In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re talking about great songs not sung in English.
For most listeners, French five-piece Daïtro started off with plenty of marks against it. Singing in its native tongue, the band’s lyrics were lost on American audiences, except for those who took dutiful notes in French class. Language barrier aside, the band was saddled with the unfortunate designation of being lumped in with screamo, a genre that’s always had more detractors than ardent fans. But, if all that is put aside, it’s hard to ignore Daïtro’s innumerable strengths.
Starting in the early 2000s, the band was finding its sound just as screamo was breaking through to American mainstream audiences. By the time Daïtro came into its own, the genre had become the laughingstock in serious music circles, as the proliferation of acts that could best be described as Hot Topic-core co-opted the genre’s name. By 2009, when Daïtro released its final LP, Y, the sound was being taken back by artier bands that referenced screamo’s early-’90s heyday. While this allowed bands like Touché Amoré and La Dispute to crack through in the American underground, Daïtro’s sound was just as accessible, but without relatable lyrics at the forefront it would remain a footnote.
No track on Y showcases just how densely packed Daïtro’s songs were, and how it dutifully mixed screamo and post-punk, than “2.” Though Y technically is full of unlisted, untitled tracks, its Bandcamp page clarified how to identify the album’s movements. Despite the song being labeled “2,” the band notes the track as the album’s third proper piece. But all those semantics aside it’s not only one of Daïtro’s best songs, it’s a case study for how to make American audiences sing along in a different language.
After a couple runs of the song’s main riff the band kicks in with a groovy hardcore beat, but just as quickly as the intro takes hold Daïtro is already shifting direction. The manic drumming that undercuts the song is what allows the guitars to pull back and offer open space to vocalists Aurelien Verdant and Julien Paget. This gives Verdant and Paget the ability to sing atop one another throughout, layering vocal melodies until their phrases are tightly knotted. As the song continually twists and turns it’s a three-second break that shows how well Daïtro could use empty space, as a raucous drum break, coupled with the coalescence of Verdant’s and Paget’s dueling vocals, makes it impossible not to scream along with their fiery, unintelligible declaration.
Though Daïtro’s been on hold since Y’s release, its members have continued exploring the sonic avenues the band touched on, with acts such as 12XU in Baton Rouge pulling influence from different sections of their precursor. Much like Daïtro, the members’ subsequent bands haven’t found an audience across the Atlantic, but that hasn’t made their music any less resonant. If anything, “2” remains an entry into a collection of France’s best, aggressive exports. That is, if you’re willing to hop over a few barriers first.