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Songs We Love: Lemaitre, 'Playing To Lose (Feat. Stanaj)'

Lemaitre's latest EP, <em>Afterglow</em>, is out now.
Olav Stubberud
Courtesy of the artist
Lemaitre's latest EP, Afterglow, is out now.

Dating can feel like a soulless sport, but Lemaitre, a Norwegian indie-electronic duo known for bouncy rhythms and catchy hooks, sees beauty in our collective agony. Take "Playing To Lose," a brooding R&B jam from its 2016 EP, Afterglow. The song is about someone looking for love in all the wrong places, but Lemaitre makes the dreary topic surprisingly optimistic. Weaving together heavy drums, hopeful hooks and guest vocalist Stanaj's fluttering falsetto, they capture the highs and lows of intimacy, culminating in a rousing chorus that swells around and around again. "You're bulletproof, ain't no getting to you / I can't break through, anything that I do / It's like I'm playing to lose."

Who hasn't been there? That's the sentiment that guided directors Ménad Kesraoui and Romain Dubois as they conceptualized the music video, which NPR is premiering here.

It follows two strangers through a day that's basically average — they water the plants, ride the subway and seem generally depressed by the constant sight of happy couples — except that they're haunted by a strange, invisible presence. It reveals itself in spooky coincidences: He discovers a lost button in his coffee as she realizes she's missing one from her blouse. Yet only the viewer sees the parallels and realizes that it's the cosmos bringing them together.

Lemaitre, <em>Afterglow</em>
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Lemaitre, Afterglow

Even though it was shot in Brooklyn, Dubois and Kesaroui wanted the video to feel universal — it could be anywhere, everywhere, all of us. To complement the song's low-key cheerfulness, they made fate a player in the game. "We wanted it to be fun, slapstick and humorous, with a touch of supernatural," they say. "We can all relate to the challenges of finding that person, and the hope that somewhere out there, a greater force is working to lead you to the one."

Ketil Jansen, 25, who formed Lemaitre with Ulrik Lund in 2010, finds poetry in heartbreak's ability to level the playing field. "Dating, relationships, destructive behavior, it can be an addicting cycle," he says. "It's easy to say 'Oh, we can just get out,' but the reality is we tend to seek it. We're all playing along."

Afterglow is out now via Astralwerks.

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Megan Buerger