A lovely lady by the name of Sarah (Hi, Sarah!) emailed me to let me know that she’s in a band with her sister Stephanie, and the band’s called Deer Park Avenue.
Sarah pointed me in the direction of what they’ve recorded. The Music page on their website has two media player thingies (one from Bandcamp and one from ReverbNation). I’ll put ’em both here and then add some impertinent comments that you’re free to ignore in case you just want to listen to the songs without the distraction of a rambling Australian blogger.
Incidentally, the two media players have different track listings. I’ll concentrate on the Bandcamp one, and when that’s finished I’ll switch to the ReverbNation one (it has some songs that aren’t in the Bandcamp one).
Overall, I thought the songs were fine. The band describes itself as “rock/powerpop/alternative”. I’d disagree with two of those terms. First of all, it doesn’t sound “alternative” to me at all. I can imagine any of these songs being played on the radio with no trouble at all. And I’d disagree with the term “powerpop”. I hear the power, but I don’t hear much “pop”. I found the songs to be mostly minor-key moody things. I know there are plenty of minor-key power pop songs out there in Power Pop Land, but they’re usually full of ultra-catchy, poppy tunes. To me, the songs I heard do have tunes, but they’re rock-song tunes. And I think that I’m probably being terribly picky. Maybe I’m way off beam here, and it’s just a matter of semantics. Depending on who you talk to, this may very well be power pop. I just don’t hear it as power pop. I hear it as rock. Sorry, Sarah and Stephanie, for gettin’ picky.
Right, on to the songs…
1. “Hey Maria”
The song’s melodies and structure are a little too non-unique for my liking (I’m trying not to use the word “generic” here). But one thing I do find unusual about the recording is the sound of the snare drum. It’s refreshingly different to the snare drum sounds you hear on virtually all modern rock songs. (They’re usually cavernous, or explosive – or both.) The snare here hass a nice dry, small-room sound, and I like it. Viva la différence!
Unhelpful criticism (considering you’ve already recorded the song): at 1:52 (the phrase “…and yet the brightest smile…”), the background harmony singing sounded flat to me. I thought it a little odd, because the harmony singing is fine (i.e. it’s in tune) everywhere else in the song.
2. “Darkness Hides Me”
At the start of this brooding ditty there’s an acoustic guitar that, when it changes chords (from E minor to C major), produces a wonderfully loud squeak. (Ah, those pesky steel strings.) I liked it enormously, because it reminded me of an anecdote I once read in Guitar Player magazine about the world-renowned classical guitarist Andrés Segovia. (This will only be funny to guitarists.) Studio guitarist Tommy Tedesco talked about how he was recording a session for a TV show in the 1970s. The session called for a classical acoustic guitar. As Tommy was playing, some of his finger movements caused a little squeaking. The producer was thoroughly annoyed, saying things like “Can’t you get rid of those squeaks?” Tommy replied by saying that even Segovia produced squeaks. “Yeah,” said the producer, “and that’s why we don’t hire him!” I enjoyed the squeaks in “Darkness Hides Me” because musicians usually do their darnedest to eliminate string squeaks from recordings. Say it loud, say it proud: “Squeak!” By the way, I liked the drumming in this song. Nice brush work.
I like the moody drumming in this one.
4. “Waiting For You”
Oops. I wasn’t paying attention to this song. (I was on the Internet whilst listening to these songs. Boy, the Internet can be distracting.) I don’t remember what it sounded like. Ah well. I’ll pay attention to it the second and third time around.
Update: I’ve listened to it again, and I like it – especially the chorus.
5. “Say Goodbye”
A Big Ballad. I’m not much of a fan of Big Ballads, but I thought this was OK. I liked the hand claps.
6. “A Long Way Down”
Another slow one. Nice background vocals. I can’t think of much else to say about this one because it’s dangerously close to a Big Ballad. (See above about Big Ballads.) However, in its favour I will say that the vocals are earnest. (Weak Joke Alert: And we all know The Importance Of Being Earnest.) However, I wasn’t especially keen on the pointlessly low C bass note at 3:32, playing an octave lower than every other bass note nearby. But I did like the background vocals.
7. “Over Again”
Now this is more like it. Those guitar sounds: yummy. The drum beat: mighty fine. The avalanche of extra guitars in the chorus: extra yummy. Those guitar sounds are fabulous. Unless I like one of the other songs more, I think this’ll be the Song of the day.
Update: Yep. This is the Song of the day. I’ve listened to it about six times now, and I can’t stay away from those guitars.
Update II: I mentioned to Sarah and Stephanie that “Over Again” has become my favourite of all the Deer Park Avenue tracks I heard, and they graciously sent me the MP3 of it to share. Thanks, Sarephanie!
8. “Rescue Me”
Excellent: a musical coincidence. Please compare the start of this song to the start of a well-known John Lennon song. “Rescue Me” sounds more to me like a country-ish song. I can imagine a country-pop singer recording this. All they need to do is add a lap steel, and maybe a dobro or two. Yep, I can imagine this as a country-pop song.
7 (in the ReverbNation player). “Everywhere”
I liked this, but I noticed that it started in the key of D major. I’m only mentioning this because I heard it in the ReverbNation player, and the previous song in that player (“Rescue Me”) was also in the key of D major. I remember that a producer (I’ve forgotten who) once advised a band who were about to make an album that one of the golden rules of album track sequencing is that you never have two songs in a row in the same key. Deer Park Avenue: Rule Breakers! But back to the song. I like it. And it’s vying for the position of Song of the day. A couple more listens and I’ll hopefully be able decide. (Update: I decided. See above.)
8 (in the ReverbNation player). “You Live”
This is one of those not-quite-a-ballad, slow-ish songs that’s played at a tempo that always – and I mean always – reminds me of Coldplay’s “Yellow”. Unfortunately, that’s not something I like to be reminded of every time I hear a slowish rock song. Apart from that unfortunate association, I don’t mind “You Live”. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t go “grrr” while it was playing. It does contain a few vocal mannerisms that unfailingly irritate me (the little groans and breathiness that modern pop/rock singers indulge in), but for me it was tolerable. There were some weird ‘blk-blk’ sounds in between the second chorus and the middle 8 (I think it was a guitar – maybe) that took a bit of getting used to. But I liked the jangly guitar at the end of the song when the vocals finished.
And that’s what I thought of Deep Park Avenue’s music. You’re more than welcome to disagree.
Thanks, Sarah, for letting me know about Deer Park Avenue.