Douglas Martin does not have a subscription to The Believer.

John Maus’ sprawling philosophical ideas and inflammatory opinions get him into trouble. He uses four-syllable words and threatens the intellect of insecure music journalists. “John Maus celebrates the imminent demise of record stores” was 2011’s “Kanye bumrushes Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech.” John Maus could very well have been the inspiration for the Pseudo-Profound Electronic Artists Tumblr. It’s easy to forget that music writers are supposed to write about music when we’re all so caught up in the extracurriculars of artists’ lives and personalities, so you can be forgiven if you’ve heard more about what John Maus says than what John Maus does– even if what John Maus created the best song of 2011.

After all the new wave, cop-killing sprees, and unintentional genre parodies of We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, Maus saves the inspiration and optimism for last. After six months, my arms still goosebump whenever I hear the song’s opening bass notes and drum hits. Instead of buried under tape hiss or gnarled guitar noise, the song is embedded beneath layers of synths; if lightness could be measured in weight, I’d safely assume the brightness here would be crushing.

“Believer” finds Maus criss-crossing the sky over musical accompaniment that sounds like a sci-fi movie depicting the beginning of the world. A synth melody hints at the hugeness of possibility. A buoyant chorus chimes. Chords nearly induce convulsions. With all the graduate thesis jargon that Maus is prone to, “Believer” goes headlong for emotional resonance and succeeds in a way that few artists did this year.

MP3: John Maus-“Believer”

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