I think most of us have that one song that sits on the highest shelf. That one song we rarely reach for in an effort to keep it pristine. On the rare occasion we do, it's dusted off and embraced like an old friend.
Once the rhythm begins its ascent into our hearts, we recognise something. A feeling of familiarity rushes over us, and we're more than happy to accommodate its return. That song for me is Without, on Sampha's album Dual. I love a number of artists and albums and I've never been one to compare songs. Can I even name my top 5 artists? Not a chance. It's always changing as I keep discovering and listening. Then rediscovering and re-listening.
Though, Without will always hold a special place and there are reasons. The most important one: nostalgia. I remember listening to it for the first time in my bed. Accompanied by that naive version of love. When all the feelings are there, but you're not quite ready to call it love love. Looking back, that is. I remember listening into the early hours, while I'd text away to build flimsy connections. Nostalgia is why, when I hear that all to familiar introduction, I develop a lump in my throat. Every time.
The second reason: the listening experience. There's a lot of songs about love, and the variations of love. Actually, isn't every song ever created about love or lust? In any case, it's not always the nostalgia that grips you. The song has to be of a certain quality too. Without, and I have to emphasise that there is no exaggeration here, has been produced to perfection. Absolute perfection. There are layers of this song, which have their own layers. Everything grips you at the right time. Just as the vocals leave, the beat grabs you by the hand and leads you elsewhere. Why I'm still humming to it all these years later. Why I'm writing about it at this very minute.
Originally published on 2nd July 2017