“The Bottom” by Brett McCutcheon

Sometimes, people will tell you to ‘go with the flow,’ as if you don’t have any other choice. But, sometimes, the flow works against you. Released in September 2023 as part of Pittsburgh composer Brett McCutcheon’s “The Ocean – Five Years” EP, “The Bottom” uses the ocean as a lyrical device to describe the pressures of life at large.

At the start, “The Bottom” begins at a slow, gradual pace before a grand awakening of horns and flighty flutes accent the swaying soundscape. However, soaring horns appear, followed by squawking trumpets, as part of the torrid pace that sets in for the second half. Altogether, McCutcheon casts a wide melodic spectrum from low-key, fanciful grandeur to monumental.

With vocals by June Bracken, “The Bottom” surmises “if life’s an ocean, I’m at the bottom of the ocean.” In addition, “the world’s in motion, drifting through the ocean” exemplifies how the march of time is relative to how you experience it, capped by Bracken’s wistful deliveries of “I missed the wave.” If you’re happy, time moves briskly. If you’re having a rough time, every tick of the clock feels like an eternity. Finally, the second half of “The Bottom” resides in that place of existential purgatory, observing that it “keeps getting farther/darker…it’s moving without me” where you “don’t see the light no more, down here.”

Altogether, “The Bottom” trades tender melodic moments to capitalize on its grandstanding ones. In tandem with Bracken’s multifaceted vocal performance, McCutcheon impresses with how sonically endearing “The Bottom” is. 

Written by Travis Boyer




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