Track Premiere: Past Life – “My Winner”

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Past Life has been sitting on a goldmine of self-proclaimed “joy rock”– indie-pop melodies with alt guitar effects and heavier lyrical content– for over a year now, and I’m beyond excited to tell you about it. The Philly band’s newest single, “My Winner,” comes ahead of an absolutely stellar debut LP titled Window Shopping Economics. So much of the world exists superficially or in a brief glimpse of time that we hardly know what we’re getting into. We hear this come through in the album’s lead single, “Cardiac,” which examines relationships through a dual ‘What If?’ lens.

Contrary to that theme, “My Winner” is a celebration of those you love and support. That familiar fast ball energy that Past Life has tossed around in past lives moves like a ping-pong deathmatch in the front half of the song, but towards the end we get a total change of pace with half-time beats and driven guitars layering onto a lullaby synth tone: “Now I lift you up on my shoulders cause together we can take the world.”

Window Shopping Economics on the whole is jam-packed with jams. The vocal melodies are incredibly catchy, the riffs move a room like an airport autowalk, and the effects are fresh enough to stay charming without blotting out the incredible instrumental work. The variance in style across the album is exciting and shows the dynamic strength of the group, especially with songs like my personal favorite “Den of Thieves.”

I got to talk to primary songwriter Dash Williams about the record’s long release schedule, the many meanings of the title, and the indie-pop swell on the horizon. I first told Dash how much I admired the translation of the band’s iconic live energy to the recordings. I asked about the long wait from production to release for the album. He commented on how “the record was written and recorded before the pandemic, and parts of it feel reinforced by living with it. Window Shopping Economics is an obsession with the world zipping by in beautified clips of what we’ve been missing. That’s obviously been boosted by the periods of quarantine, so some people might resonate with it more now than before.”

We all get held up by what we feel we’re missing, or being ignored for. With a lot of communication moving solely to online for a while, we’re being given surface level readings of others lives and we get that “fear of missing out.” Except now, the FOMO comes from all these enticing images that are tailored to hit you where it hurts: your heart, your wallet, your insecurities. I shared my thoughts on this with Dash, who mused that “you don’t get anything substantial from these interactions. You still get these feelings of jealousy, of FOMO, and those feelings are valid, but ultimately vapid. They’re empty if you don’t learn from or act on them. It’s like you’re walking past a product–even just a thing— in the window and you imagine what it would be like to have that thing, but then it’s a null transaction where all you do is magine without action. Social media especially is just staring into the windows of other people’s personal lives and wondering but never engaging.”

With Foxing’s Draw Down the Moon reinvigorating the love of electronic indie-pop groups like Passion Pit, Grouplove, and Two Door Cinema Club, I believe Past Life is poised to release a heavy hitting competitor for indie-pop AOTY. Dash isn’t sure if he agrees. He explained to me that the band “call our music ‘joy rock.’ but I’ve been doing all these Submithub submissions and I’m finding that we fit far outside all these genre classifications.” I laughed before sharing that Past Life is one of the hardest bands I’ve ever had to define. I feel like their uniqueness is their strength, as well as their commercial weakness. In regards to the potential rise of indie-pop music, Dash says, “It’s the stuff we grew up on, right? Now it’s sat and fermented into what it is today. I feel like the sound is different now, though. With us, I think that sonically we bring an evolution to effects; almost like the pedalboard is another instrument, like our guitars don’t sound like guitars even though they definitely are. There’s also a little more angst to our lyrics and expression, like in the song ‘Trigger Finger,’ where we tell a dark story but with pop effects and energy. I feel like that stands us out from the older 2000’s stuff. We’re very passionate about this album with it having been in development for so long.”

I’ve talked about it before on The Alternative, but Past Life’s live performance is what really hooked me on the band. I’m not the only one missing it. Dash expressed his desire to get back in front of a crowd. He said, “Now that we have some small opportunities to be out and semi-social again, people want that dancing energy, and we can bring that. People want to see something they can feel. Indie-pop has always fostered that feeling, and I think our band has some control over that tension and release the world is hungry for right now. These types of music, ‘joy rock’ and adjacent, do so much to evolve sound and layering that things like pop-punk don’t emphasize. We really want to evolve because our sound is supposed to be a journey.”

Listen to Past Life’s newest song, “My Winner,” here, and make sure you check out Window Shopping Economics out on 10/8 with tapes from Oliver Glenn Records coming in November!


Luciano Ferrara | @LucianoRFerrara

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