“How much time did we lose? Is everyone here?” mulls Animalweapon’s hugely evocative new single “Summer’s Over.” Released by Polychromatic Records on Oct. 6, it’s an intimate whisper with universal resonance.
“It’s very much a song for this moment,” said Patrick Cortes, aka Animalweapon. “And I feel like I need to put it out.”
The wistful “Summer’s Over” vocal is accompanied by just somber keys, sparse percussion, and actual natural night sounds. Recalling the likes of Phantogram and The Postal Service, it’s a brain-staining snapshot of an unprecedented era on Earth.
The genesis of “Summer’s Over” predates the pandemic, when Cortes visited a friend in Texas at the end of last summer. She’d just begun chemo treatments for breast cancer. It felt like more than just a season might be over.
“They have a lot of really good bugs down there, including really, really loud cicadas,” Cortes recalled from his Raleigh, N.C. home. “So I went out there with my handheld recorder and just recorded a bunch of nighttime ambience … Lit up a cigarette, and just paced around her pool.”
Creating in a nuanced space between electronica and indie (“It’s about songs rather than tracks”), Animalweapon’s heartfelt laptop pop has been an atypical feature of Raleigh’s vibrant scene for a decade.
“I feel weird playing with bands, because I perform with a laptop,” said Cortes, who cites influences spanning Flying Lotus, Nine Inch Nails, Baths, and BT. “On the other hand, I’m not clubby, or EDM, or dancehall enough to fit in on electronic nights.”
Beginning as a side-project experiment with the song “Mexican Standoff” in 2010, Animalweapon almost inadvertently became Cortes’ chief musical expression. His cultured bedroom pop flirts with skittering hip-hop beats, ambient soundscapes, and borderline club music to become something entirely its own.
Animalweapon’s 2012 debut album Good Luck, which earned rotation on Raleigh’s WKNC-FM, was followed by 2015’s Flares and Signal Fires EP. While finishing the EP, Cortes began contributing music to popular podcast Undisclosed (follow-up to #1 iTunes series Serial), for which he won a 2017 Webby Award.
Sophomore Animalweapon album Tyrannosaurus, released last May, was an all-consuming personal and perfectionist effort three years in the making.
“Friends were a little worried about me,” Cortes admitted. “Even if I would go out … my brain would kind of be back at home, with my music.”
Following a period of decompression from Tyrannosaurus, Cortes put together a split EP with prior collaborator Neo Obsidian in just three weeks this summer. But then, as the nights began closing in again, his thoughts returned once more to what would become “Summer’s Over.”
“There’s this kind of somber moment when the days start getting shorter,” said Cortes. “I didn’t write the lyrics until a couple of months ago, and so they are very much centered around not just that feeling, but also all of the loss that we’ve had this horrible, horrible messed-up year.”
“Summer’s Over” seamlessly conveys Cortes personal feelings alongside semi-metaphorical references to the protests and pandemic that will always be associated with 2020.
“I tried to condense that into just a couple of verses,” he explained. “And mourn all the time that we’ve lost.”
Building from a stately yet solitary piano melody, “Summer’s Over” almost imperceptibly builds into a gorgeous, less-is-more lament to a lost chapter. As well as the cicada chorus captured that poignant Texas night, it includes ultra lo-fi percussion, appropriately including the sound of a pair of sunglasses being dropped onto a hard surface.
Marking 10 years since Animalweapon’s debut release, Cortes also just released a remaster of “Mexican Standoff,” along with two remixes. A new Animalweapon EP is expected early next year.
“I’m still nailing down what the next record is going to sound like,” mulled Cortes. “I don’t want it to be as big and thematic as Tyrannosaurus – I just want to have a little bit more fun with it. “ I try to make sure that everything I do still sounds like me, but I don’t like treading back over the same stuff.”