I’m in Tijuana and I want to be dancing, but I’m thinking about New York. Onstage, Poolside are playing their cover of “Harvest Moon,” a song so immediately precious that I remember interrupting myself, falling in love with you in a bar in Greenpoint, to ask the bartender who it was. I would fall madly for this song, driven by it, perhaps, to take you home and have absurd sex that seems less painful now than foolish, selfish, empty.
Covered in sweat, spilled beer and cigarette ash, that memory appears unbidden, superimposed over this moment like a film negative. It’s not really you that I miss (is it, ever?), but the version of myself that assumed falling in love with you would always be effortless, like a slipping into a pool. The me that believed another heart held answers to the parts of mine I refused to think worthy of excavating on my own. In Mexico I am safely three time zones and a border away, and this is music for the moments before all the heavy stuff. These songs are the color of light; they’re weightless.
Poolside is meant to soundtrack moments of happiness so big they register as empty, like a banquet room decorated and waiting to be filled. Each track is about a moment that doesn’t quite exist; beats skitter like rocks down invisible precipices, synths are sinuous and always out of reach, a brook in the distance. Their songs skim the surface of desire with purposeful tension, a flirtation never meant to be consummated. This isn’t swimming; in the thick of it, it’s Poolside — lounge music for the inevitable, glorious splash to come.
The music of Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise argues that potential be celebrated with the same fervor as completion, and the case is strong. This is the central tenet of their debut and only album, Pacific Standard Time, a record that de-centers the austere, gritty calculations of EST for a timezone tied to the ocean. Everything is water here, somehow, a blue, slippery no man’s land that’s all horizon and no shore. The vocals are slight when they’re there, registering as afterthoughts, just another layer in the mix. Plot need not always be center, the tracks let setting take precedence, as the band name suggests. This album is their sole full-length and it came out in 2012, which means if we’re lucky, we’ll get another one soon.
Poolside’s version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” was the last song I listened to in New York, hopeful funk spilling through my headphones before my redeye took off. Listening to it is part of my deepest ritual-world, like crying or coming. It has become the duo’s signature track in a way, partially because James Murphy took a liking to it and began including it in his own DJ sets (However you feel about Murphy, he must get credit for his prodigious taste), and partially because it is a magnificent totem of their ability to see things where no one else can. The duo’s own taste, on mixtapes and elsewhere, has made splashes far beyond Murphy, their influence expands uncredited like a ripple. But we’ll leave those secrets to the depths, tonight we’re looking at the moon.