Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm a drifter

Why does good music get ignored? While there are many relatively feasible answers to this question, none of them really satisfy me. In this particular situation, I'm going to blame America's love for what has been termed "grunge" and "alt rock".

The year is 1993. Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Liz Phair, Pearl Jam, and a number of other artists are making quite a name for themselves on commercial radio. Grunge music (not really a term i like to attach to anything) is the new fuss in the USA. The music is the new sound of generation X and there's a very distinct clothing style to go along with it. While all this is going on-- there's a musical movement going on in the U.K. that is very different from what is happening in America. It's more or less the brit-pop explosion of the 1990's. I won't go into great detail about the late 80's early 90's 'madchester' movement, as other writers have covered the subject in great detail. Click here if you'd like to read a detailed account of the subject. I do want to point something out about the role that grunge music had in suppressing the madchester movement from hitting the USA hard.

American grunge music was hard and angry. Brit pop around the same time was offering a very contrasting feel. Bands like Blur, Pulp, and Intastella were offering a much happier pop oriented sound. Aside from a few artists not much of this Madchester music made it onto American Radio. So in short, an amazing song like "Drifter" by Intastella is a super-unkown piece of music who's magical ways will never really see the light of day. Perhaps I'm being overly dramatic though. I'm sure there are more than a handful of people who care about the song. This is especially true in the U.K. where Intastella got plenty of attention.

What the hell is so great about this song? On the surface, "Drifter" seems to be a very basic poppy love song about a drifter. The feel of the song however, has the power to evoke a very warm nostalgic feeling to the listener. This song has taken the sound of summer vacation, love, the beach, warm weather, teenagers, relationships, campfires, magic, and drugs and put them all together into one beautiful composition.

I'm not going to get into great detail about the specifics of this song. The drawbar organ sounds great. The acoustic guitars make me feel like I'm at a beach. Further more, I'm impressed that they pulled off the use of so many acoustic guitars on a relatively poppy sounding dance song. The electric wah-wah guitar sounds great. If you listen carefully, you'll be able to hear a cool right to left speaker panning effect in the beginning. They remind me of 311's "transistor" album. They keyboards are transparent and sound great. The percussion is perfect for the song.
Intastella also has balls for making a 1 minute long intro for a pop song. Stella Grundy's voice sounds warm, endearing, and really--- like some sort of nostalgic audio liquid.

One might consider that I'm in love with the idea of actually being a drifter. This could absolutely add to my bias towards the song's greatness. I continually dream of leaving all my belongings behind and going out on the road with virtually nothing. Ah yes-- the pressures of everyday living would be entirely left behind.......right? I wouldn't have to worry about user names, pin numbers, passwords, and other seemingly meaningless things. I haven't done it yet and probably never will. When I listen to this song however, I feel like I have. Or like I have been a drifter before and am reminiscing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"My Time" by Jane's Addiction

I'd like to start off by stating that Jane's Addiction is my "favorite band of all time". I feel that it's necessary to mention this and address the question of extreme subjectivity. It doesn't matter that they're my favorite band. In fact, there's even a couple songs (or maybe one....) that I don't really like by JA. I am admittedly obsessed with Perry Farell and most all of his side projects. This post however, is going to be about JA and the song "My Time". I am going to treat it as I would a post about any other artist.

The track is off of the album known to some as Triple X. Others simply refer to the album as the 'self titled' album. Whatever you'd care to call it- it came out in 1987 and consists of 10 songs. All the songs were recorded live, but Perry did go into the studio and overdub some vocals. Aside from the killer performances, there is another major selling point to the album. Many of the songs on Triple X were never recorded in a studio and are not on any of their other albums. All of them are worth checking out, but "My Time" holds a very special place in my heart.

What the hell is so great about this track? Let's take it apart piece by piece.

Sound- To be honest, there is nothing worth bragging about in the quality of the recording. In fact, just the opposite is true. The recording is a rather shitty one. It's live sound, low budget, and 21 years old. The bass guitar and drums are pretty well masked by the guitar and vocals. At least the most important elements (voice & guitar) are preserved in such a fashion so as to be clean and intelligible. The harmonica is also quite present in the mix. This is definitely a scenario where the content wins despite the quality of the format.

Lyrics- The lyrics are one of the main selling points on this one. It's safe to say that in general, almost all lyrics by JA are profound and strikingly unique. Click here for a link to the lyrics so you can get a better idea. Most likely Perry is singing about L.A. The perspective is such that it could be about any big city where one can experience things in an impersonal fashion. I continually find myself walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn with this song in my head. I'm not only singing it though, I'm living it. Thematically it's conveying an image of a dirty town getting washed of it's inauthentic inhabitants. Doesn't sound so bad eh? A cleansing of sorts? Unfortunately we're all guilty of possessing character defects that invite us to put up a 'front' at one time or another.

Guitar- Nothing spectacular about the guitar. It consists of a decent sounding acoustic strumming through some common chords. Not any amazing Dave Navarro happening here.

Vocals- Perry Farrell delivers a very honest performance with this song. In other words, his voice doesn't sound perfect. That's not to say it doesn't sound fantastic though. Melodically it's the perfect puzzle piece to this otherwise mediocre song. If the song didn't have some amazing vocals, it wouldn't really have much going for it. Sonically, Perry's voice sounds somewhat thin in the mix and is not very full. Fortunately the performance is so original and timeless that it overshadows these details.

Drums: They're fine. Not a lot to say here. Not Perkins at his best or anything.

Bass: The bass guitar is not very present in the mix, but is melodically adding something quite important to the song's overall melody. This is exactly what Eric Avery is good at.

"My Time" is quite a departure from what JA usually does. In fact, there is really no other song on any of their albums that offers a similar feel. "My Time" has a bitter sweet bohemian kind of sound to it. Free your mind and enjoy.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"A sea of leaves are whispering"

Welcome to my music blog. I'm going to talk about music that I love, and maybe music that I don't. This posting will fall under the first category.

I'd like to talk about one of the greatest songs of all time. It's a track by Bob Ebeling (pictured below) called "Heaven's Deep Inside". It's pretty much unreleased, but you can listen to it on his moli profile under the heading "life on high". The link is listed below. I've also posted the mp3 on a separate link. Click here to access it. (JUST CLOSE THE ANNOYING ADVERTISEMENTS)

Why is it so great? It's absolutely beautiful. The lush textures, trippy vocals, airy drums, string quartet, and quirky electric piano make for an unforgettable track. All of this songs parts work with each other to form one cohesive bed of sonic perfection. If I'm not mistaken, the drums & string quartet were recorded at Loho studios in NYC. Let's break it down part by part.

Vocals: A very dense reverb (and possibly chorus?) mask the vocals behind a layer liquid psychedelia. This creates a flowing ghost like sort feel to Bob's voice. The lyrics seem to wander between themes of fall, feeling good, and feeling blissful shining comfort. The overall mood of the vocals has a very sacred feeling of drifting from love, loss, and beauty.....all in the glorious leafy season of fall. "A sea of leaves are whispering"... Who could create a more artistic and beautiful lyric about the fall season?

Strings: They sound great. From what I know, Ebeling arranged them and had a string quartet play.

Drums: The drums have a very cool, dense, and semi-present sound in the mix. My favorite drum part is when the drums bang back in at 3:28. 

Programming: I'm pretty much always  in love with a analog kick drum with a  sharp eq boost giving it a quicky electronic sort of 'click' sound. That being said, the programming is really good and doesn't interfere with the rest of the song. Rather, it provides the trippy electronic rhythm  base for the rest of the song to lie on.

Guitar: Killer!!! The melody that the guitar plays is utilizing some of my favorite intervals. The sound is very watery, shimmery, and overall just beautiful. In a typical Bob Ebeling fashion, there is some very cool guitar counter melody stuff happening in the stereo field. There is a small guitar sound panned to the left that is lightly noodling with some bizarre yet complimenting intervals. 

Bass: Not much to say about this. It has a good feel that bounces along perfectly with the rest of the sound.

Overall there are many reasons why I love this song. It is using a very common chord progression (she sells sanctuary: the cult, sweet home alabama: skynyard, she said she said: the beatles, welcome to paradise: green day, ...the list goes on) and yet the listener may not really notice. This is because the chords are used in such a dramatically tripped out fashion. This song makes me think of: love, life, loss, heroin, brooklyn, fall, beauty, heaven, death, disappointment, bitter sweet experience, and many other things. 

As I listen to this song, I am reminded that October is almost over right now. As usual, I am feeling that I haven't really experienced it. It seems that it just passed me by while I kept busy with work.  I guess it doesn't help that I just moved to NYC and am living an entirely different kind of life style than I have in the last 23 years. Nonetheless, this pattern of not actually being present in my surroundings continues. 

I could listen to this tune a million times..........

If you like it: check out "Ebeling 
Hughes" & "Downtown"

Here are some links:

Here is a picture of Bob Ebeling