Song of the day: The #1s – "I Wish I Was Lonely"

May 31, 2013

After yesterday’s horrendously long post, I’ll spare you another monstrosity by simply presenting a couple of tracks I was asked to listen to. The band doing the asking was The #1s, and they’re from Dublin.

I thought the first track was punk and fun. I didn’t like the second track.

Punk. Fun.

The #1sThe #1s (2013)

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Song of the day: Stephen Lawrenson – "Obscuriosity"

May 30, 2013

Warning: This is a marathon post. Enter ye all who dare…

A very patient young man by the name of Stephen Lawrenson (Hi, Stephen!) emailed me months and months a month ago to ask if I’d have a listen to his album, Obscuriosity. I emailed back saying I’d love to – and then promptly forgot about it. Oops.

Many apologies, Master Stephen.

Anyway, I finally remembered and finally got around to listening to Stephen’s musical baby.

I put on my official Listening Hat (Disclaimer: I don’t have an actual Listening Hat), and had a listen.

Here’s my report card:

Stephen Lawrenson – Obscuriosity (2012)

1. “Your Karma”

A nice up-tempo song to start the album.

The opening vocal melody in “Your Karma” immediately reminded me of something…

Stephen Lawrenson – “Your Karma” (2012) (excerpt)

The Beatles – “It’s All Too Much (1969) (excerpt)

But getting back to focusing on “Your Karma”: There are some very lovely “ooh”s in this song (e.g., 0:51-0:58). Yum.

And a little note about the production: I don’t know about the rest of the album, but this song has a slightly weird sound. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it sounds like one of the treble frequencies is missing for the whole track. (3 or 4 kHz maybe?) At first I thought I thought my headphones might have been playing up, so I played some classical music and it was fine. So I guess with “Your Karma” it’s just a sonic oddity.

2. “Obscuriosity”

Supercharged 2/4 drumming starts this one, with Stephen singing through one of those vocal filters I don’t like (where the voice sounds slightly distorted and megaphone-y, à la The Strokes).

Then “Obscuriosity” settles into a pre-1965 song (with post-1965 guitars).

Another production note: The bass guitar sounds a bit too tubby (i.e., indistinct lower frequencies) for me in this song.

By the way, there’s a part of this song that reminds me of something else. The section contains a Mellotron sound (first time, 1:19-1:32), and it features a mildly exotic, not-terribly-common chord progression. It’s prompted me to wonder what other pop song I’ve heard that in. Maybe I’m thinking of Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir“. That uses G minor to A major as well:

Stephen Lawrenson – “Obscuriosity” (2012) (excerpt)

Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir (1975) (excerpt)

Also by the way, the vocal melody that starts each verse (i.e., “Have I lost control…” at 0:14, “Leave well enough alone…” at 0:40, “Waiting for a girl…” at 1:33 etc.) also reminds me of something else.

Unfortunately for me, the end of the song (from 4:03 onwards) made me feel a little nauseous when the Mellotron detuned itself. I found that a very unpleasant sound.

Brief Summary Of The Album

Despite the nausea-inducing end of track 2, I’m liking this album. I know I’m only two songs into it, but I like what I’ve heard so far.

I have a feeling there won’t be too many stinkers on Obscuriosity.

The Rest Of The Album

3. “Edge Of The World”

Oh-oh. The “Hey, that sounds like…” reminders continue.

This time I was reminded of two songs, even before Stephen started singing.

At the very beginning of “Edge Of The World” there’s a steam whistle. It instantly reminded me of something else:

Stephen Lawrenson – “Edge Of The World” (2012) (excerpt 1)

Billy Joel – “Allentown (1982) (excerpt)

And immediately after the steam whistle is some very pleasant 12-string acoustic guitar work which reminded me of:

Stephen Lawrenson – “Edge Of The World” (2012) (excerpt 2)

Air Supply – “Love And Other Bruises” (1976) (excerpt)

I must admit that I’m not bothered at all by all these reminders of other songs, because I really like all those other songs.

At 0:19 the Billy Joel and Air Supply reminders went away and I was listening to a mid-tempo song that sounded dreamy.

As I was listening to “Edge Of The World” I was trying to think of how to describe it. And then it dawned on me: I can desrcibe it by saying saying “Edge of The World” is a prog-rock song, but without fancy time-signatures and virtuosic playing.

4. “Words To Say”

When this start, the only word I could think of was “Jangle!”, but once the introduction was out of the way it settled into an enjoyable mid-tempo Merseybeat-ish song.

I’ve now arrived at the guitar solo (1:07-1:22) and I feel compelled to say this: I don’t like the sound of the guitar playing the solo. At first I thought it was a MIDI guitar, but then the sliding notes reassured me of the possibility that there was a real person playing a real guitar here. I hope that’s a real person playing a real guitar.

I liked the section from 1:35-1:51 featuring a key change and a 12-string acoustic guitar casually playing a relaxing tune. It’s very nice. Unfortunately, I wasn’t especially fond of the sound effect applied to that 12-string acoustic guitar. To me, one of these…

…sounds fabulous as it is, but I thought the one I heard in the break sounded over-processed. Ah well. That section of the song was still very nice, though.

When the key-change section finished (at 1:51), I thought it was cheeky how the song went immediately back to its original key, acting as if that key change had never happened.

But I’ll mention something I liked in this song. I liked that electric piano (from 2:59 onwards). But (Warning: Production Nitpicking Alert) I would have preferred it appearing in the song earlier.

And it’s time for another musical reminder…

In the 12-string acoustic guitar break, the opening melody reminds me of a bit o’ Elvis:

Stephen Lawrenson – “Words To Say” (2012) (excerpt)

Elvis Presley – “Return To Sender (1962) (excerpt)

The two melodies are in different keys, but you can easily sing “I sent a letter to the postman” to Stephen’s acoustic guitar melody.

5. “Small White House”

A jaunty, piano-led ditty – and I like it a lot. I also really like the orchestration. It’s minimal, but it gets the job done very efficiently.

It’s reminder time again. There’s a banjo in the song (0:48-0:56) that plays a little thing…

Stephen Lawrenson – “Small White House” (2012) (excerpt)

Jellyfish – “The Ghost At Number One (1993) (excerpt)

From 1:20-1:32 things get a little psychedelic, courtesy of some backwards cymbal work. Groovy, man.

From 1:32-1:42 there’s a sound effect that made me queasy. I don’t know what it was (a backwards Mellotron perhaps?), but it didn’t sound too healthy to me.

2:07-2:08 – the word “how” is phrased beautifully. That “how” might be my favourite part of the song.

From 2:12-2:24 the backwards cymbal has made a reappearance, accompanied by some stacked Beach Boys-style vocals-and-woodblock. And following that (from 2:24-2:40), there’s a jingle bell in the sound mix, also à la Beach Boys. Yep. I like this song.

I also like the unpredictable ending. (I certainly didn’t predict it.) If you haven’t heard the song yet (or the ending at least), I won’t spoil it for you – except to say that “Small White House” might not end the way you think it will.

6. “2nd Time Around”

This track start with just an acoustic guitar, a bass drum, and a snare drum. I thought it was a pleasant way to start the song – although I’m not keen on the sound of that snare drum. (It sounds like the head has been tightened too much.)

When that guitar-and-drum introduction was out of the way, the song began properly with the repetition of a couple of simple chords (F major and D minor) and a very nice bass line. (Bass Player Nerd Talk: In this song I would have love to have heard the bass line played by either Fender Jaguar Bass or a Rickenbacker 4003.)

The more I’m listening to this song, the more I’m thinking of The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver.

In the interests of speeding up this post (it’s already way too long), I’ll just say that I like this song a fair bit.

7. “Ordinary”

When this track started it offered only a little reminder (of this part of Rush’s “Xanadu”).

I don’t know how Stephen feels about Teenage Fanclub (he might like them more than I do), but I think “Ordinary” has a bit of a Teenage Fanclub vibe to it. This isn’t meant to be an insult, just an observation that the tempo of Stephen’s song is an exact match to approximately 97.329% of all Teenage Fanclub songs.

There’s a nice extended middle section in the song from 1:55-2:29. I liked that section because it sounded more like glam rock and less like Teenage Fanclub. (If given the choice between Teenage Fanclub and glam, I go with The Big G every time.)

Overall, I liked “Ordinary”.

8. “Forever And A Day”

Well, this is a bit of a come-down. Here’s a song that’s put a stop to the jauntiness/jollity/japery of the previous seven songs. I’m sure “Forever And A Day” is heartfelt, but I found it dreary.

Never mind.

At least the next song will be more up-tempo. (I hope.)

9. “Thank You”

You’re welcome, Stephen.

Yep. Like this one. Although (Warning: Production Whinge) the sibilance on Stephen’s voice sounds a bit weird.

Hmm. As I was typing the above paragraph, the song finished. That was way too short. Or maybe I took way too long to type that paragraph.

10. “Pale Yellow”

Oh-oh. I haven’t haerd it yet, but any song that has the word “yellow” in it automatically reminds me of Coldplay’s “Yellow”. I loathe that song. (To me, it’s like U2 on sedatives.)

I hope Stephen’s yellow song is going to be a whole lot more enjoyable than Coldplay’s.

(Note to self: Well, why don’t you just press “play” button and listen to it instead of moaning about something you haven’t heard yet?)

Oh yeah. Press “play”.

OK. I’m now listening to “Pale Yellow”.

Phew. That’s better.

“Pale Yellow” reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra. Nothing specific – just an overall ambience, or vibe, or whatever you want to call the sensation known as “It reminds me of Electric Orchestra”.

Nice falsetto from Stephen at 1:47-1:48.

1:59-2:03 – Electric Light Orchestra.

2:07-2:10 – Very Electric Light Orchestra.

I like the pizzicato strings from 2:14 onwards. But I’d like them more if they were: a) played an octave higher; b) recorded more clearly; and c) real violins instead of synthesized ones.

I like the guitar solo (3:34-4:01) – except for the pentatonic scale used to end it. The solo is very mid-rangey in tone. Actually, the whole song’s sound is focused on the mid-range frequencies. If anyone asks “Hey, Peter, what’s ‘Pale Yellow’ like?”, I can say “It’s mid-rangey”.

And another thing to put on the “like” list for this song: I like the burst of background vocals from 4:01 onwards.

Oh, and one last thing before I wrap up this painfully long post…

I heard another coincidence:

Stephen Lawrenson – “Pale Yellow” (2012) (excerpt)

Andy Williams – “Moon River (1961) (excerpt)

***

That’s it. I think I’ve finished this post. If you made it all the way to here, then you have much more stamina than I would have imagined. Thank you for persevering.

I’d like to give you some kind of reward, but I can’t think of anything other than handing over the album so you can enjoy it on your own, without my interruptions. I won’t do that, though, because Stephen would prefer you to buy it.

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Song of the day: The Nines – "That Takes Time"

May 29, 2013

I’m still writing the Leviathan of a post that will (hopefully) appear on this blog soon, so I’ll have to whack something up here without much thought. (As in: “Quick, Peter! Think of a song to go on the blog!”)

Consulting Miyuki Kimura‘s magnificent and eminently helpful “If you love Jellyfish, you might like these artists/bands LIST 🙂” list, I’ll have a quick look at what’s there…

OK. The Nines is on the list. I like The Nines.

The NinesThat Takes Time (2006)

Thanks for putting The Nines on your list, Miyuki.

Now, back to writing the mammoth post.


Song of the day: Joe Bonamassa – "Lonesome Road Blues"

May 28, 2013

I’m still in the process of writing about a new album I’ve been listening to, but it’s taking a while, and it looks like it’s going to end up being a gargantuan post. (I’ll apologise for its length in advance.)

Until it arrives, I’ll quickly put something here.

Here’s American guitarist Joe Bonamassa with a performance I like very, very much (it’s mostly due to the sound of his guitar):

Joe Bonamassa – “Lonesome Road Blues (2009)

What a sound.


Song of the day: Sweet – "Love Is Like Oxygen"

May 27, 2013

I’m currently listening to – and writing about – a new album, but it’s taking a lot longer than I had anticipated (I had anticipated it was going to consist of either these three words – “It was good” – or these three words – “It wasn’t good”).

So until the monster post appears, I’ll whack this song up on the blog:

Sweet – “Love Is Like Oxygen (1978) (single version)

Sweet – “Love Is Like Oxygen (1978) (album version)

I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, but now that I’ve had a more recent listen to “Love Is Like Oxygen” (I haven’t heard it in years), it sounds to me like The Alan Parsons Project with backing vocals by the Electric Light Orchestra.


Educating Peter # 49

May 26, 2013

This week’s attempt by Michael to persuade me that the music of the Eighties wasn’t all that bad (I think it was) is “Hey Girl” by Expressos. I had a quick look on the Internet for some information about it to see what I was up against, and all signs point to it being a skinny-tie song. That’s fine by me. Being a skinny-tie song, it’ll only last a couple of minutes. (I’m not a huge fan of skinny-tie power pop, but I will say this in its favour: the songs are mercifully short.)

Expressos – “Hey Girl” (1980)

0:00-0:07 – This is a chirpy way to start the song. I like it. And it reminds me of a bit of Billy Swan‘s fabulous “I Can Help“:

Expressos – “Hey Girl” (1980) (excerpt)

Billy Swan – “I Can Help (1974) (excerpt)

I love that song.

But I must wrench myself away from “I Can Help” and concentrate on the song Michael sent me.

0:07-0:13 – The chirpy introduction is out of the way, and we’re already into the verse.

Major announcement: I like this part of the verse very much. Thank you, Michael.

0:13-0:22 – Grrr. The band had to go and bring the momentum of the first half verse to a grinding halt by inserting the ubiquitous “Be My Baby” drum beat. Why, band, why?

Nice choice of chord at 0:20, though.

0:22-0:28 – OK. Here’s the chorus, and I like it. I don’t know why the drummer decided to add the Buddy Holly-ish drum rolling to the chorus (from 0:25-0:28). I thought the chorus didn’t need it at all. Maybe the drummer just likes Buddy Holly-ish drum rolls.

0:28-0:35 – And back to the “Be My Baby” drum beat. I’m starting to get confused now. Did I just hear the chorus a moment ago? And if so, was that the shortest chorus (6 seconds) I’ve ever heard? Or is the bit I’m listening to at the moment (actually, I paused the song so I could type what I’m typing now) also part of the chorus?

The song structure so far is a little squirrelly. I’m not entirely sure what’s what in the verse / chorus department so far. I’m enjoying it, though, because each section of the song is short, and also not emphatically one thing or the other (as in: “This is the chorus and it goes for exactly eight bars”).

It’s certainly different from yer standard song structure, and I’m having fun being disoriented by a skinny-tie song. (They’re usually much more predictable than this.)

0:35-0:42 – What’s this bit of the song? Is it something that leads up to the real chorus?

I like this part of the song, whatever it is. But I could have done without the singer’s dodgy high notes at 0:41-0:42.

0:42-0:56 – Ah, so this is the chorus. Righty-o. I have my bearings now.

0:56-1:02 – And this is the guitar solo. It’s pretty much a Regulation Issue Skinny-Tie Guitar Solo, in that it simply plays the vocal melody with a few embellishments. Nonetheless, I like it. (It was short.)

1:02-1:38 – A return to the weirdness of the multiple short sections that make up the, er… whatever part of the song this is.

That’s odd. At 1:12 the singer hit a flat note (on “heart”).

1:38-1:51 – Another guitar solo, but this time it’s a proper guitar solo, not just a playing-the-vocal-melody one.

By the way, near the end of the solo the guitarist plays fast runs, and they remind me of the fast runs played by Mark Knopfler in Dire Straits‘ “Sultans Of Swing“:

Expressos – “Hey Girl” (1980) (excerpt)

Dire Straits – “Sultans Of Swing (1978) (excerpt)

1:51-2:05 – Another chorus, and this time I’m really noticing the 1950s influences.

2:05-2:08 – A couple of bars after the chorus, and then…

2:08-2:21 – …a return of the Billy Swan introduction (see above) with some extra vocals, leading into…

2:21-2:28 – …ending the song with those Buddy Holly-esque drum rolls.

***

Overall, I can quite comfortably say that I found “Hey Girl” to be an enjoyable little ditty.

Didn’t mind it at all.

***

As a bonus, here are the full versions of those songs I excerpted earlier:

Billy Swan – “I Can Help (1974) (radio edit – 2:58)

Billy Swan – “I Can Help (1974) (album version – 4:02)

Dire Straits – “Sultans Of Swing (1978)


Song of the day: Paul Carrack – "Don’t Shed A Tear"

May 26, 2013

As you may be aware, my friend Michael (Hi, Michael!) instigated the Educating Peter series on this blog. It began almost a year ago when Michael responded to a comment I had made, wherein I said that I consider the 1980s to be the most deplorable musical decade of all throughout history. (Yes, the entire history of music.)

Michael has a much more charitable view of ’80s music than I do (i.e., he likes it). So, in an attempt to sway my opinion, for the last 49 weeks he has suggested a song each week that he thinks are mighty good, and might get me to change my mind.

Incidentally, Michael recently tabulated my responses to all those songs so far and reckons I’ve liked about a quarter of them. That seems right to me. I’d agree that I like approximately one quarter of all the songs I heard in the ’80s.

However, there are actually some songs from the ’80s that I adore. And one of them is today’s song.

I’m playing it to you today primarily because Michael hadn’t gotten around to suggesting it yet, and I’ve been wanting him to for the last 49 weeks.

(Alternative sentence: “Well, if he won’t suggest it, then I will.”)

Paul Carrack – “Don’t Shed A Tear (1987)