Song of the day: The Pinecones – "Gloomy Monday"

July 1, 2013

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m hopeless at writing short reviews of albums. I just can’t do it. (See the two previous efforts at keeping things short here and here. Hopeless.)

With that mind, I must warn you that I’m about to talk about a new album by The Pinecones.

The Pinecones are a band from Toronto. (The one in Canada – not the Toronto in Australia, or the Toronto in England, or even the seven Torontos scattered around the United States.)

The Pinecones’ album is called Ooh!, and it immediately gets my vote for 2013’s Best Album Title.

The PineconesOoh! (2013)

1. “Gloomy Monday”

A very pleasant way to the start this album.

I like the little details in this track, like the barely perceptible handclaps, the whatever-it-is from 0:49-0:55 and 1:08-1:10 (backwards strings from a synthesizer?), and the bizarre, once-only appearance of a tambourine (2:21-2:23).

However, for such a relaxed (and relaxing) track, “Gloomy Monday” suffers from a common audio ailment: it’s overly compressed. The result is that the music isn’t allowed to breathe. If the track had a more natural dynamic range, instead of every audio peak hitting the volume ceiling, it would sound so much nicer, and the listener wouldn’t end up with ear fatigue.

This is what the song looks like in some audio software:

The Pinecones – “Gloomy Monday” (2013)

The loudest bits are all the same volume. Grrr.

Compare that to yesterday’s Song of the day, “Do You Know What I Mean”, by Lee Michaels. It was released in 1971, way before it was fashionable to make songs sound as loud as possible. This is what it looks like:

Lee Michaels – “Do You Know What I Mean” (1971)

And you can hear the difference. You could listen to it all day, and not hurt your ears.

I don’t want to single out The Pinecones. They’re just doing what pretty much every other band is doing: mastering their album to make it sound as noticeable as possible. (For me, I’d notice it more if the volume came down and I heard more dynamics.)

Anyway, as for “Gloomy Monday”: I like the song, don’t like the mastering.

One last thing about this song before I get to the next one (yes, I will get to the next one): I wished the main guitar had a “chorus” effect on it. I think that would have made the song sound sweeter. But I’m fully aware of the phrase “Wishin’ ain’t gettin’…”.

2. “It’s Always On Her Mind”

Oh yeah. This is so full of “na-na-na, na-na-na”s and “da-da-da, da-da-da”s and “ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba”s that I’m enjoying it enormously.

This song also has the squished dynamics that “Gloomy Monday” has, but I think it’s so much fun that it’s not bothering me. (Well, not a lot anyway.)

Musical coincidence time:

The Pinecones – “It’s Always On Her Mind” (2013) (excerpt)

Ted Mulry Gang – “Sunday Evenings” (1974) (excerpt)

or

The Lovin’ Spoonful – “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice (1965) (excerpt)

The whole vibe of “It’s Always On Her Mind” makes me think of all those fabulously unhip late-’60s American vocal bands like The Association, Spanky And Our Gang, The Cowsills etc. I like ’em all.

To the person who thought the sound of the distorted guitar in the left channel from 2:04-2:23 was a good idea, I’d like to say this: No, it wasn’t. The distorted slide guitar solo directly after it (2:23-2:43), I can live with. But the first one… Ugh.

I’m enjoying this song enormously. (I think I’ve already said that.) Even with that weird swooping background vocal at 2:46-2:47, and the horribly flat background vocal note at 3:13, this is great stuff.

3. “Kimberly Keeps”

Yep. I like this one as well. There’s a little bit of flat singing from the lead vocalist (0:20-0:23, 0:55-0:56, 1:19, 1:24), and even a bit of dodgy singing from the background vocalists (at 0:36, 0:41, 0:42, and elsewhere), but it’s not flat or sharp enough to detract me from liking the song.

0:45-0:47 – Great chord choice.

At 1:01 I thought the bass player made a mistake (by failing to hit a string), but then I listened to it a few times more, and it sounds deliberate. Sorry about casting aspersions on your good character, bass player.

Question for the band: Why did you all play (and sing) that very short passing minor chord? I thought it didn’t fit in with the key you were playing in. Very odd.

1:44 has a gorgeous suspended chord sung by the background vocalists. Swoon.

Another question for the band: What happened at 2:23? It sounds like overall volume of the track dipped. It sounded like a poor edit. Was it a not-entirely-successful bit of editing, or did something drop out of the mix momentarily?

4. “She’s So Confident”

And the coincidences continue…

The Pinecones – “She’s So Confident” (2013) (excerpt)

The Rolling Stones – “She’s So Cold (1980) (excerpt)

But back to “She’s So Confident”.

0:16-0:17 – I liked the impersonation of Eric Carmen yelling here. Mighty good.

Question for the loud guitarist at 0:27-0:29: Why did you fractionally delay that last note? I thought it was jarring.

Oh-oh. I’m noticing a lot of things…

0:35-0:37 – Cute.

0:48-0:51 – Where have I heard that riff before?

0:55 – Tar-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!

0:55-0:59 – All those “la la la la la”s sure are reminding me The Who, but I’ve forgotten which Who song it’s reminding me of. (“Happy Jack“?)

0:59-1:02 – That little bit of guitar sounds like Mozart at the keyboard.

1:02 – Oops. (That “Oops” was for the guitarist. Hi, guitarist!)

1:03-1:04 – Welcome back, Yellin’ Eric.

Statement for the loud guitarist at 1:14-1:16: Thanks for playing that riff without the delay this time.

Statement for the loud guitarist at 1:41: It looks those notes were deliberate (See 1:02.) I know it was your choice’n’all, but I think they were dreadful notes to choose. You played a minor-key scale in a major-key song, and it clashes. (Or, putting it another way: It hurts my ears!)

2:10 (in the left channel) – Oops.

That was fun.

5. “Come On Back”

You can always count on the combination of tom-toms and the “Taxman” bass line to create a psychedelic song. Throw in some “Rain“-style drum fills (e.g., 0:55-0:57) and droning guitars, and you’ve got yourself a nice pastiche of The Beatles circa 1966.

2:10-2:15 – It sounds like the guitarist got carried away with the “I’ll make this sound like a druggy guitar solo” vibe. (He plays his lick too quickly at 2:10, and lost the rhythm from 2:12-2:15.) I can dig it, man.

3:35-3:50 – Well, that was unexpected.

6. “That’s The Way I Wanna Do It”

Aaron over at Powerpopaholic said this song “channels Gilbert O’Sullivan“. He’s not wrong there. This song specifically channels “Alone Again Naturally“.

But the chorus (first time from 0:42-1:09) goes into non-Gilbert O’Sullivan territory. And that’s definitely an un-O’Sullivan guitar solo (1:21-1:32)

1:54-1:55 – Badfinger harmonies. Yum.

2:10 (guitar in the left channel) – Was that a mistake?

Just over halfway. I’m liking this album.

(Note to self: You might want to shorten your comments from now on, Peter. No-one, and I mean no-one, is going to read much further than this. This post is already too long.)

7. “Little Bit Closer”

A cute shuffle.

0:44-0:49 – The line “I can’t get you off of my mind” reminds me of this. Thanks for reminding me of Paul Rodgers. I love his singing.

1:00-1:01 – Oops. Those background vocals were, er, ah, um, er… not very good.

1:07-1:11 – Neither were they.

1:30-1:32 – More dodgy harmonies. It looks you have trouble with the low notes.

1:37-1:39 – It looks like you have trouble with some of the high notes as well.

1:41-1:45 – But they were fine.

There’s a part of this song that was reminiscent of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”, but the coincidence became especially strong when the lead guitar played the melody:

The Pinecones – “Little Bit Closer” (2013) (excerpt)

The Beach Boys – “California Girls (1965) (excerpt)

Oh yeah.

I think I need to stop talking about “Little Bit Closer” so I can finish this post (and believe me, I can talk more about it), but I will just mention this:

2:49 – That’s a really dodgy vocal note.

But I like the song.

8. “In N Out”

I like the little 1960s guitar riff, and the judicious use of strings. If the singing was better, I’d say this song could have easily come from the ’60s.

9. “Ooh!”

Considering this is the title track (with a great title), I find this the least interesting song of the bunch. Ah well.

10. “The Loving Kind”

Some very pleasant slide guitar playing, and in a minor key. You’ll want the lights down low for this one.

I’m enjoying “The Loving Kind”, but I would love to hear this sung by a soul singer.

2:35-2:37 – I’m wondering who is the sloppiest player here, but after hearing it a few more times I’ve come to the conclusion: it’s everybody.

2:37-2:39 – This is a little odd. The chap singing in the centre channel starts his line with “Over and over”, but the first “o” syllable of the first “over” is sung falsetto, whereas all the other notes aren’t. This sounds weird to me. It sounds like he started singing his line falsetto but then remembered that he wasn’t supposed to.

3:22-3:32 – Nice.

***

And that’s it. Yes, really.

I finally finished.

If you actually read this far, I have one thing to say:

Sorry about the length.

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