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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

Thanks to its synth pad, "Let Me Touch Your Fire" narratively leans into its title

A R I Z O N A sonically track their narrator's heart opening up as they unexpectedly feel love.

I discovered the song about which I'm writing today's post by accident.

Now, that may be a bit confusing to read. What does "discovering music by accident" mean? How is it different from just hearing a song you hadn't heard of before?

The difference lies in the fact that I wasn't seeking out any new music whatsoever. I was listening to Coldplay's new album, Music of the Spheres, on Spotify on its first day out, October 15 (the same day I wrote about one of its tracks). When the album ended, Spotify's autoplay kicked in. I would've stopped it had the first song not been another Coldplay tune, namely "Paradise." After that song, though, I heard something completely unfamiliar and definitely not from Coldplay, something I didn't know existed and wasn't trying to find... but ultimately an underrated tune from a band that blossomed in the 2010's: "Let Me Touch Your Fire," by A R I Z O N A.

I was surprised to learn that A R I Z O N A are in fact not from the Grand Canyon State, but are rather from New Jersey. I was nearly as surprised by the sonic arc of "Let Me Touch Your Fire," one of their early releases in 2015. The way the song builds both lyrically and instrumentally gives me an impression of moving from coldness to eventual warmth, echoing the track's name.

The opening feels barren and chilly, with the line "I've got a cold heart and cold hands" lingering thanks to reverb and sounding above hollow synth pads. The slight flanger effect applied to the vocals also gives off a feeling of unease and something a bit out of the ordinary, and when the effect disappears later it's almost as if lead singer Zachary Hannah has found comfort when he hadn't before.

Let's circle back to the synth pads, because their transformation does the most to make "Let Me Touch Your Fire" what it is. Keyboardist David Labuguen keeps a steady four-chord progression going, but opens up the filter on the keys to give the sound more and more warmth and richness as the higher frequencies are added in and the note length increases. In the first verse, as mentioned above, the keys feel hollow and have a short attack, with only the lower and middle frequencies coming through. It's a fitting sound for the start of a lovestruck narrative which mentions a cold heart. Zachary Hannah sings about normally being okay with being a heartbreaker, but the subject of this song is different: "Late at night I lie awake / Just thinking about your pretty face," he sings. For once, he's the one who's hung up.

The verse then repeats, giving the impression that maybe Hannah's narrator is having trouble coming to terms with his newfound feelings. The synth pad is just slightly more open than it was before, with a bit more of the midrange coming through, and it's also supplemented by a bass line, half-time drums, and sparse guitar lines from Nathan Esquite. The other elements almost seem to be egging on the synth — and the narrator with it — to be receptive to these feelings of love and open up to the warmth of romance... which it finally does right around the two-minute mark of the 3:39-length track.

When the synth fully opens up — holy cow, it's almost hard to recognize it's the same instrument. Gone is the cold hollowness of the past; instead, Labuguen's synth takes control of the track with its full and warm sound. It's clear at this point that the narrator has accepted how he feels and is willing to take a chance on the person he admires. The other elements increase their activity and energy to match the synth, as Esquite begins a longer, solo-like line, while Hannah sings with full force:

I'll never leave you on the wire
So let me touch your fire
I'm cold, sick and I'm tired
So baby let me touch your fire

He remains cold for now, as is emphasized by the synth dropping out near the song's end before the fade-out, but he knows that the person to whom he's singing can stop him from feeling that way, and he's ready to commit to them for that reason and more.

I may have discovered "Let Me Touch Your Fire" by complete accident, but by the end of it I was ready to play it again and again. I love songs that are able to do more with their lyrical narrative than just sing it, and A R I Z O N A did just that as they used their instruments to echo the opening up and warmth in their lyrics. I may have only discovered it in October 2021, but it's fair for me to say it's one of my favorite tracks to come out of the '10s.


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