Sunday, March 23, 2008

Songs That Might Otherwise Pass You By

(The podcast was posted yesterday)

Devotchka, "Transliterator"

Devotchka was one of the first bands I wrote about in this blog--before I realized that blogging actually included writing. My favorite Devotchka songs from that period aren't even mentioned on their Myspace anymore--I guess that's 'cause they are five and more years old. I would listen to those songs over and over. I worry that when I love a band that much--or more accurately, when I love a group of songs so much--that nothing the band will do after that will recapture that devotion for me. Hearing this song, though, I feel giddy all over again. If I'd never heard of Devotchka before, I would be absolultely swayed by this song. It conjurs its power through pleading, demanding vocals and swirling, orchestral instrumentation that swells and breaks with the torrent of the singer's emotions. The music is as diverse as any I've heard: the band employs violin, guitar, trumpet, piano, sax and many others. I'm not savvy enough to be able to tell you which instruments are in this particular song, but I can recognize a few. The coy piano is a delicate undercurrent to the sweeping, curling violin. The guitar thrashes in time to the singer's angst, challenging and roughening the already aggravated climate. Devotchka's songs are worthy of repeat listening because each moment is uniquely crafted, but with an eye to forming a complete experience. The experience is raw, dense, commanding and exhausting. Exhausting, but so intense and fulfilling that you want to go through it over and over.


Devotchka are just relaxin' until inspiration seizes them once more, catupulting them into the dark recesses of creativity...or something. I'm trying to be dramatic too, okay? (Photo from the LA Times blog)

Sunset Rubdown, "Winged, Wicked Things"

If David Bowie fronted a cabaret band, it might sound something like this. Come to think of it, Bowie was cabaret. Ostentatious, audacious, melodramatic, and larger-than-life--all qualities I love in a musician. I don't want to trivialize this sort of grand experience by labeling it simply "cabaret", but like the previous band Devotchka (and other bands like Dresden Dolls and Beirut), Sunset Rubdown infuse their music with intensity and regale you with a clashing array of music and emotion. You feel like you've spent a night in the movie Velvet Goldmine. You come out of it dazed, with a somewhat altered view of the world. It's the kind of experience you remember with fondness and a healthy dose of fogginess.

Myspace (Fan Created)

Bad pun alert: Sunset Rubdown are waiting for their...wait for it...wait for it...sunset rubdown. Yes, I grabbed on to the first lame pun I thought of. Photo is from this site, but the pun is all mine.

Brazos, "Mary Jo"

Musically, this song is a little lighter in spirit than the previous songs, but no less effective at energizing the listener. Buoyant and optimistic, in sound at least, the guitars pluck a soft underpinning then rise to compliment the increasingly full sound of the vocals, keyboards and marching drum. Lyrically, the song isn't as carefree. It's not so much a lament for Mary Jo as it is a lament to leave a painful situation. He doesn't want to be alone anymore, but he doesn't want to go back. He tells her he's been "crawling in the leaves", waiting for her touch, but he "never wants to come to [her] again". It seems he's ready to let go of the "broken bottles and scratches on the walls" that she seems to signify. The choice is between a painful companionship and a lonely, but less bruised existence. If you look closer, though, the lyrics--like the music-- are optimistic. They're coated with the wish for release, for a new life.

Myspace (More MP3s are available on their Myspace, directly above their Friends list)

It's a little-known fact, but a small drum can channel light into a fine point, creating a conduit into another world. At least I think that's what Brazos is doing. (Photo by Ashley Cherry)


Tito said...

Devotchka really is amazing. I think this album will get them more of the love and devotion they deserve.

Lola said...

I agree!