It’s no great observation, but often the best thing a so-called “bedroom” artist can do is, well, leave the bedroom.
Last year, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Deb Never — who’s garnered attention and acclaim for intimate songs that thread the gaps between alt-rock, grunge, and the lo-fi ends of pop and hip-hop — channeled the first few months of the Covid-19 lockdown into a lovely quarantine collection, Intermission (released only on Bandcamp, with all the proceeds going to pandemic relief efforts). But in the wake of that project, a creative malaise sunk in. The solution? A one-way ticket to London, where Never moved in with a longtime collaborator, the U.K.-based artist Michael Percy, and spent the next several months working with him and others on new music.
“Someone Else” is the superb first offering from those sessions. Produced by Percy and Jam City, the song is rooted in all that’s already great about Never’s songwriting: Guitar chords that waver like an unsure heart, percussion that shifts subtly from little ticks to booming bass drum kicks. Never lets the pre-chorus refrain — “Don’t want you to fall in love” — dangle the first time, but completes it the second time around, singing, “With someone else” as palm-muted power chords chug towards a heady bridge that’s pure dream pop. After several twists and turns already, “Someone Else” provides the perfect denouement — a final chorus that arrives not with a bang, but an exhale of drums that flutter with the familiar skip of the “Amen” break that anchors so much U.K. jungle and drum and bass.
Accompanying “Someone Else” is an equally wonderful music video directed by Elif Gönen. In it, Never embarks on a whirlwind romance with a red balloon with a face drawn on it, but the affair ends in tragedy when, after their first kiss, the balloon pops and leaves Never covered in streamers. It’s a well-executed bit to complement a song with plenty of genuine ache, but also just the right touch of winking schmaltz.