Melancholy is a difficult emotion to convey. Sometimes, when attempting to create this feeling in music, it can come across as overly saccharine. Other times, it just feels forced. This is why it’s impressive that on their debut single “Smoke”, Go Robot have distilled a sense of sadness and pain, but also a feeling of hope and optimism.
The biggest success of this track is how varied its instrumentation it is for a first single. Many debuting artists would simply choose to strum away on an acoustic guitar and or serenade from a piano, making the transition to a live setting much easier. Instead, Go Robot have chosen to focus on the production as much as possible. What begins in a typical display of twee guitar picking gives way to a strange drone sound and syncopated beats. The vocals glide in softly against the odd backing through the verse, with the lyrics giving a heartfelt plea for learning from failure rather than wallowing in it.
The chorus is filled with lush violins sweeping the track off its feet, creating a grand-yet-intimate atmosphere. The end even finds time for a keyboard solo, of all things. Really, “Smoke” ends completely different to how it starts. The easiest comparison I could think of was Radiohead when they’d found the sweet spot between electronic warbling and heartfelt orchestration. If this is just their first offering, it’s interesting to think what might be next.