserved for the overtly political, sometimes we forget that a “big stick” can be wrought with emotional weight. The power of Nicole Schneit’s, aka Air Waves, songwriting is the subtly moving words and tones behind her often-wavering voice. It’s a wavering that shows a vulnerability, drawing you in with familiarity and comfort. The almost nervous cadence of Schneit’s delivery is her charm and the first words of her newest single, “Milky Way”, softly set the tone: “We’ve been trying to connect, since the day we first met.”
Within a few bars, the truly infectious chorus (seriously, try not singing/humming/whistling it after a few listens), “Hold me, don’t let me go, can anyone settle?” gives a first-person look into this vulnerability. Three small lines that pretty much every human can relate to. They also belie the softly-spoken delivery of her words. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to lay bare your thoughts and feelings, let alone in song, or on a stage, or on a record.
This emotional tendency has had Schneit garnering fans pretty much everywhere she plays. It’s why Dan Deacon refers to her music like “a favorite blanket wrapped around you,” and ultimately, why it took nearly five years to get a second Air Waves record after 2010’s Dungeon Dots on Underwater Peoples.
“Part of being a performer,” Schneit said, “is having confidence to just be vulnerable. I needed to regain that confidence to make an album again.”
Maybe it was the help of friends like Jana Hunter, JB Townsend of Crystal Stilts, Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglas from Ava Luna, and Brian Betancourt from Hospitality, who all contribute on the record, that helped her regain that confidence. Or maybe it was Jarvis Taveniere of Woods who helped record the album, putting Schneit’s vulnerability—her strength—at the forefront. Whatever the reason, Air Waves is finally back with Parting Glances.
The title is taken from the 1986 film starring Steve Buscemi, who portrays a gay man navigating the difficulties of being in a relationship in Reagan-era New York. A double meaning for Schneit, who takes the title also in it’s literal form, explaining: “You see all sorts of physical and emotional traits on the train. From people puking, making out, screaming, crying, laughing, dancing, grooming, etc. We encounter each other in the thick of our complex lives by simply looking at each other all the time. These glances are mundane and fleeting but also powerfully intimate.”
And thus, we begin to see the big stick.
Parting Glances will be released September 18 on Western Vinyl. You can stream “Milky Way” below.