Song of the Week: ‘Losing Sleep’ by Dakota Theim
If you happened to work in college radio around the time Pitchfork was sold to Condé Nast, you have likely asked yourself a very specific question: what ever happened to Tobias Jesso Jr.?
For a brief moment in the twilight of the Obama years, it seemed like the shaggy six-foot-seven singer-songwriter was about to become stratospheric. His delicate ’70s-style ballads painted him as Harry Nilsson for the post-Tumblr gen; his lack of musical training and "I just plink around on my sister's piano" shtick somehow registered as endearing instead of false-modest. The man even dated a Haim before disappearing, never to pop out a sophomore LP.
The actual answer to "what ever happened to Tobias Jesso Jr.?" is that he took a deliberate step back from pop stardom and penned a pair of excellent Adele songs, but you'd be forgiven, in the opening seconds of Dakota Theim's "Losing Sleep," for thinking he'd disguised himself as a rising musician from Portland, Oregon.
"Losing Sleep" is the first single from Theim's second record, Tangled Heart, and it immediately makes the case for him as one of the Rose City's most exciting singer-songwriters. After drums disperse a passage of cinematic strings, his delightfully nasal vocals crash into view: "Every time I try to run away / I have to say the things I need to say," Theim croons. Then the strings return as supporting players, bringing a chunky bass and simple, gleaming keyboard chords along with them.
The ghost of a Beatles melody hangs around the edge of the "Losing Sleep," too, as it does on a number of other Tangled Heart tracks (particularly the bouncy "You Don't Have to Lie"). Theim is up to more than mummified pastiche, though: his songs have real joy and snap to them, and you can feel the lived-in harmony of his band even on a pair of tinny AirPods. He melds wistful ’70s aesthetics with spry, immediate playing, and the results are invigorating.
Check out all of Tangled Heart here, and peep the video for "Losing Sleep" below: