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What Are the Best Songs to Listen to When You’re Alone in a Crowd?

Imagine for a moment that you’re on your own, but also completely surrounded by other people. Sounds familiar, right?

Tons of situations might unfold as such — being seated on a bus heading home from work, walking down a crowded street where there’s a palpable yet abstract sense of tranquility, even standing in a big festival audience waiting for the next artist to take the stage. Now imagine, in that moment, slipping on your headphones and pressing play.

What’s the first song you swipe towards?

There’s something surreal about the experience of being alone in a crowd. Some of us find a sense of calm in the anonymity of it. Others struggle with the sudden self-awareness that comes from being but one small scene in life’s elaborate tapestry.

In the newest episode of our podcast, Themes and Variation, the panelists discuss songs that capture exactly these sorts of sensations. This theme (which may very well be one of our favorites) was selected by our guest, Fadi Tabbal (sound artist, producer, engineer), who joined me and my co-host, Mahea Lee, in a conversation that covered just about everything from gravitational time to music’s ability to toy with our attentiveness.

This episode features song selections from Sarah Davachi, Spoon, and a very important artist to us here at Soundfly right now, Com Truise. Just why is Com Truise so important? Because we just launched an in-depth online course with him to explore how he uses synths, drum machines, and nifty production tricks to create a retro and nostalgic yet also futuristic sound. Check that out here!

But for now, let’s get to the pod. Listen to Episode 39 in its entirety right here:

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*And remember, don’t forget to check out our newest online course, Com Truise: Mid-Fi Synthwave Slow-Motion Funk.

Episode 39 Highlights

1. Carter on Com Truise and “Ultrafiche of You.”

Carter: “The last thing about the track that I really dig is just the tremolo on the synths upfront, the way it’s kind of moving. I think it’s a dotted eighth. It’s kind of unattached to the rest of the track. Harmonically. It makes perfect sense and everything works that way, but it kind of gives you this kind of a loopy feel, which if you’re alone in a crowd, I want it to be more of the soundtrack to what’s going on around me and something that I can escape with a little bit. Com Truise is huge on conveying emotion in his music without words. I know Boards of Canada is a huge influence for him, being like a very, very seminal group in terms of instrumental music and really pouring a ton of emotion into that without the use of lyrics or anything like that.”

2. Fadi on the arc of Sarah Davachi’s “Buhrstone.”

Fadi: “I think this is gorgeous within everything it’s evolving, but at the same time, it’s not important that it’s evolving, because the piece is not about like this crescendo. It’s not like a post-rock track or yeah. But at the same time, there is a change and there is an evolution.”

3. Mahea on how Spoon got her to dust off the old high school science textbooks.

Mahea: “So I guess what happens [is] the stronger the gravitational pull of something that you’re like caught in, the more time slows down. And so to apply that metaphor to a song that he has said is about relationships, and no matter how you interpret it, there is a relationship somewhere in this, is really interesting to me.”

Join Our Collaborative Playlist

Yes, it’s “collaborative!” As in: you can add tracks to the playlist that fit the theme!

Every other week, and with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new collaborative Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more, which you can add to and enjoy. Here’s this week’s collaborative Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

Don’t stop here!

Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, home recording and production, composing, beat making, and much more, with Soundfly’s artist-led courses, like: Jlin: Rhythm, Variation, & Vulnerability, RJD2: From Samples to Songs and Com Truise: Mid-Fi Synthwave Slow-Motion Funk

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Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.