Each post on this blog covers a different musical subject, but the common thread that runs through each post is that the power of music hangs heavy not only in my life but in the lives of music fans everywhere.
I addressed this most directly when I talked about music and emotions; there’s a reason humans respond in certain ways to this or that element of a song. For me, whether it’s Eric Church, Phish, or anyone else I like, music isn’t just entertainment. It’s a conduit for accessing feelings in myself that may just correspond to the feelings of the musicians who made the songs.
Over the last decade or so of my music listening, I haven’t even realized that the concept of the singer/songwriter has become supreme in my mind as the type of musician I most like to hear. These artists write and perform their own music, and the focus of a song is typically more personal and based in emotions, recollections, and the human experience.
All in all, I’m talking about the type of music that’s simply worth your time. And that’s what Dakota Simpson’s “Flâneur” is. Let me explain.
The Dream Landscape
When you start playing “Flâneur,” you’re instantly transported to a different atmosphere. It’s instant but not abrupt. The gentle guitar eases you into things. It offers a nostalgic air, even if, as listeners, we don’t even know why we’re nostalgic.
As the song gets further into its form, we hear the sound of a distant police siren, letting us know this particular world exists in an urban setting.
Dakota’s vocals then enter our little scene. The singer’s voice is the ethereal, nearly angelic foundation that carries us through the rest of the journey.
It’s hard to describe in words the fullness of the world Dakota creates with all these sounds together. I usually dislike attaching genres and other labels to artists, but to help readers understand the sound, think of Dakota’s influences of The War on Drugs or Mazzy Star. These are neo-psychedelia/dream pop artists whose music is as much about the sounds as it is about the lyrics.
With “Flâneur,” believe me when I say that it is a compliment that Dakota’s voice sounds as if it’s being transmitted to us through layers of water or clouds. The delivery is melancholic without sounding depressed or despairing. And the sound of her voice is such that it’s both all around us and also whispering directly into the ears of each listener.
It’s as if this dream landscape we’re in has been soundproofed off from the rest of existence, and surrounding us are only the sounds of the guitar and Dakota’s voice and whatever feelings of our own that we project into this fluid universe.
Charting the Lyrical Journey
It’s easy for me to lose myself in the elegant sonic vista that Dakota’s band creates here, but I also want to know what is concerning Dakota in this song, why she has written this.
The word “flâneur” is French for “wanderer’ or “stroller.” The term comes from mid-nineteenth-century French writer Charles Beaudelaire. He described this archetype as a person who walks the streets of the city, observing it all but not intervening, having opinions but not commenting.
Given that, what is Dakota’s flâneur observing and thinking as she goes? It’s 10 on a sunny Monday morning. There’s leftover cold tea and pancakes. She seems to hear the city calling out to her to return to it.
Then, the crux of this stream of consciousness: the narrator determines she doesn’t want to follow what anyone else has done. Rather, she’s going to continue on her own way, being her own defense out there in the world.
Just like anybody’s inner monologue and thought processes, some of the words, ideas, and scenes seem to run together and change form as “Flâneur” progresses.
Nothing is too clear here. We don’t know many specifics, but we also don’t need to know any. Our flâneur has simply captured a few moments of her psyche as she wanders, her winding through the city streets perhaps running parallel to her finding her own way through life.
As a song unto itself, Dakota Simpson’s “Flâneur” works beautifully. Maybe you’ll respond more to the aural dreamscape of the song, or perhaps you’re focusing on finding meaning in the lyrics. It’s a dense song in the most positive sense. There’s a lot of substance here, a lot to think through.
The last few months, I have been getting more into this kind of music, the atmospheric indie rock/neo-psychedelia that can put you in a trance if you’re fully committed to it. This is a unique genre in music today, and I think it holds a lot of potential for allowing listeners to travel places in their minds that they could not otherwise reach.
Having also listened to and enjoyed Dakota’s 2019 single, “Too Comfortable,” I feel positive things are going to keep happening for Dakota Simpson and her bandmates: guitarist Ryan Fellows, keyboardist/producer Ethan Thomas, and drummer Jonathan Snape.
The originality of “Flâneur” suggests a musical maturity and rich creativity that I hope continues to grow for the artist.