Sydney Eloise and the Palms - "Tell Me What I Want to Hear" (audio) (premiere)

The Atlanta band wows on this wistful track from their forthcoming debut album.

When it comes to the RIYL (“recommended if you like”) sections of press releases, you take such publicist hyperbole with a grain of salt. So Atlanta native Sydney Eloise is geared towards fans of Natalie Prass, Neko Case, Rilo Kiley, Fleetwood Mac, and Phil Spector, huh? Thing is, when you hear her new track “Tell Me What I Want to Hear”, from Sydney Eloise and the Palms’ debut album Faces, every single one of those boxes gets checked. Timeless and contemporary, it’s a gorgeous, extraordinarily simple track that utilizes a classic pop formula to perfection, making it sound fresh and vibrant. It deserves to be heard, and we are elated to premiere it here at PopMatters.

“When we recorded ‘Tell Me What I Want to Hear’, it really made us feel like the whole thing was starting to take shape,” she says. “It was one of the first songs we worked on that used multiple drum sets, and we kind of just decided that recording the way it's done live was an idea we were throwing out the window. The studio itself [co-producer Damon Moon’s The Cottage] definitely played a role, from the super late nights we were afforded, to the privacy the hidden-away property gave us. It was easy to forget about jobs, and deadlines. We were able to get lost in the process, and we said yes to trying every idea. Of course, not every idea ended up in the song’s final form, but we ruled things out, which ended up being a huge part of our process as a band.

“The Phil Spector influence is strong on ‘Tell Me What I Want to Hear’, and there’s some Roy Haylee in there, too. Haylee worked with people like Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds. Me and Damon and [co-producer] Chandler Galloway are all wild about both of their techniques. There's not a ton of information on Haylee, so you really just have to dig through his catalog. His production style is so subtle. And Spector would use multiple drum sets on a lot of the records he produced, especially in the early '60s. Though I think the melodies and tone of ‘Tell Me What I Want to Hear’ are a little more a nod to the Spector-era Beatles recordings. And there’s still a wink to his earlier, more dense work, too. The denseness of those records affects me deeply, and this song is about some things that are pretty dense themselves. Often, when I'm writing about heavy things like that, these huge productions are all any of us can hear. I'm all about the builds, the ebb and flow. I want a song to explain to me, musically, what the singer is trying to communicate through voice and song, and I think this tune landed pretty close, for me.

When I wrote ‘Tell Me What I Want to Hear’, it was a time in my life when I felt like I wasn't in control of where I was heading. I felt like I was on some kind of leash. The lyric, ‘tell me what I want to hear’ actually changes meaning several times depending on where you are in the song. The sentiment is that you can't just use people, and allow yourself to be used, and expect some kind of deal to happen on the back end when things go south and, all of a sudden, this investment you think you made was all for nothing. At the end of the whole experience, what I want to hear is just that the whole thing is done—the storm has passed, and my ship still sails. I find myself talking a lot about perspective these days, and how it can change over time, and I think this song is a big example of that. The whole thing, in reality, is just about a couple months in my life, though it was written over a year’s time. My attitude on the situation changed so much after it was over, and it continues to. It's definitely a common theme in my writing.”

Faces will be released 22 September on the Cottage Recording Co.

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