Author Archives: DG_Wes
Back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, the odds were stacked in your favor if you were searching for traces of real people playing actual instruments. With the post-grunge, alternative craze you were likely to be hearing Jimmy Eat World, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, Alien Ant Farm, and a host of other archetypical bands. Even in rap and hip hop, people were sticking to sampling real instruments (Eminem’s “My Name Is” has samples of real drum / guitar / bass backing, even into the mid 90’s Tribe Called Quest was sticking to jazz and motown samples, B.I.G. and Tupac were using legit tracks, etc etc).
Gone are those days. Yet, in a world gone completely nuts over everything being computer generated, hyper compressed and filled with a barrage of fat synth leads and pads, there has been a recent trend of minimalism. It conforms to but one rule: a single real instrument being played over a sequenced beat.
Case in point was 2007’s Crank That (Soulja Boy Tell’em)
This track single-handedly changed what was accepted in terms of production effort. The producers on this track made a hit with virtually no music present – just a single steel drum over simple drums and orchestral hits. There are legitimately three or four things going on – drums, steel drum line, orchestral hits, vocals. That’s it, that’s all. And it doesn’t change for the whole song. But it’s deadly in how catchy it is.
This concept has been (consciously?) noted by execs and used for good and for evil.
A relatively catchy, silly, well produced recent release: Thrift Shop by Mackelmore has a single alto sax line that repeats ad infinitum:
And finally, a total piece of shit – so bad it practically demands the listener to laugh (either out of wonder, horror, or just general uncomfortableness) every time. I present Michelle Obama by Lil’ Debbie feat. Riff Raf with a stupid fucking french horn line over a shitty skeleton of a beat.
Honorary mention to Yolanda Be Cool’s hit remix of We No Speak Americano for it’s digitally manipulated aggravating sax line!
Andrew Bird’s career arc is epitome of what any musician dreams of accomplishing. Though he began as a virtually unknown classically trained violinist / folk musician, he has built not only a remarkable worldwide fanbase, but created a unique image and an unbelievably characteristic sound through persistence and perseverance. On the past few LP’s, we’ve heard walls of sonic beauty created by violin lines over violin loops over violin loops over guitar over bass and drums, complimented by other bell instruments and virtuoso whistling. Not to mention the eloquence and subtlety of Bird’s voice, ranging from singing virtuoso passages full of wordplay to mumbling incoherent phrases to repeatedly humming just a few notes.
With Hands of Glory, Bird has returned to his midwestern roots. Where recently his bluesy, folksy violin background has been relatively contained, serving more as his influence (starting with 2003’s Weather Systems), Hands of Glory marks their full re-emergence. In fact, this album bears the most resemblance to The Swimming Hour and all of his older, pre-2003 Bowl of Fire releases. It is stripped down, down home-y, and artfully simple, sidestepping the scientific lingo on recent releases (calcium mines and measuring brains) and almost constant wordplay (“Anonimal”, for example). With this collection of country covers and album reworks, the listener is presented with lines such as “take your apples from the earth” and “if I needed you, would you come to me?”. Complicated riffs in 7/8 have been substituted with genuine sentiment over simple grooves – a testament to Bird’s musicality, versatility, as well as his ability to make heartfelt, stripped down music in 2012. The album feels like it was recorded in your living room; there are no barriers between artist and listener. That’s probably because it was recorded in a barn, around a single microphone.
In an today’s age of the explicit, Andrew Bird has managed to release an introspective, nuanced, minimalist, and beautiful album. And there’s no saying where he’ll go next. And that is a good thing.
You can go and stream the entire album for free here.
This is a fall album if I’ve ever heard one… seems like the perfect soundtrack for walking through fields of fallen leaves and apple picking all while drinking a hot cup of cider. Or trying to find a job. That too.
Talk about awesome local music. I’ve been realizing more and more that Montreal has an insanely awesome indie / rock scene, and this band is seriously a band to keep an eye on.
The Hoof and the Heel are a 4 piece sometimes electro – sometimes rock – sometimes acoustic-y group, and their songs feel beautifully polished. They have two frontmen (well, a frontman and frontwoman), and their duo vocals really add something special. Christine’s voice is generally smooth, and Harris’ voice can range from edgy from serene. The mix of the two really works well, and they always know when to blend how, depending on the song.
Check out their song “fireworks” in particular – one of the best new songs stuck in my head. They even have some pretty awesome people working with them to make videos – you can check the video for this song (which is well done) here. Another notable song is “king finds out” – a more laid back song driven primarily by an awesome chorus with great harmonies.
First of all, hey everyone and I sincerely apologize for it being so long since I’ve posted. Pretty ridiculous actually. First, some self promotion: come see my jazz combo play in the Montreal Jazz Festival! July 2nd at 4pm. Kickass. Now for some cool music:
It’s always really cool to hear a band who has a wide variety of sounds. Australia has a lot of cool groups to offer musically (Operator Please would be one that comes to mind), and The Parking Lot Experiments are definitely reppin’ their country/continent well! They’re at points casual, catchy indie rock, yet au contraire (oh no… french), they can be minimalistic and haunting. Just when you thought that wasn’t enough, enter a sweet electro-pop groove tune. Whether it’s electro, acoustic, or somewhere in between, they pull off something wonderful.
A personal favorite of mine would be Flying Colours. The song begins with a Sigur-Rós ish melancholy, spacey keyboard intro, but quickly switches into a happy bass and trombone groove. Cool! Need more of that. When the lyrics come in, we realize that this band isn’t just making music that’s great to listen to – they’re having fun doing it! You can’t help but smile when they begin their “trumpets, trumpets, magic trumpets” bit. This is really music that makes me feel warm and summery inside, even if it’s snowing on May 8th in Montreal (which it is).
My other favorite would have to be Forest Fire, a song that really highlights their other, minimalist side. Using a thumb piano gives it a simple, childlike sound, and you instantly feel a connection with the song due to its simplicity. When the guitar finally comes in, there’s a huge release as we feel the song moving somewhere, and then back to the original theme with guitar instead of the thumb piano to end.
That connection with the music is what totally unites their different styles: it’s always super relatable and has this wonderfully… human feel. It’s not complicated, it’s not convoluted… there’s nothing here but a plush welcome mat, a bunch of smiling people, and a delicious meal for your ears that’s hot, delicious, and ready for your pleasure.
All the fucking hipsters or whatever you call them in your respective country will be bumming this band pretty soon.
Well, with Grant getting the blog going again, I figured I might as well post again too! I’ve missed it – it’s been quite the hectic semester and it’s nice to take a break from all of this madness and post here for you guys.
So a few weeks back, I was asked by a friend from back home if I was interested in joining a band in Montreal, and I said “heck, why not?” seeing as I definitely miss the days of playing crazy music with Tracy Strangelove. A few days later I get an email with the link to the myspace, and man is it some fun music. It’s different this time around going into a band that’s pre-formed, but really cool because I get to kind of try to fit into a mold, yet still influence the overall sound of the group.
The music has elicited comparisons to neutral milk hotel and a whole host of other bands, but I’m proud to say that it’s a super unique group.
Download the EP for free off of the myspace and try to catch us live once we start touring…!
“Pharoah is a man of large spiritual reservoir, always trying to reach out to truth. He’s trying to allow his spiritual self to be his guide. He’s dealing, among other things, in energy, in integrity, in essences.” – John Coltrane
It’s funny to look at the progression of music in popular culture. A unifying factor in most pop music is that it’s listenable – not like “easy listening” per se, but it can be groovy or sad but is usually very tonal, pleasing to the ear, and doesn’t require effort to listen to. Music, especially in America, has continued toward this sense of unreal perfection. We have replaced instruments with computers, and in the most recent auto-tune trend, we have replaced voices with them too.
The music snob in me would say that yes, super pop music (… miley cyrus anyone?) isn’t in a great place. The realist in me listens to radio hits and enjoys them for what they are; they’re ultra-perfect sounding! But there is definitely a large piece of humanity that is lost in making everything so perfectly in time and perfectly in tune… it becomes disturbingly robotic and loses emotion. Do catchy pop hits make you feel something powerful?
I’m not here to say that any music is less valuable than any other music. I’m just here to show you a different musical world from what we hear on the radio / in clubs / in mainstream society today.
Enter Pharoah Sanders. The polar opposite of the previously mentioned ideas. I won’t say much except he’s out there. In music and most other forms of creative expression, the best art comes from people who are fucking nuts.
Enter the song “The Creator Has A Master Plan”. My suggestion for listening is to listen to it on a nice stereo system or nice headphones, away from distractions, and to just let yourself be immersed by its raw, powerful beauty (and extreme dissonance in some spots). I could say things about how it relates to God and creation and destruction and chaos, but why do it when the music speaks for itself?
Let it be like meditation, and try to listen to it in low light / the dark. It’s worth the 32 minutes, 47 seconds, I promise – I’ve listened through it a bunch of times. Let me know how it makes you feel!