Hits decoded: 3 key characteristics of “Line of Sight (feat. WYNNE & Mansionair)” by ODESZA

ODESZA’s 2017 album, “A Moment Apart,” is the third studio album from the electronic music duo from Seattle. Their hit single, “Line of Sight (feat. WYNNE & Mansionair)” is one of the most uplifting tracks on the album, and was also nominated for a Grammy for “Best Dance Recording.” Here are three characteristics that make the track an instant hit.

1. Catchy vocal hook

One of the most characteristic components of this track is the vocal hook heard in the pre-chorus (0:53). When the transition takes us to WYNNE’s higher-pitched vocal hook, it feels as though a weight has been lifted. Up until this point of the track, we only heard Mansionair’s vocals, which by contrast were in a lower register.

ODESZA made the decision to release the energy in this section by dropping a lot of the elements from the previous section in the arrangement. The only elements that remain at 0:53 are the vocal hook and low-passed bass line.

The rhythm of WYNNE’s vocal hook is infectious. One of the main reasons for this is the syncopation of the rhythm. The melody starts a sixteenth note after the downbeat – this gives an excitement to the vocal’s energy without the need to add any drastic audio effects or processing. This section also serves as the pre-chorus / build-up to the main chorus of the song.

2. Driving drum rhythms

The drum pattern (the kick and layered clap) serves as a backbone of the track that propels the verses and choruses forward. When the drums first enter at 0:31, there are no hats or percussion in the pattern, aside from an occasional woodblock or snare fill at the end of each phrase. By leaving out the hats and percussion, ODESZA opens up room for Mansionair’s vocals and the melodic guitar responses.

Let’s explore some of the rhythms in greater detail on Splice’s Beatmaker:

When the chorus hits, the core elements of the drum pattern remain the same, but a few slight additions are sprinkled in that go a long way. ODESZA chooses to leave the trap-style hats relatively low in the mix, which allows the upper frequencies to be ruled by all of the synths in this section. ODESZA also peppers in some tasty drum fills to connect individual phrases, which adds additional energy to the chorus.

3. Synth sound design

ODESZA is perhaps best known for their melodic sound design. “Line of Sight” features a lot of saw and square-based synths, which ooze an energy that ebbs and flows throughout the song. The choice to low pass the bass and melodic synths in the intro and pre-chorus was a deliberate one. By doing this, ODESZA leaves spectral room for the vocals to shine and for the energy to rise in the chorus. The heavy saw bass chosen for the verse (0:31) introduces a distinct grit to the arrangement that contrasts nicely with the gentle vocals.

The chorus is especially uplifting, with all synth’s filters opened to fill the entire frequency spectrum. One key technique ODESZA uses that drives the chorus home is the LFO / volume modulation on the main saw chords. By using this eighth note LFO on the synth, the chorus is given a unique “bounce” feeling that distinguishes it from other sections of the song.

At the end of the day, there’s no crazy sound design in this track – ODESZA just really focused on crafting cohesive sounds that all have a consistent aesthetic.

Want to learn what makes other Grammy-nominated tracks tick? Check out all of our Grammy Hits Decoded posts here.

January 22, 2018

Nick Chen Content Marketing @ Splice. Nick Chen is a producer, performer, and educator under the aliases "nickthechen" and "Enix."