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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Maybe Tomorrow" is 00s alt with a 70s soul

Kelly Jones and Stereophonics call back to the generation before them with their R&B influenced post-Britpop.



Today's entry is another Spotify autoplay discovery, which came on the heels of me listening to a couple 2000s albums. With this selection now being the fourth to come to me through autoplay (following "Lights," "Let Me Touch Your Fire," and "Dreams"), I think I've finally begun to appreciate the feature for its ability to expose me to new acts and songs.

 

Some songs just sound like they have an old soul to them. There's something about certain combinations of instruments and techniques that blur the temporality in which a piece of music was recorded, and it honestly fascinates me that we collectively associate sound with certain time periods in such a manner. In the current pop world, this association is most prevalent when it comes to 80s influence, as I discussed a bit in my piece on The Weeknd's "Sacrifice," but this feeling isn't isolated to one prior era. Just a couple years ago, Bruno Mars' "Finesse" perfectly captured a 90s aesthetic, and even more recently his Silk Sonic project called back to the 70s (see my article on "Skate" for more).


The 70s are a really interesting decade to try and sonically capture, because there's such a wide variety of sounds which come from the era. For today's Senior Year Soundtrack pick, Welsh band Stereophonics went in more of a R&B / soul direction to echo the time period. They may have released "Maybe Tomorrow" in 2003, but the Rhodes keyboard, fuzzy countermelody guitar, and ever-present soulful backing vocals gave me the impression they wouldn't be out of place as contemporaries of the Isley Brothers.

When I first heard the intro to "Maybe Tomorrow" a couple days ago while I was out walking, I had to take my phone out of my pocket to look at when it was released. After an autoplay session full of 2000s and early 2010s songs, I found it hard to believe a song like this would be playing. When I saw it was released in the noughties, I simply became impressed with how Stereophonics sonically fooled me. Every element present in the first 20 seconds, if not longer, is something I'd expect to hear in a 70s production. The octave-leaping backing vocals instantly caught my attention, and while I got the feeling that they were being constantly looped, their tone felt characteristic of an older era. The Fender Rhodes keyboard, played by frontman Kelly Jones, was an integral sound in 60s and 70s soul and rock, from tracks like the Doors' "Riders on the Storm" to Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star." Its characteristic warmth permeates "Maybe Tomorrow" with a laidback feeling that the song is content to stay where it is, in its current soundscape and mood. Above the Rhodes, Jones adds a guitar line that complements the present tone and, even with its fuzz, doesn't propel the track too far forward. Stuart Cable's straightforward drum beat anchors the recording as a whole, and its dry sound matches the 70s tone the rest of the instruments combine to suggest.


Jones soon joins in on lead vocals, and the natural grit to his tone complements the content, down-to-earth feeling I get from the introduction. So too does his lyrical positioning, which presents his character as being able to break through the stressors and depressors of the world to enjoy the view, despite being down on his luck. It takes him getting out and "look[ing] around at a beautiful life" to appreciate the little things and get his mind off the "little black clouds" that keep following him around. Once he's seen the lighter side of things, he's happy to stay where he is before, hence the chorus lyrics: "So maybe tomorrow / I'll find my way home." With his stressors now on the back burner, tomorrow is a long way away in his mind, and he's perfectly willing to revel in today before thinking about what lies ahead for him.


Even as the sound grows in later choruses and the solo section, I still get the feeling that "Maybe Tomorrow" stays in the same place and mood. The two guitars — the fuzzier tone from earlier, as well as a wah-wah-heavy line that takes the solo — and the more active backing vocals are simply placed on top of the stagnant structure beneath them. With the chord progression and Richard Jones' bass line staying the same throughout, the other elements certainly exert their influence, but they never go so far as to hijack the feeling of contentment in the present moment. That's part of what makes "Maybe Tomorrow" so satisfying a listen for me, both alongside and beyond its 70s leanings: Stereophonics understood in their recording that they had a great base, and that keeping it the same throughout the track would lead to the best result.

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