TRACK MARKS: Best of 2015 – “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz

Our Track Marks feature spotlights individual songs that contributors love. Looking back at the year, we’ve selected some of our favorite songs from albums that don’t appear on our Best Albums of 2015 list.

Adolescent yearning can be unbearable in real life but in art it’s often transcendent. Case in point is the music of Majical Cloudz, which has the intimate nakedness of an aural striptease. At times it’s like listening in on something you’re not meant to hear. As sad as it is romantic, “Downtown” from their sophomore album Are You Alone? (a title whose similarity to a late-night text can’t be accidental) is like a love song for a ghost, an impression bolstered by the starkness of the music video, which alternates between a black and white close-up of singer Devon Welsh, his gaze directed straight at the camera, and counterpart Matthew Otto spinning in what looks like the remnants of a bombed-out city. This ain’t the place Petulia Clark sang about.

Welsh’s voice has the same chameleonic qualities as Ian Curtis, timid one moment and adamant the next, and he puts it to good use here. The song opens with a shimmery electronic instrumental backed by a beat reminiscent of windshield wipers fighting a steady rain, a foggy, hypnotic melody that might float away if not for Welsh’s insistence on remaining in the moment, grasping for something that’s less a place than a state of mind. “Nothing you say will ever be wrong/Cause it feels good just being in your arms,” goes a typical sentiment. Yet the lyrics also look forward to a time when the intensity of these feelings will just be another memory. “If suddenly I die,” Welsh sings with a forthrightness that even those well beyond their teenage years will admire, “I hope they will say/That he was obsessed and it was okay.” Some things will naturally be outgrown and left behind but it only takes the right song at the right time to bring it all back again.