New year, new listening habits—but that’s kind of bullshit, right? The holidays are past us, we’re back to the daily grind, and the days are short and cold. This is prime time to be falling into our comfort rotations.
Maybe it’s bold to assume that everyone and their mother address seasonal affective disorder by binge listening to The Cure year after year, but this is my idiocentric world to live in. External perspectives be damned.
Flippancy aside, acting on my resolve to start journaling about music again has been a monumental effort. And by “effort,” I really mean “display of procrastination.” Because, let’s face it, chugging down coffee and putting pen to paper isn’t all that difficult. In fact, that’s a form of therapy. It’s the process of sifting through emails and feeds and actually listening to new music that’s the limiting factor here.
All this to set the context for Planet Mercury‘s “Helpless” erupting as a beacon of light from my release radar this week. Truly, I’d been only partially optimistic that I’d find some motivation when I opened the playlist. But then I peeked down to the fourth track and BAM! Instant catalyst.
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My keenness toward the Massachusetts-based outfit shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed my previous projects. Their gritty-but-upbeat energy has been a fixture of my circulation since an early interview in 2019. But don’t mistake my attention as undue partiality. Their recipe is tried and true—a multifaceted approach to 90s-rooted pop punk that feels just as natural alongside Warped Tour classics as it does in discovery playlists.
Still, my first stream of “Helpless” caught me completely off-guard. Knowing Planet Mercury’s penchant for shreddy, anthemic singles, I fully expected an angst-laden track fit to soundtrack some sweaty workouts. Instead, I was met with a progressively uplifting demonstration of rock-and-roll romanticism.
This isn’t a slow burn ballad by any stretch, though the moody intro may have you fooled for a moment. Rather the track’s energy builds progressively against its melodic framework, culminating in a rousing dose of pure, pop-punk power. This exhibition isn’t without nuance either, incorporating twangy riffs that call to mind The Virgins‘ Strike Gently era.
Lyrically, there’s a reassurance grounded in the heavy-hitting realism that Planet Mercury exudes both in this track and their broader discography. The end result is a song that does exactly as it describes, layering optimism over despondence to make “helpless” feel alright. And even if it can’t erase all burden (what a mental health breakthrough that would be…), it serves as an excellent reminder to look for that flicker of light in the tunnel.
Listen to “Helpless” in the video below:
Swimming in an ever-rising sea of 2000s emo nostalgia, music journalist Mala Mortensa only surfaces to dig into the depths of the modern alternative underground. Soundtracked by a neverending Spotify queue, she spends most of her free time perfecting heavy eyeliner looks, chilling with her two insane-o dogs, and anxiously waiting for the next AFI tour.