ODESZA Dance Themselves Clean on 'The Last Goodbye'
Published Jul 22, 2022After five years, the icosahedron is ready to descend one more time, but is there ever really a last goodbye? If you're asking Seattle-based electronic duo ODESZA, the short answer is no. The long answer is more complicated. In early 2022, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight startled fans by teasing new music — it turned out to be the title track of their new album, "The Last Goodbye," formally featuring Bettye LaVette, using a sample of her 1965 single "Let Me Down Easy" — alongside a video of home movies, ending with a child waving "bye-bye" to the camera. Naturally, this led to breakup rumours, which, in the weeks following, the duo did little to clarify. When it came time to officially announce The Last Goodbye, Mills and Knight cleared their answer up a bit. Is there ever really a last goodbye? "We don't think there is." Mysterious!
The way they tell it, they took the years between albums "to reflect on who we are, what it means to do what we do, and in the end, who we are doing this for." The pair became "focused and inspired" by family and friends, and "found comfort in the fact that those who we love stay with us, that they become intrinsically part of us, in a way."
This sentiment extends to the group's raison d'être in pretty explicit terms. Take, for example, leading the album rollout with 76-year-old LaVette's feature: the living legend was overlooked for most of her career, having started making music at just 16, and garnering commercial success decades into her career. Mills and Knight, two cultural connoisseurs who, through appreciation for the entire scope of the modern music landscape, have made it their career mission to "[bridge] the past and present," pay respects to their forebears, especially LaVette, at every possible juncture.
That notion is stretched across genre as well; with the release of A Moment Apart in 2017, the duo introduced EDM fans to the likes of Regina Spektor and Leon Bridges, and with The Last Goodbye in 2022, they've continued along that same path. Look no further than Icelandic multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds's feature on the perfectly looping, diaphanous album closer "Light of Day," or "Behind the Sun," which contains a sample of 1974's "Seeb" from legendary Iranian singer Simin Ghanem, whose "beautifully haunting vocal" they unearthed while digging through old records.
Moving into the present, Mills and Knight's collaboration with Toronto-based artist Charlie Houston, "Wide Awake," is — along with LaVette's entry and the Knocks' filthily produced "Love Letter" — a standout among standouts. Bleeding in from (another) spoken-word album opener, "This Version of You" featuring Julianna Barwick, "Wide Awake" becomes tantamount to gospel, its lyrics addressing a yearning for more, better, from life: "I hate the way it hurts breathing / Thought that I could put these feelings aside / But somethin' inside my system is fading / Making me feel sober about what's on my mind," Houston sings, while the echo of Barwick's track is still fresh in the mind: "This version of you / Simply becomes real / And you're right here with this version of you / To see things as they really are." It's fucking inspiring.
The record's best track of all, "Better Now" featuring MARO, further cements that optimism, acting as a balm in a world that is so desperate for healing: "So what if I fall? / Better that I tried instead of nothing at all / And I can say it's my fault / I really don't mind, at least I gave it a go," the vocalist's mantra repeats, ushering in the season for us to finally dance ourselves clean. With all these varied components coming together to form a cohesive unit — a family, if you will — ODESZA cleverly offer a reminder that they're making world-changing stuff, and we're lucky to be alive at the same time they're making music. (Foreign Family Collective / Ninja Tune)