Today’s Song: The Modern Timelessness of GEMS’ “w/o u”

I want to get out, but I can’t live without you

Is there no better way to reflect on heartache and pain than through immaculately well-produced dark, ethereal indie pop? GEMS’ “w/o u” is a flawless presentation of emotional fragility: Raw lyrics and impassioned singing fill the void of loss while rich electronic production captures the intensely poignant, tempestuous internal and external experience of lovesickness. 

long way down
when there’s no way out
how I long
for the way we were

For some reason, musical duos are often the trailblazers when it comes to capturing old emotions in new ways. It’s a trend that extends as far back as Simon & Garfunkel, and one that has been repeated most recently with Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West’s Oh Wonder. Perhaps it’s the unique intimacy of a one-on-one connection that creates that powerful musicolyrical* spark; whatever the cause, Lindsay Pitts and Clifford John Usher appear to be ready to add themselves to that list of magical musical duos.

Listen: “w/o u” – GEMS


“w/o u” is GEMS’ recent single off their upcoming debut full-length album, Kill the One You Love (available 10/30/2015 via Carpark Records). As haunting as it is alluring, “w/o u” finds the duo squarely nailing a sound that the pop/electronic music genre has been headed towards for quite some time. GEMS stand out, however, for many reasons: The sheer, brutal honesty in their lyrics; the powerful juxtaposition between polished electro-pop music and tender words; and the use of musical space as a vessel for creative development and exploration.

An inescapable facet of “w/o u” is its stylized presentation in text-message slang: The entire song can be summed up in a single, unsent text message:

I can’t live w/o u

This is love in the modern age. Relationships are built through a combination of mediums, and the lack of text messages can be as genuine as the physical emptiness left in the wake of one’s absence. The heavy reality of the lyrics is exaggerated and made familiar by the common textspeak: With only three letters, GEMS encapsulate a story of love and heartbreak.

and the wind will blow
but I won’t let go
try to remember…

I want to get out
but I can’t live without you

That’s what “w/o u” is: Timelessness, with a watermark on the present. There is no need to go into details about what happened; no one needs to know the specifics. What matters most is the experience of that loss, and how one deals with it. In GEMS’ case, Lindsay Pitts tries to hold onto the past; she isn’t ready to let go of the beauty, the memories, the warmth, and the love.

Kill the One You Love - GEMS

Kill the One You Love – GEMS

Survivors of failed relationships must ultimately face a single question: How do you let go of the past? All of the memories, the love, the things that made you you – how can you move on without that thing (in this case, a companion) that defined so much of your history and your present identity? The ultimate answer is time, but neither GEMS nor anyone suffering like that is in a state to admit such a thing. You want to cherish those memories; you want to hold them close, and never let them go. You want to remember – remember the love you shared, the smiles you stole, and the feeling of comfort and belonging in each other’s arms.

Fans of the xx, Sir Sly and other dark indie-pop types should feel right at home with GEMS. Like the aforementioned acts, GEMS take their production to that next level where it not only supports or enhances, but also informs the music directly. Clifford John Usher’s skills behind the board are not to be questioned.

Delicate and pulsing, “w/o u” is easy to put on repeat and equally as exciting on the fifth listen as it is on the first. GEMS wrap up their tour with Autre Ne Veut tonight at a sold out Bowery Ballroom show in New York City, and their debut full-length album comes out four day later. If you can’t wait, you can stream to Kill the One You Love in full via The Hype Machine’s exclusive album premiere. Don’t miss “w/o u” and GEMS’ electrifying, stirring sound!

GEMS - Autre Ne Veut tour poster

GEMS – Autre Ne Veut tour poster

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*musicolyrical = (of music) describing the combined resultant effect of music and lyrics

Kill the One You Love – GEMS

available 10/30/2015

“w/o u” – GEMS

lyrics

long way down
when there’s no way out
how I long
for the way we were
days go by
in the dying embers
I still remember

these days I’m haunted by
each day that passes by
these days passing by

I want to get out
but I can’t live without you
I can’t live without you

long way down
and there’s no way out
still I ache
for the way we were
if I repent
in the dying embers
will you remember?

these days I’m haunted by
each day that passes by
these days passing by

I want to get out
but I can’t live without you
I can’t live without you

can you save my soul?
can you make me whole?
try to remember…

and the wind will blow
but I won’t let go
try to remember…

I want to get out
but I can’t live without you
I can’t live without you

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com