Song You Need to Know: Musclecars, ‘Shelter’
Musclecars’ “Shelter” is airy and urgent. The production is uncluttered; the piano refuses to settle on any easily memorable vamp; singer Brandon Markell Holmes unfurls long, wordless ad-libs in daredevil falsetto, content to take his time and play around in the upper register. Later, all the parts start to coalesce, and shattering cymbals add more heft. The percussion spurs Holmes towards exhortation; where his three syllable lines — “holding me, touching me, loving me” — initially sounded wistful, they start to hit like commands.
The remix by Ron Trent, a Chicago house music master, adds a new level of density and danceability to Musclecars’ original. Trent throws in a four-four kick drum and gliding synths that pair nicely with Holmes’ call to “fly, fly, fly.” The additions are gentle — the producer does not disturb the core of the original. But the rework is nonetheless eye-opening, as “Shelter” takes on the qualities of a slow-burning vocal-house juggernaut, the kind of thing that might get a whole club in motion. (In the new context, the ping-ponging bass line here also hints, perhaps unintentionally, at South African amapiano.) Holmes’ vocal eruption around the four-minute mark is as heady as they come; whatever he’s singing about, you want it, too.
In an email, Craig and Brandon of Musclecars said they hoped “Shelter” would channel elements of “sappy indie, alt, and R&B ballads from 10 years ago” as well as the dance music they are known for. “Made at a time during the Covid-19 lockdown, ‘Shelter’ describes feeling at home with your lover,” the duo continued. “Not so much in the house, but more so sharing the space they saved for you, being each other’s sanctuaries. [It’s] dedicated to the ones we love and the spaces that keep us safe and sound.”
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