Sunday, March 02, 2008

Songs That Might Otherwise Pass You By

These United States, "First Sight"

According to a blog post on the band's Myspace, These United States is "scoring the film" of founding member Jesse Elliot's "clap-trap brain". I like clap-trap ramblings, and this song fits that description well. My first thought when I heard the tiny keyboard punches trickling into my left ear was "What the hell is this? Is it Hal 9000?" Then as the music varied and expanded into both ears, I started to appreciate its intricacy. The song reaches cohesion with the addition of the vocals, steering the song from a minimalist electro-ditty into a full-fledged rush of story-telling. The singer barely pauses half a second between phrases, impressing the listener with a sense of accelerated time. The lyrics add to the sense of fleeting time: within the span of the three-minute song, the singer sees the entire life of a relationship he will form with a girl he seems to have just met--love and lust morph into a lifetime together. He sees this all happen in "one grand epic sweep", but though the story seems to be over at the end of the song, the anticipation in the singer's voice makes the song seem new over and over.

Band member Paleo's song-a-day project can be found here (scroll down to song diary--each song is identified by the date)

These United States are fervant for the music

School of Language, "Rockist, Part One"

This is another song that kind of may me go "uh...?" at the beginning. A succession of the syllables "ooh ahh eehh" bounce from one speaker over to another. If the song had just been that, it would've stayed in the "interesting" category and not graduated to the must-share department. However, like the last song, the vocals and music cohere to form a full musical experience. The bass line rumbles beneath the tense layer of rhythmically truncated vocals, guitars that clash and crash into the song unexpectedly and the steady flow of "oohs, ahhs and eehs". The experience leaves the listener feeling tread on and stomped upon (in the most flattering sense of the phrases), as one might feel under the weight of something forceful and unreckonable.


David Brewis of School of Language says "Hey! I've learned to whittle! Can I practice on your arm?" (photo by Ian West)

The Knife and Fork Band, "Crazy"

If Aimee Mann got really dejected one day, it might sound like this song (oh wait--my favorite 'Til Tuesday album was Aimee being really, really dejected). The vocalist has the same smooth, creamy delivery as Aimee--coating you with sadness, but comforting you at the same time. But wait--just when you think this is strictly a ballad, the singer breaks into a searing interlude that's more Baker Act than Bacharach. I love the juxtaposition of sharp, insistent chorus and lackadaisical, fluid verses--it's the same clash of style I love about the Prog-Rock bands of the 70's--particularly Queen. You never know what kind of song you're going to get, even in the middle of the song.

Label Site

The Knife and Fork Band are smiling because they didn't have to use both the knife and the fork on the guy slumped over the table.

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