I don’t often dwell on blood-drinking. That being said, for about two weeks after hearing my first ARTHUR song, I was thinking, muttering and (poorly) singing: “She drinks my blood and I drink water.” These lyrics, the opening line of “AB”, only hint at the twisted, honest and experimental takes ARTHUR creates within his discography.
ARTHUR, also known as Arthur, Arthur Shea, William Conall Shea or just Con, is not only a man of many names, but a man of many talents. You may know him as a founding member of the Philadelphian indie band, Joy Again, or perhaps from the opening sets he played for (Sandy) Alex G during a recent tour. I don’t claim to know the creative genius behind ARTHUR, but I have spent a decent chunk of the last few years picking through all of his music, and I’d like to think I’m a fairly well-versed ARTHUR consumer.
Listed in order of release date, I present to you a short playlist of my top ten favorite ARTHUR tracks.
Note: For the purpose of this playlist, I only selected songs that were released after ARTHUR’s professional name change from Arthur Shea.
“Scared” – Challenger (2017)
Raised to a high and haunting pitch, ARTHUR grapples with the stranger at the other end of the ringing phone on this track. This alien outsider, one that is perhaps not so unfamiliar to ARTHUR or us, is the ever-present voice that calls for scary things to happen.
“AB” – Challenger (2017)
Back to the blood song. I would fervently argue that this song transcends normal critique and conversation. It will get stuck in your head and make you question every single relationship you’ve had. Frankly put, love can be draining.
“Julie Returns” – Julie Returns (2018)
This song is video game limbo. “Julie Returns” feels like hitting all the buttons on your game controller in a desperate attempt to get out of the room with no door while uncanny and robotic instrumentals urge you into nothingness. “Julie Returns” is an apology or a love letter or an existential contemplation.
“Julie vs. Robot Julie” – Woof Woof (2018)
“I’m so lonely/No-one knows me/The only thing that might help now/Is if I kill myself/But I don’t wanna do that/Cause someone might get mad/I’m so lonely”. These lyrics are a prime example of that ARTHUR-istic honesty I previously mentioned. With the above opening verse preceded by only seconds of a repetitive high-hat, this track quickly launches into its hazy exploration and questions of the duality of selfhood.
“I’m Too Good” – Woof Woof (2018)
The rising instrumentals at the beginning of this song slowly ease into some of ARTHUR’s most raw and eccentric lyrics and vocal inflections. What is one of my most revisited tracks off of “Woof Woof”, “I’m Too Good” is a practice in free association. ARTHUR’s interweaving of egotism with self-deception is novel and captivating. You’ll have a hard time setting this song down for any extended period of time.
“Wow F**K” – Woof Woof (2018)
ARTHUR’s most deceivingly upbeat song, this track is a minute and a half of pure head-bobbing, body-jumping music. While the instrumentals and delivery signal a song of youthful joy, the lyrics describe the uncertainty of recovery, growth and guilt. Just as the title reflects, ARTHUR is the master of juxtaposition on “Wow F**K”.
“I’ve Seen It” – Woof Woof (2018)
Arguably the most sentimental ARTHUR song, the last track on “Woof Woof ” is a soft whisper: self-aware, true, and hopeful. Guided by understated instrumentals, ARTHUR’s knowing and kind voice is on full-display in “I’ve Seen It” and it’s simply beautiful. This song is the gentle smile on the face of a healing person and you will likely find yourself listening to it when you’re in need of a safe place to rest.
“No Tengo” – Hair of the Dog (2020)
This track opens with a short sample from Righeira’s 1983 “No Tengo Dinero” and quickly launches into a fascinating and methodical instrumental composition. ARTHUR, making use of a more mortal voice than usual on this track (though the delivery is certainly still unearthly), sings to “she”. Shy expressions of love and recognition combined with loose promises to be better make for a classic ARTHUR track that’s just as unique and intriguing as the others.
“Fix” – Hair of the Dog (2020)
While a handful of his other tracks touch on it, no other ARTHUR song presents ideations of addiction as explicitly and fully as “Fix”. Pointedly titled, ARTHUR plays both sides of the story on this song. At the beginning, we get a glimpse at one person’s desire for this fix to be stopped, and with a seamless transition after the first few lines, we learn about the other individual’s inability to do so. The song is full, emotional and difficult. It urges self-reflection without ever asking for it.
“Something Sweet” (ft. Caleb Giles) – Hair of the Dog (2020)
The only ARTHUR track with a credited vocal feature, Caleb Giles and ARTHUR come together in an unexpectedly fitting way to create this speculative and eerie song. What I once believed were two dichotomous artists, ARTHUR’s experimental and genre-bending style blends seamlessly with Caleb Giles’ dexterous alternative hip-hop approach. Both bring intriguing and strange lyrical content to the track and you’d be hard pressed to find another song like it.
Click here to listen to the playlist on my Spotify.
Ultimately, ARTHUR is just one of those artists you have to hear for yourself. Enjoy your first listen of each song; I promise it’ll be special. Then enjoy all those repeats.
Here’s to ARTHUR’s unexplained love of dogs,