The Earworm

I recently had a bit of an earworm adventure that I thought I’d share.

While working during the day, I found myself humming a little bass riff. I did not know what it was but it had this satisfying little pause just before the 4th beat. I found myself nodding away to it, playing in my head.

I listened to various podcasts and music throughout the day but whenever things were quiet, it would pop up again in the background noise of my brain. It was actually much later in the day when I finally thought, ‘hang on, what exactly is this song I’m humming?!’

I tried to describe and sing it to the wife but she couldn’t make any sense of my ramblings. I could just about recall that it had high pitched vocals but could not remember any lyrics or any other part of the song.

I tried singing the song to Google and it happily made various suggestions, none of which were the mystery tune in question.

I went out for a run that evening, a small group of us merrily splashing through the mud with our head-torches illuminating the surrounding woodland. The earworm continued to play in my head. In fact it was constant now, the tune looping infinitely – or at least my version of it, as it still had a vague vagueness… and I was no closer to knowing what it was.

I began to mentally list the type of bands it could be – it was definitely pop rock, quite dancey, and with synth lines in there. Sort of like Foals, or LCD Soundsystem, or Daft Punk, or something of that nature.

All of a sudden, it hit me.

JUSTICE!

The French electronic duo – I didn’t really know much of their output but I had recently listened to a playlist of some of their tracks, so that made sense. (I actually saw them at Primavera Fest years ago, and was blown away by the sound of the track Genesis.)

Oh man, the relief was amazing and I finished the evening’s run with the satisfaction of knowing I had finally cracked it.

Except I hadn’t. That wasn’t it.

After getting home, I listened back to the Justice playlist but couldn’t find that song.

I couldn’t believe it. I was so sure that was it. And right on cue, the earworm was back, louder and more insistent than ever. It actually sounded kind of smug now.

I had bought a few digital records recently, most of which was electronica fare, so I just started randomly clicking play in the middle of tracks. I went through every track from everything I’d bought. None of them were THE track.

I was getting desperate. How was I supposed to identify a song that I didn’t own or know or even know anything about? Meanwhile, that bassline just kept on playing…

I did an internet search for something like “Bands that sound like LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk, Foals, and Justice” and found some blog recommending similar bands, one of which jumped out at me: MGMT.

I recognised the name but didn’t know anything about them. As good a place to start as any. I searched YouTube for a playlist and clicked on the first video…

The very first track in the playlist opened with a little whooshy, phaser type effect and then: there it was. THE BASSLINE.

YES! This was it. I had found the bloody track. I cheered like they had just come out on stage and listened to the whole thing, grinning away like I was at an actual gig and having the time of my life.

MGMT – Electric Feel

The track came out nearly 15 years ago so I’d certainly heard it before, though still don’t know where I’d heard it recently. I was just relieved to figure it out.

But the story doesn’t quite end there…

After reading up I discovered that the band I was so sure had penned the mystery earworm, Justice, had done a remix of it. My brain had actually come up with a technically correct answer, although I’m pretty sure this was total coincidence.

The frustration of the earworm had now been conquered and replaced with an additional layer of satisfaction and victory.

The following day we drove up to the Lake District with a friend. He was driving and had a random Spotify playlist playing away. A couple of tracks in… you guessed it.

Great bassline.

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