By: Marlee Billiter

Thought to be a one-hit wonder band, the more intently I listened, the more I realized that’s one of the most bizarre sayings. I believe Hum is a concept. They’re ill-composed to form an amorphous sound, a pacified rage. Every song is something similar, yet not. There’s no solidarity to their writing, but then there is. It is but a concept that spins me into agonizing confusion every time I approach the topic. 

I want to remain as vague as possible, engaging people who understand there’s a complexity alongside the perception of sounds. Hum is obscure, so I will follow suit:

“Downward is heavenward…and we are not alone” – Afternoon With the Axolotls, Downward is Heavenward

“A dragonfly descends with just a whisper, “I’m lonelier than God” – Suicide Machine, You’d Prefer An Astronaut

“Now stands a zebra made of shapes of me and silver and the sun” – Suicide Machine, You’d Prefer An Astronaut

“I’d like your face gone and in its place the sun” – I’d Like Your Hair Long, You’d Prefer An Astronaut

“Eyes shut, ‘Beelzebub can we do this without a net?’” – Afternoon With the Axolotls, Downward is Heavenward

“She says, ‘Keep this benzene ring around your finger and think of me when everything you wanted starts to end.’” – The Scientists, Downward is Heavenward – Afternoon With the Axolotls, Downward is Heavenward

“I’m a dirty old man who pissed on himself punching at a clock and screaming at the world I’ve healed” – Pinch and Roll, Electra 2000

I find one of the most beguiling songs by Hum to be their shoegaze sound, ‘Afternoon With the Axolotls.’ This song is beyond regular shoegaze with emotion disguised by fulfilled instrumentals. I think every lyric of this song has something twisted about its meaning. Hum has never released the true meaning to any of their songs, leaving it all up to imagination and creativity–a blessing and a curse. I try to wrap my head around a phrase only to be even more confused than where I began. That has to be one of the most impressive things about Hum’s music. I can’t grasp a topic being covered. I can infer only to be wrong by the next lyric. The confusion is invigorating. 

There’s an emotion in ‘Afternoon With the Axolotls’ that I feel I have never endured before. I’m truly scared by this feeling, yet it’s motivating. It’s almost like the drag of finding your purpose in life. It makes no sense, but once you find something that could contribute to it, there’s the smallest hint of hope, and life seems to come back together. Now at the same time, this song can do the exact opposite. It can feel like life is slowly crumbling in front of you. I find myself hearing both of these. It’s like how one could respond to death. Everything is coming to a close, but you’re thankful for the life you have lived. 

Hum has been increasingly inspiring to me. Most of the time the struggle to feel real is evident, but then the unreal-ness of Hum’s music gives me life. There’s a connection between lead singer Matt Talbott’s voice and my head that’s indescribable. I’m supposed to be informing or entertaining a reader, but instead I’m questioning my thought process–my entire being–in plain sight. I don’t understand this music. I don’t understand why it’s taken me so long to write this article, even just thinking of this band causes a million thoughts to form in my head. I wonder why I have lacked the energy to type a few words about this topic, and yet I’m able to write it all down at this moment. 

It’s incredible what some music can do to a person. 

Maybe it’s the fact that I feel I have put more pieces together. I’ve learned I have a purpose. I’ve learned what I want to do with my life. Most people struggle their whole lives trying to figure that out, but I know so deep inside what it is I want to do. One of the only things that makes me feel real. One of the only things that fulfills what I’ve been asking for. I’ve seen Hum bring that side of me out. The side that is hopeful. Hell, I was listening to Hum when I decided to spend $40 to audition for a University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ summer intensive for dance. I whipped up a quick resume and sent in a video of me improving randomly just a few weeks ago. I found out that I got in later that week. After I got in, guess what I listened to. 

It’s just a small step into the world I want to enter, but after leaving it for a year and being able to accomplish something like that, I think to myself, what if my childhood dreams could be achieved? 

It’s all from this random 90s one-hit wonder band called Hum. The singer never really changes his tone of voice, the instrumentals all recreate a shoegaze-punk vibe, and there’s no meaning to their rhymes–if there even is a rhyme. The abstract form of music is ridiculous and riveting, and I’m not ashamed to say I fall at its feet. 

I don’t believe I have much else to say, but then I believe there’s a ton. It’s possible it’s taken me so long to write this because I can’t process my thoughts. I think in a jumbled mess rather than addressing and approaching each one individually. 

I also think I’m being extremely vulnerable. Newspaper articles are supposed to be informative, and here’s a teenaged girl so lost she can’t write something that makes the smallest bit of sense. 

I think anyone could understand what I have just said if they listen to ‘Afternoon With the Axolotls.’ This song has been on repeat. Except for when it wasn’t. I played ‘The Scientists’ once and that was when I sounded more hopeful in my words. Or maybe I didn’t. I think I sounded like a happier person. But when AWTA plays, I either go blank or turn into one of the most intellectual thinkers. I don’t feel like writing an article. I feel like telling some conceptualized story about myself. I’m being selfish in order to get something done so I don’t fail the easiest class in existence. 

An album to be discussed is You’d Prefer an Astronaut. This album holds the wonder, ‘Stars’ yet has…

The chorus of AWTA is playing again. It’s not a chorus, there is no chorus, I just don’t know what this is called.

“Through it all she seems secure, and downward is heavenward…we are not alone.”

I don’t know what that means. 

To keep myself from continuing on about that song, I’ve started listening to the album I was approaching previously. 

It starts off with ‘Little Dipper.’ A constellation forming a pot? I can’t talk about this song. I’m at a loss for words. Literally, I just looked around the room trying to figure out what it is I say. I guess this song is as astonishing to me as AWTA, except I’m completely left blank. I could cry to this song, but I could cry to the other. The lyrics do have meaning in this song. There’s so much behind it. The guitar and drum beat doesn’t stop leaving me breathless. Actually, one of the crashes leaves me gasping for air most times because there’s so much emotion involved. Some Hum fans I think would say this song is cringy, or nowhere near as good as their others, but this one speaks to me in its simplicity. A story about love so plain and true. It’s a real song. There might not have been much time put into it, but then again it’s not an easy song. Once again I’m left struggling for the phrasing of my thoughts. 

The most I can say is that this isn’t an average band. It could be if someone’s listening just for a listen. There is something devouring within this music. It doesn’t sound like it. But it’s there. Having appreciation for music on a profound level could make this seem more true, or it couldn’t. I’m just spewing words. If one wants to agree with me they can, most wouldn’t, most wouldn’t even try. 

If I talk about the rest of this album, it would be even worse confusion making its disguised form as paragraphs to an article. I don’t want it to look like that. There is no system to how I am doing this, I’m simply being me. Maybe that’s why I’ve accomplished so much in this one sitting. I haven’t tried to be fake. 

Hum can bring out the real me, something I find to be a really hard thing to do. 

What is me?


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