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A Madison thing we’re listening to: Son!’s “Dog”

Daniel Kaplan’s latest song finds his project coming into focus, with help from an endearing video.

Daniel Kaplan’s latest song finds his project coming into focus, with help from an endearing video.

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On most of his recent singles under the name Son!, Daniel Kaplan tends to seize upon one emotional impulse and then run with it. On “Painting” it’s existential love and on “Nothing Lasts,” it’s bitter disdain. On the new “Dog,” however, the triple-threat artist (who previously rapped under the name Lord Of The Fly, and also performs as a member of hip-hop ensemble ME eN YOU) blends competing emotions and perspectives, and a recent music video for the track only deepens its nuance. With or without the video (directed by Niko Hagen), the track itself is the most recent, and most complete, of the string of singles the producer, rapper and multi-instrumentalist has released in the past year. (Full disclosure: I am friendly with Kaplan and helped him organize an event earlier this year.)

At the start, “Dog” appears to be a song about the simple relationship between human and dog. The verses of the are from the human’s perspective and the refrain from the dog’s. Despite whatever hardships the owner goes through (“Sedative, take and make me feel like I’m fine with the / way I’m breaking / I’ll fade away given time”), the dog is always there (“I’ll be there always / Be where you call me / I’ll be here for you”). The track’s sunny guitar parts reinforce this reassuring dynamic, and the video depicts Kaplan, a big fluffy dog named Ziggy, and a smaller but also fluffy dog named Emma gallivanting around in a pastoral setting.

As the song progresses, however, a different layer emerges. Around the two-minute mark, the guitar disappears and Kaplan begins to rap about “saying goodbyes” and “finally [seeing] this for what it really is.” Right after, Kaplan’s “dog” perspective comes back along with the guitar, but this time he sings, “It’s getting late yeah, let’s talk in the morning / At the end of the day, yeah, I did it all for you.” These lyrics sound as if they’re more about a human relationship, a one-sided one at that, which is then poignantly juxtaposed with the always-easy one between humans and dogs.

Regardless, though, of how one interprets the lyrics, Kaplan works plenty of complexity into the music itself: changing time signatures, alternating focalization between the cheerful guitar and mournful synths, and a shifting array of vocal styles. It’s the kind of track that doesn’t yield all its fruits easily, instead rewarding multiple plays and in-depth listenings with new meanings and, obviously, repeat glances at cute dogs.

It’s also an encouraging sign for Kaplan’s forthcoming EP, still untitled and due out this spring. Son!’s next live appearance will be Friday, December 8 at The Frequency, opening for Basi And Bhairav.

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