Robert DeLong‘s brilliant take on music cannot be overlooked. The one-man-band of Los Angeles simply exudes genius, whether that be bouncing around his tricked-out stage of lasers and Nintendo 64 controllers, writing sociopolitically-charged dance songs or producing major bangers out of his home studio. This guy truly does it all.
A par for the course is “Better In College”, DeLong’s ruminative ode to young adult relationships.
For we’ve all been there — young, dumb and ‘in love’. “Better In College”, featuring the female vocal talents of Ashe, begins with synthy chime sounds… almost as if a video game console was powering on. Ready to play the game ‘Did You Make Adequate College Decisions’?! DeLong asserts right off the bat “I thought I knew what I wanted”, only to admit “back then, I was a fool”; it being the year of quarantine and reflection, DeLong thus brings new meaning to 20/20 hindsight. Yet, despite the camaraderie gained in a “barely getting by” lifestyle, DeLong remains unapologetic to his past: the reality of not knowing oneself yet, albeit the potential one can achieve, renders such “love-hate, real-fake” relationships prevalent in (nearly) everyone’s early college years. Romantic entanglements were just that… tangled.
What’s so unique about DeLong is his musical layering. Incorporating tempo changes, out-of-the-box accents and a plethora of distortion effects, DeLong’s soundscape in “Better In College” is disorienting, yet reassuring. For instance, warm, welcoming wind chimes accompany Ashe and DeLong as they arrive at the dismal consensus “we were a broken machine”. Like college itself, the key to this song is balance. Another masterful mini-composition within the track is the sheer quantity of harmonized vocals, the result of which sounds like a vocal harp between the two players. Could this wide range of harmony be an audible analogy to the wide range of emotions within in any doomed relationship? Hard to say. It’s impressive to hear, though.
And, like any evaluation, there has to be a conclusion.
Years have past, yet “we’re still us darlin” and, lo and behold, “we’re still barely getting by”. Relationships don’t have to end when your higher education does. What is meant to be is meant to be. Seems like DeLong has never fully moved on from his college ways… yet, who could blame him? Problems in college were way better than problems thereafter. And, those who stuck by you all this time truly know you inside and out. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to take a chapter from DeLong and revisit old mental romping grounds, if only for nostalgia’s sake. In the meantime, “Better In College” is now available for your streaming pleasure on all digital outlets.