Top Duo Tracks, Part II: 8 More Tunes to Move You

Tegan and Sara performing onstage
Tegan and Sara, Image Credit: Dustin Rabin via Wikimedia Commons

by Shira Richman

Just as food fuels the human body, duo-tracks nourish and sustain a musical duo. Here are some that keep us happy, healthy, and humble. One reason we’re currently powering up is that we have been invited to be interviewed on our favorite radio program, Lokale Leidenschaften (Local Passion), a weekly show on Nuremberg’s Radio-Z. More details will be available on Facebook and Instagram. In the meantime, we hope you’ll find some joy, awe, twirls, hops, and cathartic resolve from the following songs.

1. “How Did We Get So Dark?” Royal Blood

The primary members: Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher
Be sure to check out: The melancholy note on “dark” against the bright “oh”s in the chorus–the music manifests the meaning of the lyrics, darkness against sweetness–and the wild drums that nearly feel like they will ride you away during the guitar solo, yet somehow they keep it all together.
Favorite lyric: How did something so sweet tear us apart? / Oh / On a sinking ship with a heavy heart / Oh oh / How did we get so dark?

2. “Boyfriend,” Tegan and Sara

The primary members: Tegan Rain Quin and Sara Keirsten Quin
Be sure to check out: Each turn of this dynamic number yields delightful surprise. Even though the song is called “Boyfriend,” I enjoy the unexpected moment when these sisters claim they feel like they are being treated like a boyfriend; the claim intrigues me, makes me wonder how a boyfriend is treated. The silence before the last line of the chorus is powerful, giving impact to the sentiment of not wanting to be kept secret.
Favorite lyric: Tell you that I love you, that I can’t hold back / The feeling that you give me, wanna give right back
(I appreciate that they manage to rhyme “back” with itself while making it seem like it is two different words and also the yearning captured so succinctly–the desire for someone to feel for you as you feel for them.)

3. “Ocean Eyes,” Billie Eilish

The primary members: Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell and Finneas O’Connell
Be sure to check out: 
The orchestral way in which voices are mixed. In the chorus Billie’s voice floats in and out in more layers than the ear can track. It’s also nice to hear the depth increased at 1:22 when Finneas comes in for a phrase. The baseline in the chorus adds oceanic depth against Billie’s smooth flowing vocal lines.
Favorite lyric: 
Burning cities and napalm skies / Fifteen flares inside those ocean eyes

4. “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” Phantogram

The primary members: Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter
Be sure to check out: The strain in Sarah’s voice when she sings “You don’t get me high anymore” infuses the song a desperation that adds the necessary pathos to this song. The conversation between the intense vocals and the low grinding synthesizer creates a compelling contrast. The song begins with an irresistible energy that does not let up, in fact it will likely ignite what’s wild in you.
Favorite lyric:  Runnin’ through emergency rooms / Spinning wheels and ceiling fans / My handshake, cellophane, landscape, mannequin / Faking it the best I can / It’s Cadillac, Cadillac red / No hands on the steering wheel / I’m crashing this save-a-ho puppet show / UFO obliterate the way I feel

5. “How It Will End,” EXES

The primary members: Allie McDonald and Mike Derenzo
Be sure to check out: In the chorus the vocal line is static with a delightful lift on “with you,” and then there is the break on, “myself,” the point from which the melody and rhythm soar.
Favorite lyric: So if somebody told me / I would still be this in love with you / I’d go back to the party where it started / And I’d introduce myself / Over again / Even when I know / How it will end

6. “Sweet Dreams,” Eurythmics

The primary members: Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart
Be sure to check out: The bouncing synth groove that starts the song and continues throughout the verses and chorus, offering counterpoint to Lennox’s rich, smooth voice. The song specializes in repetition with variations on each theme to keep it fresh. For instance, at 1:47 the harmony dominates the pre-chorus. Around three minutes in, the melody and harmony coalesce evenly, in a moment of profound satisfaction. (Video bonus–the sexy cow at 1:24.)
Favorite lyric:  Sweet dreams are made of this / Who am I to disagree / I travel the world and the seven seas / Everybody’s looking for something

7. “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” The White Stripes

The primary members: Jack White and Meg White
Be sure to check out: The lyrics are brilliant in their ongoing theme of communicating in forms other than words–specifically through sounds: a falling piano, the sound of lips, breath, and those notes in the mailbox. The thrashing crashing of the drums against the varying guitar riffs imbues the song with a bit of drunkenness. I especially love the moments of wincing guitar distortion and raw cracks in Jack’s voice, along with the walking bassline at 2:36.
Favorite lyric: Thirty notes in the mailbox / Will tell you that I’m coming home

8. “You Are the Problem Here,” First Aid Kit

The primary members: Johanna Söderberg and Klara Söderberg
Be sure to check out: The vocal expression in this song is arresting–especially on the word “tears” at 00:54. Another highlight in terms of vocal intensity–where melody also shines–is at 1:37, the part that also closes the song (2:47). The harmony breakout moment will overtake you at 2:15–watch out, it’s powerful.
Favorite lyric: Do you really expect anyone to feel sorry / That you ruined your own life? / You did it when you thought you had the right to / Put your entitled hands up her thighs

As always, we’re eager to hear about your favorite duo tracks and the particular moments of tunes that move you. Feel free to leave us breadcrumbs in the comments section below, or if it’s easier, on Facebook or Instagram, where we are always up for a chatty snack. And to see more of our favorite duo tracks, see part one of this series.