In terms of covers, How to Dress Well and cokc dokc's haunting, echoplex take on Ready for the World's 1986 slowjam "Love You Down" is one of the worst ever constructed. Save for a sample of forgotten 90s singer INOJ murmuring from her own version, there's nothing even linking the former two together. The original "Love You Down" was lustrous and loaded with cheesy 80s staples like: bass plucks, descending keys, blankets of synthesizer, and unnecessarily soloing guitars. But in all its schmaltz it found time to achingly portray a romance heading towards peril.
While HTDW's Tom Krell and cokc dokc do capture an unmistakable ache, they gently toss all other markers of the original hit into a dark pond. Though Krell's expanded his sonic palette in recent years, when "Ready for the World" dropped in November of 2009 he was stridently lo-fi. Most artists with that label would recoil in horror, but Krell embraced the tag before anyone could pin it to him; referring to his sound as "lo-fi Shai". Still giving plaudits to him for self-awareness would be foolish, listen to "Ready for the World" just once and you'd be at a loss to describe it any other way. His crooning is nearly inaudible at times and his words entirely indecipherable. Frequently Krell’s jockeying for position against speaker bursting drums and droning electronics. Instead of extending his striking vocals into a soaring chorus, he cuts them off with a shrieking guitar part. As well as "lo-fi" works as a descriptor, perhaps "frustrating" is more apt.
I'll admit my own frustration is part of the reason I logged nearly 200 plays of the track in the weeks and months following "Ready for the World"'s release. At first my obsession had little to do with quality; it was born out of a desire to know what I was hearing. Akin to Grouper's spellbinding 2008 track "Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping" I thought if I hit repeat enough I'd be able to hear past the song's histrionics and get to its heart. It got so bad that I'd leave the entire Friday Morning Hymnal EP on at night, in the hopes that Krell's intent would be imprinted onto my dreams. Thankfully my roommate loved the song himself and possessed a similar fascination, though I may be projecting there.
Much to my chagrin nothing appeared, there was no "a-ha" moment. I continued to hear only Krell and shadowy production; occasional "oohs" bleeding into keyboard stereo pans. Each whisper danced tantalizingly close to my ear without ever extending a hand. After enough passes it began to sink in that I'd never figure it out. Moses wouldn't be coming down from Mount Sinai with a divine revelation. Somehow that was fine with me after a while. If the notion "some riddles are best left unsolved" had any merit, I had to let it go. Had How to Dress Well & cokc dokc given us a straightforward reading, it would've been forgotten about as soon as it went up on BlogSpot. That's not the case. Hedging towards five years since its release, "Ready for the World" still lingers in the collective music unconscious. When you hear the Weeknd, Shy Girls, or any number of "indie R&B" artists perform, you're faintly hearing ripples of the tune. Leaders don't have all the answers and the masterfully enigmatic "Ready for the World" demonstrates that.