Lyrically speaking, The Chordaes’ new single “What We Breathe In” is probably the most personal of any that you’ll discover on their latest record, but that isn’t the only reason why I would tell you to give this song a close examination at the moment. Leo Sawikin handily weaves harmonies together in a flamboyant patchwork of folkie melodicism in this supercharged indie anthem, and just when we think we’ve heard just how virtuosic a voice he has, he turns around and surprises us with an intimate verse even more passionate in tone than the one that just preceded it was.

The words are hardly the main draw in “What We Breathe In;” actually, I would say that the string play is probably the biggest element of charisma in this track. The guitars dance with a casual swagger that complements the nature of Sawikin’s chosen vocal style better than anything else possibly could have, and in their vibrant lashings we find another layer of ambient textures that adds to the tension in the song immensely. The chorus explodes in catharsis when we need it to the most, and by the time the track is reaching a conclusion, it’s as though the guitars have expressed more emotion than mere words ever could.

These strings are as strong a foundational element as it gets in this genre of music, but I don’t believe they would be as entrancing with the formidable, stern bassline that cushions them at the bottom of the mix. Don’t let their muted position in the arrangement fool you – in the grander scheme of things, the bass parts in this song are perhaps the only thing keeping its fluid rhythm grounded to a point of consistency. Without all of the rigidity, I fear that “What We Breathe In” would have been too experimental and, to be frank, too freeform for the mainstream consumption this band was hoping to achieve.

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The substance of the song aside, The Chordaes’ new single is a very well-produced track that doesn’t demand a lot out of its audience in exchange for all of the charming warmth that it offers us from one listen to the next. There is no plasticity to the rhythm, the rhyme or the rollicking grooves that serve as a linchpin between the two; there’s only an organic harmony that steps out of the shadows at the start of the song and lingers in the air around us long after its tempered melodies have disappeared from our speakers.

Longtime fans are going to be especially pleased with what Leo Sawikin and The Chordaes have struck up inside of this deliciously decadent ballad, but you don’t have to be a diehard follower of the group to appreciate all of the grandeur that this single is packing in spades. Right from the get-go, “What We Breathe In” reaches out to us in stereophonic sound and utilizes every stitch of space around it to yield an energy that isn’t just comforting – it’s downright mood-altering. This is unapologetically freeing folk music, and it’s arriving at a time where society needs it more than ever before.

Michael Rand

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