PREMIERE: “SMALLER” FROM MODERN DIET

The first single off the Brooklyn indie-rock band’s forthcoming LP—featuring Margaux—is a beautiful (and relatable) breakup song sparked by a shift in perspective

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Remember the Rubin Vase?

You’ve surely seen it somewhere. An example of an ambiguous figure/ground illusion (so the internet tells me!), the image is designed to be interpreted in two ways: as a vase or as two human profiles facing one another.

Perspective is interesting that way. One interpretation isn’t more correct than either. Both technically exist, and in equal measure. But while we can logically accept that there are multiple ways to look at something, when you’re hyper-focused on one … well, it can be almost impossible to simultaneously consider another.

That, my friends, brings us to breakups—and in more ways than one. After all, nothing is more subjective than a relationship, and when one of ours ends, we’re (understandably) absorbed in our personal experience—we have our own unique view of what went wrong, who’s at fault, what could’ve been done wrong. An individual account based on our own thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile, our former lover is looking at the same situation and seeing it an entirely different way.

But it’s not just about a stark difference in perspective between two people. A major breakup is also likely to… change the way we feel, how we look at and move through the world. That brings us to “Smaller,” the new single from Modern Diet, which I couldn’t be more thrilled to premiere here.

Am I disappearing / Have I disappeared to you? / I don’t feel any smaller now

Ahead of the release, Modern Diet‘s Jake Cheriff (who in addition to writing the track, recorded, produced, and mixed it) sent over some background on the song:

“I wrote ‘Smaller’ in order to reconcile what felt like a grand shift in perspective following the dissolution of a long-term relationship. The song is a breakup song but it’s also an affirmation that is hopefully as comforting as it is relatable.”

Along with being rooted in a shift of perspective, there are also two ways to interpret the song itself. A duet (featuring NYC artist Margaux), when I listen to it, I feel like I’m hearing two separate people sharing their feelings, each of which eerily, heartbreakingly, echoes the other’s. (I almost found myself cheering for them to get back together. You’re both thinking about each other! SEND A TEXT!). However, when simply looking at the lyrics—and reading Jake’s explanation above—it seems like the song is more of a music monologue expressing his own emotions…

Or, hell, maybe it’s both. Two profiles or one vase?

No matter the intent, there’s no denying the magic between Jake and Margaux, the kind of chemistry and complementary crooning that makes you wish the “featuring” tag didn’t exist and that the guest artist would be absorbed into the band completely and permanently. Beyond being a song, it feels like a conversation, a dynamic that reminds me a bit of Stars or Chairlift, two bands I love for—I’m just realizing—this very reason.

“Margaux is one of my favorite songwriters and musicians of all time,” Jake told me of the collaboration, “and it was an immense honor and privilege to create something together.”

As for when and where you can find more new Modern Diet, Smaller is the first of many songs to come, with the band’s new album, The State of Things, due out this July on Paper Moon Records. As for the forthcoming record, Jake said:

The whole The State of Things LP was recorded in a two-week span of manic creativity and productivity. As soon as I started recording, I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else until the record was finished. I don’t think I left my apartment more than once or twice. I just kept going until the songs sounded like they did in my head. I wrote some of these songs years ago and it was a relief to finally hear them recorded. Margaux’s featured vocal on ‘Smaller’ was the last element recorded for the record.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go spin “Smaller,” ~1000 more times—

And—update!—now that it’s out, watch the video.

No matter which way I interpret it both, they’re just so, so goddamn good.

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Follow Modern Diet at @moderndiet, buy music on Bandcamp and add their songs to your Spotify playlists!

Feature image provided by the band.

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