Daily Dose: Varsity, “Taken by Surprise”

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Daily Dose: Varsity, “Taken by Surprise”

Daily Dose is your daily source for the song you absolutely, positively need to hear every day. Curated by the Paste Music Team.

Paste declared Varsity one of the 15 Chicago bands you need to know back in 2018, but if you’re behind the times, it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up: Last year, they released two singles to celebrate their signing to Run For Cover Records, and today (Nov. 11) they’ve unveiled an early stream of their full-length debut for the label, The Basement Takes (2015-2016) (officially dropping this Friday, Nov. 15) via FLOOD.

The album follows Varsity’s two earlier records—2015’s Varsity and 2018’s Parallel Person—but most of its material, as the title suggests, takes us backward in time. The Basement Takes (2015-2016) documents the band solidifying their sound through growing pains, drawing from sessions during a transitional period between their first album and their second. It collects three 7-inch singles the band released in 2015 and 2016, along with two other tracks, “Second Act,” which Run For Cover released last month, and “Taken by Surprise,” a standout never heard before today.

“Taken by Surprise” sounds bright and breezy, taking cues from ‘60s girl-group melodies, but it’s got bite, with drums and grungy guitars that punctuate the track like a flickering flame. Vocalist and keyboardist Stef Smith narrates a ho-hum, claustrophobic time in her life in the third person, professing an “excellent taste in terrible dudes.” “Her five-year plan is to get out of the basement,” sings Smith, in a wry tie-in with the LP’s title, “With stakes so low it’s hard to know what to do.” Varsity’s sunny veneer and acerbic wit recall the dream pop of Alvvays and Camera Obscura. The Basement Tapes shows just how far they’ve come from the basement—and the possibilities of how much further they might go.

Listen to “Taken by Surprise” below, along with Varsity’s 2014 Daytrotter session.

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