Song You Need to Know: Dawes, 'Between the Zero and the One'

If you’re a diehard Dawes fan, you’ll notice something instantly familiar in the first verse of new song “Between the Zero and the One”: Its melody is incredibly similar to that of “Most People,” a beloved highlight from 2013’s Stories Don’t End.

“Between the Zero and the One” — which is still worth multiple listens, even if you’re not already a close follower of the band’s work — appears on Dawes’ seventh studio album, Good Luck With Whatever. The album’s through line is a sense of confusingly stumbling into mid-thirties adulthood while still feeling like a kid, and that theme comes through clearly on this song, which feels like a poetic follow-up to “Most People.”

Both songs’ lyrics kick in at the 25-second mark, and both center around a female protagonist. In “Most People,” she’s studying a party’s attendees, frustrated with social norms — and oblivious to the fact that everyone else is frustrated too: “She thinks, ‘Most people don’t talk enough about how lucky they are’/’Most people don’t know what it takes for me to get through the day’/’Most people don’t talk enough about the love in their hearts’/But she doesn’t know most people feel that same way.”

“Most People” shows how the opinions and presentations of others can weigh on a person who’s agreeable to a fault and “resists interpretation.” Dawes released the song when its sole writer, frontman Taylor Goldsmith, was 27. A lot has changed since then for Goldsmith, who’s now 35 with a baby on the way, and that comes through in “Between the Zero and the One.”

The newer song’s lead character learns that all of life’s truths come out eventually “no matter how hard you resist.” The lyrics glorify the moment when a person finally accepts that life is full of changing perspectives and priorities. She’s still resistant — evidenced by her guiding a Ouija planchette and stacking a deck of tarot cards — but she’s starting to realize that letting some things live in the past is easier than trying to understand them.

The protagonist finds out that “the life you’re gonna live is out between the zero and the one,” and that thriving comes from saying goodbye. (On a Ouija board, the word “Goodbye” is placed underneath a row of numbers that starts with one and ends with zero.)

“Between the Zero and the One” is driven by a wistful, echoing piano, as well as clever lyricism, and made whole by the chorus’ climactic combination of shakers, tambourine, and strings. It’s a beautiful testament to getting older, learning that life doesn’t have to make sense all the time, and letting go of the people and situations that hinder growth.

Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.

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