Single Review: Athletics, ‘When to Run, Where to Hide’
It’s been a long four years without music from Athletics.
Their last release, Who You Are Is Not Enough, was, in a word, a masterpiece. For being only five tracks, Who You Are was a sprawling, dynamic work of post-rock. Featuring flashes of ambient music, post-hardcore, math rock, emo, and indie rock, it perfectly showcased the band’s ability to weave a variety of sounds into their shimmery brand of post-rock. This isn’t even to mention that the average song length was six and a quarter minutes. The album was so textured, so layered, that a listen through felt like watched a movie scene play out. Every tremolo picked note felt like a living organism’s breath. It’s one of my favorite albums, if you couldn’t tell – a gorgeous, swirling, immersive piece of art.
So when the band announced earlier this year they’d be releasing a two-song called When to Run, Where to Hide, I was excited. I wasn’t even in the least bit upset that it would only be two tracks – I had no doubt they’d both be around five minutes. My only question was in what direction could the band stretch their sound next? Follow the lead of “I,” and take a more subdued, ambient styled album? Double down on the heavier aspects of their sound? Foray into a new style and experiment with more conventional structure?
As it turns out, the answer was all of the above. And they condensed them all down.
“When to Run,” the first song, is the longer of the two, at four minutes. Unusually for an Athletics song, it’s more straightforward, structurally. It builds pretty consistently from its soft, almost Balance and Composure-esque intro to a shouted final verse. It never quite reaches the harsh, almost screamo sound of anything on Who You Are, though. To date, it’s one of the most accessible songs Athletics have put out. “Where to Hide” follows suit, feeling, musically, like this band’s take on a pop song. It builds similarly, from a pretty arpeggio at the start to a classic mathy Athletics bridge reminiscent of those of “II” or “III.”
The songs are spun from the same cloth as the band’s previous albums, just, say, on a different loom. It seems like Athletics might be traveling down a more accessible path this time, not one paved with three minute intros or hookless ambient tracks. And yeah, to some listeners that’ll be disappointing. But I think most will find that Athletics haven’t let them down yet, and no one has any reason to think they will now.