Saturday, November 22, 2008

Community Service

OK at the moment I would like to do some community service. Because I care about people. For this lecture I will be discussing some of the contents of my (crappy) iPod shuffle. Read on, and learn.

1. Hidden Place, Bjork. song#4
This song is interesting because it shows us very clearly a certain geocultural internal genre: The Cold Weather music genre. When you hear a song like this, you have to imagine that you're in some huge, icy, dim, snowy scene. Bjork is from Iceland, for the cave dwellers who may be reading. In Iceland it's always cold, even in July. So this is where Bjork lives, physically and mentally. This is the sonic equivalent of the song's mindset. Think of the second verse, (if you can call it that): "He is the beautifulest, fragilest, still strong, dark and divine. And the littleness of his movements hides himself. He invents a charm that makes him invisible, hides in the hair..." Now, does that say "Nordic myth" or what? Yesh. So this is what cold weather sounds like: lush orchestrations, "soft" sounds, especially with a mythic lift to them, higher instruments, lots of chorusing and thickening; lots of reverb. It's definitely NOT the quick-cut, silence-punctuated with futurism like some electronic music.

2. Piece of Me, Britney #5
This is an unfinished song, but it points to what's ahead. It's unfinished because, clearly, it is. It's too spare; it needs more flourishes. I had a feeling the vocoders were supposed to be more front and center; this sounds like a scratch track. Also, the instrumentation: you can tell listening to the end that it was going to have more flourishes, maybe "17th century" style flourishes, but the album got leaked before they added them and it was released thus. But it is a good groove, isn't it?

3. She Bop (remix) #7
Probably the best remix ever done. The sounds, separated, sound so fresh here. And the new sounds! I remember when I was younger, hearing this and thinking there was something seriously salacious about it, but not knowing why. Well, it's the percussion that sounds like toilet seats slamming and the bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bop metallic sounding thing (it would work well with a 70s vocoder), and maybe more. But I remember I would blush listening to it, and this was before I know what "she bop" meant. But in terms of the sexiness, I have to say: the breath thing, probably going for sexy, doesn't do much. It's just another rhtyhm, and you end up wondering why the breath is so short. But seriously, for too many reasons to get into, this is the best remix ever made.

4. Apple Juice Kissing, DeeeLite. #9
I just love the naturalness of the rapped part, and the casualness of the music that really makes it sound like summer. I swear, they must've recorded this album in Tahiti. This represents an almost subtropical genre, in contrast to Bjork's frozen landscape. It's so casual. It really feels like a summer day. I do have to say, though, I'm not entirely sure what "apple juice kissing makes me roll my hips" means, but it's cool. I have another song from that album on here, and it has the line, "No interruptions, we're all alone. Cuz I don't have a cellular phone"--talk about a casual summer, even almost hippielike, lyric! Love it!

5. Unemployed in Summertime (can't remember) #13
I really like this song. It's by someone in Iceland, but she manages to, for the most part, make it sound like a lazy day in summer. Examples of lyrics: "Let's get drunk on Saturday, walk up Primrose Hill until we lose our way.... Sorry, don't get mad at me--I just did the sex quiz in your magazine. You're my best friend in the world.... Unemployed in Summertime, only just turned 21. It'll be OK. Unemployed in Summertime, we don't need money cuz we're young..." Ah, just listening to those, you feel like you're 21 again and don't have a care in the world.

6. Christmas in Hell. Some Holy Roller Prodigy. #21. I downloaded this from soundclick. It's some child prodigy's interp of Carol of the Bells. He's also from a holy roller family. The song starts out OK, with a weird inversion of the melody, but with pretty much the same baseline, of Carol of the Bells. Unfortunately, it never really moves on from this. It just builds and gets louder and more aggressive and then fizzles, without exploring more territory, so it ends up basically in the realm of Really Good New Age song, but nothing better. It could have been more, but the idea, of dubious nature to begin with, isn't developed. Furthermore, what exactly does the song mean? Is it that Hell is torment? If so, you're using YOUR OWN composition to signify torment? And it's not dissonant? What does the Bolero-type build mean? That Hell's agonies constantly increase? But you're using your composition to illustrate those agonies. And moreover, the only thing agonizing about the piece as written is that the part is in a minor key. What's so menacing about that? The original song is in a minor key. But it's most important that it doesn't go anywhere, and that's, apart from some very minor misses, is what keeps it from being great.

14. Zombie Jamboree/Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Rockapella. #22/23
I love this choir shit. Just love it. And damn, those Rockapella beeyotches got skills. They MIGHT be good enough to sing on Broadway. But we can't really know, because the particular rules their songs follow don't allow for much original emotional interpretation. One thing I like about the HYaMLC is the occasional Perry Como Special quality that every now and then comes in. Love it! I'm not sure of the very discernible delay effect they have on it--it's pretty, if a bit thick, but why not just hear them the way they sound? Which reminds me--Christina Aguilera: what you really should do? Put out an acapella album with no filtering on the vox. That way we can really hear you sing.

15. "The Magic of Christmas Day" (?), Celine Dion #24
I think I can truly say that this is the only song I know that I like "ironically." Of course I also like it straight, but not all of it. It's amazing to feel this way about a song. First of all, the irony part: Cod, these lyrics are insipid, in so many parts and so many ways. I should say this, though: the character in the song, I wish I liked ANYTHING as much as this bitch likes Christmas. DAMN! eg: "Christmastime is here, our waiting is done." WHO is sitting around WAITING for Christmas, plucking out her leg hair and biting her nails to the bone?! Crazy. And: "...that everyone feels, it's the magic of Christmas Day." What?!??! The MAGIC--what exactly IS this "magic of Christmas Day"??? Really, it's just another day. Sometimes there's magic to Halloween, but not Christmas.

The refrain: God bless us, everyone. The good and the bad, the happy the sad. God bless us, everyone. Here's to family and friends, it's good to be here again. OK, the happy/sad thing is lazy writing. But the 'here's to family and friends...' actually succintly wraps up what we really think about Christmas in a way that's not cheap or maudlin or altogether too cliched, even though it's a little bit beer-commercial.

The bridge: That woman's voice! It gets so WEIRD!!! She goes into an upper register here, and it just sounds freaky, like an alien duck. Especially on "it's easy to do." Crazy. The bridge, OF COURSE, unfolds into an instrumental part with, you guessed it, a saxophone. The biggest Christmas cliche ever (in a huge nest of cliche upon cliche, which is the style of every Celine Dion song), and it doesn't even fit the rest of the song. Like, you expect it in Merry Christmas, Baby, but not in this song which is trying to be soaring.

After the bridge, a repeat of the chorus, then another repeat. But with the second repeat, her lead vocal starts the chorus and full volume and then fades WAY into the background while another line continues as the lead at the lead volume, but it's just the most ghastly thing you've ever heard. It's supposed to be her riffing a bit and getting emotional or somehting, but we all know that the Dion does NOT do this well. This is Dion at her duck best, because she says 'God bless us all,' which ALMOST sounds like she got overwhelmed emotional and just said it, but falls short. Then she just makes sounds in the scale but seriously sounds like a duck. Is that a French thing? And then the lyrics she chooses to repeat as the song fades? "good and the bad, happy, the sad.." Sheesh, how did you choose the most banal lyric when there actually were other better ones, or ones you could have improvised, Celine?!? Uck, it's failings like these that make me certain that Celine Dion will NEVER be able to strike a genuine emotional chord for a sophisticated audience. But then she's so wealthy now, what does it matter to her? Celine, please retire so we can remake your songs in a few years? And while we probably won't match your level of technical who's-it-what's-it, we will sure as hell put more emotional movement into your songs!

17. Sternfall (two songs) #25 and 26
I know someone in the band, but I gotta say: they're amazing. They really hit the note of what they're going for, which is, I'm not sure: I think polka/yiddish/germanic type music. They sing in Swedish, Yiddish and cod knows what else, and you can't hear a song withou thinking they really hit the mark: They seem to use natural instruments, but they're processed a little, it seems, to make them richer. The vox have little processing evident on them: On Goldene Pave, you can hear some echo, and you can hear some pitch correction on the English song, but mostly it's like hearing really well-recorded acoustic music recorded at someone's party or something.

18. Sveriges Radio #28-34
These are selections from Radio Sweden. Godmorjon Varld is first, and while RS said it was comedy, it doesn't sound like it. It sounds like a Swedish "Morning Edition"; it could be all fake. If it is, that's pretty amazing. The second, can't remember the name: Funny. Song parodies, "cooler" sounding Swedish, and a part about drive-bys that's really funny but I don't feel like explaining now. Then a couple documentaries. I like the beginning, with the dramatic music and the thickened voice going "Du lyssna pa sveriges radio. Det har ar P3." You can totally understand it, and when you hear it, you're like, "oh THAT's how 'har' is really said!" Then: Mammas Nya Kille, which is just hilarious for so many reasons, partly because every now and then you catch some Swedish; then cuz of the guy who goes into English sentences all the time and you're wondering if he's supposed to be an American cuz he sounds all cocky; then the voices that they put on for the characters, which you laugh at even though you don't know what they're saying, but you do catch that they frequently address the host by name and pause before speaking. "Bengt..... Ja blah blah blah"

21. Winter Wonderland, hellogoodbye #40
I love this song. I love how it's sparsely and straightforwardly arranged, with the natural instruments playing counterpoint to the overdistorted voice we hear, and the natural, toy-sounding keyboard, with the very, very clear jingle bells. I like the vocal, but I don't believe for a moment that he's as sweet and innocent as his vocal. That said, he does do VERY well with the word nose in "though your nose gets a chilling." It really sounds like a little boy. That said, while his vocal is interesting, he's really not that GOOD, per se, as a singer. But then we need more singers that aren't tuned to death out there.

22. [speaking of tuned to death] Come Clean Rain, Hilary Duff #41
I like this song, it's like the songs I would listen to in high school. Pure candyfloss. It has its moments--at the beginning and in the bridge, when it does that beat speeding up thing and has some pitch variation in the echo of "rain fall." And the vocal is interesting, because you KNOW it's tuned to death but largely don't hear it. EXCEPT at the conjunction of the last two syllables of the song, where it's EXTREMELY evident, at begiiii----ning. Right at ning. I heard it the other day, and I can't believe I'd never noticed it before.

23. Karpe Diem, Swedish/Danish/or something Nordic rappers. two songs #42 & 42
From the very limited exposure I've had to Swedish rap, these guys sound so good. they seriously sound like a couple of young, tanned, golden haired guys you hope that Sweden is populated with. Admittedly, Swedish rap sounds really forking weird to Americans, just because it sounds strange, but these peeps do some cool production stuff with their songs. In the beginning of one, they sing a line from a Beyonce song, mentioning Beyonce by name. It's also kinda strange how they put these chorus effects on their voices. I just wonder if they'll still sound so good after their voices change.

And that's the community service beep for now!

Ed Shepp

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