Though songs about the pandemic are, at this point, plentifully abound, one could say that in choosing to write her newest song “The Human Condition,” under her own name, Stina Marie Claire relates to the vantage point of a simultaneously shared and highly singular experience, more than most artists tackling this same subject.
Having most of her public image tied to her garage pop band Honeyblood – which in and of itself has lived through a slew of changes in identity, sound, and artistic direction – Claire is already quite familiar with artistic shifts. And given that the Glaswegian’s primary band now exists as a solo project, it might feel difficult to imagine what another side of solo Stina Marie Claire would sound like or if the music’s presentation would stand adequately apart from anything else that Claire has previously released. However, “The Human Condition” is written and sonically sculpted in such a way that indeed, Stina Marie Claire has carved a subtly new place for herself in the musical landscape.
“The Human Condition” really pulls itself apart from Claire’s other work rather effortlessly when considering the instrumental arrangement that she has opted to break out for herself. Though Claire’s exact preferred degree of jagged and reverb dusted guitar tones each maintain a place of importance in the song’s central chorus and verses respectively, other key elements of the song’s form like tempo, flow, chord progression, and production, unveil a sound that is traceable to Claire without being stuck in the shadow of other songs. For one thing, the opening single note synth motif (which very convincingly emulates the abrasive tone of an alarm clock and makes a clever nod to the opening lyrics) immediately sets “The Human Condition” on a path that feels less oriented to a conventional rock band. The less dense nature of the collective backing instrumentation is instead much more primed to support Claire’s vocal presence and message. This is one prompt but notable way the song distinguishes itself as a new manifestation of Claire’s solo creativity, while maintaining a faint echo of musical recognition beyond the sound of her voice.
Are we just going’ through the motions?
Lovers without the closeness
Need you to hold me a while
Why, oh why don’t we give it some time?
– Lyrics from “The Human Condition”
As the song carries on, the ebb and flow of the shaker and brush-modeled digital percussion beats that gain and lose prominence in the arrangement serve almost as a recurring implanting of an idea – namely that one can suddenly see the music of Stina Marie Claire perhaps venturing well into the synthpop or electropop lanes over time. The melodic landscape of the song meanwhile, unfolds to reveal a rather gentle mapping of harmonies and chord deviation. The melody stays mostly within the realm of minor third and perfect fourth intervals, with the chorus peaking at a perfect fifth, (“precious things are bound to be broken”) like a brief flash of extra bright color during an otherwise visually serene sunset.
And despite Claire using a minimal amount of melodic space, the directionality of her note choices and how those align with their respective lyrics (for example, the melody over “are we just going through the motions?” makes a very straightforward ascent up three scale degrees) demonstrates extra intent on Claire’s part to have the music and lyrics work together to subtly reinforce the narrative, to much pleasant success. Alternatively, given that Claire’s vocals are left with much of their natural character during the bridge – a trait that isn’t as expected in the lush and often effect-laden landscapes of synth/electropop – it’s also valid to consider that Claire might very well find a way to straddle the line between synth-minded arrangement and more natural singer-songwriter sonic transparency. Ultimately, that kind of style-twisting move would be just so apropos in the face of Claire’s ever-evolving creative story and entirely fitting for someone who found a way to present the existing concept of herself, in a brand new way.
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