Thinking back to just barely over two years ago, so many around the U.S. were feeling the emotional strain of daily political discussion that somehow always seemed to hedge on stakes of a high and extremely risky nature. Back then, Brooklyn, NY songwriter and orchestrator Jared Saltiel was certainly feeling the strain but, tried to at least present his thoughts with some levity through his song and story-minded animated music video for “The Emperor’s New Wall.” Here now, aspects of that core sentiment haven’t actually stopped yet and thus, one could understandably presume that Jared Saltiel’s newest single, “Still Tired” is meant to reference the perpetuation of that established exhaustion.
However, as easy as it might have been for Saltiel to lean on and into the still rippling feelings of politics: the 2020 edition, “Still Tired” pivots instead to exploring a story of exhaustion that’s much more individualized and removed from socio-political discourse. Nonetheless, it’s still likely to resonate with those who were raised in the shadows of ever looming expectations, unyielding criticism, and increasingly lasting consequences – both external and internal.
You could’ve been anything you wanted to
You always knew how to follow the rules
When you’re a kid nothing’s really up to you
So you bruised your feet in your ballet shoes
– Lyrics from “Still Tired”
In the case of the Saltiel’s newest central character, the ever looming expectations at hand lie within one’s choice of passion or for this child, rather, forced passion. The premise of one’s parents – whether for reasons of deeply misplaced nostalgia, preemptive commitment to an established legacy, or an insistence on a certain outcome for their adult children – either directly enforcing or indirectly implying that their child should take a particular path in life or pursue a specific activity, is a more common scenario than most would like to think. Its residual manifestations can affect children’s lives in varying ways but the underlying development of emotional scars is nearly inevitable and universal.
As heavy and uncomfortable as this subject matter sounds on paper and reads from afar, Saltiel offsets “Still Tired’s” conceptual seriousness with his signature embrace of orchestral fare. Delicately floated flute harmonies dance above and around Saltiel’s own harmonizing vocals giving cloud-like support, while the slightly deeper timbre of a lone clarinet weaves with an almost imperceptible seamlessness underneath both. Its mild-mannered inclusion may seem like somewhat of a wasted opportunity at first but the softly rounded quality of the notes combined with their lower pitch help to bolster the tonal substance of the song’s lower registers in a slightly more inconspicuous way than a bass’s individual plucks.
The collective result is a backing band that can fully but non-invasively enhance Saltiel’s otherwise sparse, acoustic folk stylistic direction, allowing “Still Tired’s melody to main its more gossamer quality without leaving the listener feeling wanting more from the music to get a sense of sonic wholeness. Additionally, in light of the song’s narrative sharing the story of a girl feeling pressured to pursue ballet, the the dynamically reserved, gentle delivery coalesces with the emphasized art form all the better, heightening the impact of the imagery Saltiel is out to spark in listeners’ minds.
It’s refreshing and a pleasant surprise to see Saltiel find a very real world way to apply his signature musicality, without the non-fictional aspect of the situation without being unintentionally transformed into a lighthearted-looking fairytale or fable version of itself. The result is a moderate but notable mark of continued compositional expansion for Saltiel and as the leading piece to forthcoming No Heroes EP, “Still Tired” leaves a promising first impression.
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