You’ll find them at any party: throngs of people smiling wide and asking “Do you like me?” at various levels of encryption. These petitioners have a dark mirror in those who stay home, asking, as Shelf Life does on his latest single “Sinking Just Right”, “does everybody hate me just a little, little, little bit?” “Sinking Just Right” is a bedroom pop track par excellence; Scott Leitch, who also drums for Alex G, indulges his private insecurities in a home studio using the grand harmonic language of pop music. His DIY ethos expands the journalistic possibilities of pop even as it explores the valences of public and private worlds.
Pop tropes allow Leitch to craft a comforting aesthetic experience from isolating emotions. An off-tempo backbeat lends an unhurried feel to dreamy guitar and bass lines whose harmonic gaps are filled by shimmering, pulsing ambient chords. The instruments effect the underwater aesthetic of shoe gaze and dream pop, which is fitting. “Sinking Just Right” refers to the song’s protagonist, who may be Leitch himself contemplating suicide: “Out by the swimming pool/I’ll find a cinderblock/I’ll find the tightrope/I’ll hold my breath just right and I’ll be/sinking just right.” It’s telling, though, that another voice enters into a delicate duet with Leitch as the song reaches its coda. Suicide is no hard-driving blockbuster pop production, but even at this moment of darkest introspection, the DIY bedroom studio-cum-confessional opens channels for solidarity.
“Sinking Just Right” is the second single from Everyone Make Happy, due out September 18 on Lefse. It’s streaming below.