Six-Star Songs: Better Pills, “Valium” (2017)

For the inaugural post of my new blog, I have chosen to feature a song that is very near and dear to me. Better Pills’ “Valium” addresses the complications of a life on benzodiazepines, and the band delivers a sincere performance that is equal parts comforting and exhilarating.

The mastermind of Better Pills is Brent Gorton, a terribly talented songwriter, musician, and recording engineer from my hometown, Albany, New York. Alongside another gifted songwriter, Aaron Smith, Gorton has roots in The Stars of Rock, an indie lo-fi duo that churned out hits in the late nineties and into the early aughts. Gorton has released music under a couple other monikers including Youth and the Drug Explosion, and “Valium” first appeared in 2014 as the opening track on Hiroshima Gift Shop. That version’s four-track flare and quirky vintage drum machine work made a lasting impression on me, but then all hell broke loose when Better Pills released Call the Local Cops, which consists entirely of an April 2016 practice session that included the raucous version of “Valium” presented here. (Don’t let the word ‘practice’ fool you: both the performances and recordings on Call the Local Cops are masterful from start to finish.)

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