David Kilgour has a wonderful knack for instrumentation. From his work with The Clean to his solo work, David has been making a living with simple chord progressions and easy melodies. While he isn’t as big on this side of the planet, in his home country of New Zealand, David is synonymous with indie-rock. The moment I tossed on his newest album Left By Soft it was easy to see why.
The first thing you notice when listening to the title track is how well everything is put together. Guitars jangle over a smooth drum beat with seamless effort, and the song progression is so natural you’d really wonder if they just jammed the album out in a day. With his backing band “The Heavy Eights”, David has managed to create simple yet beautiful soundscapes with very typical instruments. There’s no crazy fuzz pedals or distortion, no wild and weird instruments, just a classic sound worked to great effect.
What’s really shocking with a style like this is the depth and variety of the album. Instead of being constricted by the method they’ve chosen, David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights explore it to it’s fullest. Tracks like “Pop Song” and “Theme” showcase a slow burning soft side to the band whereas “Left By Soft” and “A Break In The Weather” bring things up tempo to a casual pace. Far and away my favourite song on the album had to be “Way Down Here”. Coming right off the excellent mood-setter that is the title track, “Way Down Here” keeps a similar pace until about a minute in when it flips you on your head. Grinding guitar, a shouted and impassioned chorus and raucous verses had me sold. I’m a sucker for some no-holds-barred rock.
While not quite an instrumental album (in fact, almost all of the songs have lyrics) Left By Soft feels like that’s what it really should be. The vocals are more miss than hit and often feel like they’ve just been placed overtop of arrangements. It’s especially unfortunate when you consider how well everything else is incorporated.
That being said, it’s still a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent album. David’s sound is one that stands out and is worth a listen. You can check out some of his older stuff here including some free downloads.
When I listen to Losing Colour, the first (and last) full album from Stricken City, I can’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia; as if someone has taken hazy memories of youth and written a soundtrack for it. There’s a retro nineties feel that comes across in the jangly U2-esque guitars and raw, earnest vocals with a hint of The Cranberries. The album swells and tapers with these elements painting a rich melancholic picture.
Right from the start we’re placed in a daydream. A cavernous drone punctuated by a distant horn with the soothing call of singer Rebekah Raa easing you into “Some Say”, the first track. Raa’s voice suits the sound so well with its air of imperfection and beauty. The lyrics and chants flow naturally into the music to the point that you’d forget they ever existed apart.
It’s this great aspect of Losing Colour that may also lead to it’s largest issue; the songs are too similar. The band seems to have found a great recipe for songwriting, but forgotten the rest of the cook book. The lone song that seems to stand out is “I Know A Place”. Horns make a defiant return along with some sharp guitar and a driving drum beat to clear the haze and showcase the band’s other talent; up-tempo rock. While each song is wonderfully crafted in it’s own right, 3 or 4 plays later and “I Know A Place” was the only song that I distinctively knew right away.
This is why it is such a loss for fans and music bloggers alike who won’t get a chance to hear this band develop. With such strong potential from Losing Colour and previous EPs, Stricken City was definitely down the right path. With the only explanation for the break-up being “We never stood a chance” , releasing Losing Colour is a fine way to exit, but still far from ideal. Even for the band themselves who have no doubt had their final moment marred by piracy issues.
Despite being an independent band and the digital album costing only a dollar, many blogs and uploaders were hosting illegal links to the album. The band’s now deserted Twitter page is enough to make any true music fan cringe. I could rant on the issue for days, but the bottom line is illegal downloading hurts musicians.
It’s a shame. This wasn’t a band taken at their peak, but a band exploring and reaching new heights. It would have been an exciting sophomore release after Losing Colour, which was already an album that showed great skill mastering a nostalgic dream-like sadness. It’s too bad that it took an event as upsetting as this to display their talent.
Congratulations! You found an obscure review for Whitesnake’s new album Forevermore. Yes, you heard me right. Whitesnake, the “Here I Go Again” band, has a new album out about 20 years after most people forgot about them.
What’s truly surprising though, is how you’ve stumbled upon this article. If we’re being completely honest, there aren’t that many people waiting for an opinion on whether or not to buy Forevermore. We already know what it sounds like.
Power chords, guitar solos, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chorus; we’ve seen it all before. You know that the songs are about women, booze, and being a punk. There are some enjoyable parts, such as the blues-y feel of “Steal Your Heart Away” or the staccato jabs off the top of “My Evil Ways”, but these are sprinkled within the mediocrity. At it’s heart Forevermore is all those things you heard in the 80’s filtered through tired old men.
And it’s not necessarily a negative thing. While it may be sub-par to most people, avid Whitesnake fans and those who love that 80’s hair metal sound, will probably get a kick out of it. Then again, if you’re in that crowd, you don’t need me to tell you.
When the news hit that the Strokes were getting back together, I was pleasantly surprised. While I wouldn’t claim to be a die-hard, fan I enjoy the music and never fail to have a song of theirs in my “Recently Played” folder on iTunes.
However, when I heard that they had a new album in the works, something smelled a little fishy. We’ve all seen bands re-unite after a break-up to record an album and, let’s face it, their odds are a little iffy. Coming back together to perform live seems to work fairly well (Thrush Hermit is my go to example), but I wasn’t so sure about Angles. I knew I needed to stay detached.
Sure enough though, as the days came closer and teasers were dropped, I will admit that the hype got to me. The free single available for download and reading about riots at SXSW got me a little excited. But only a little.
And really, I’m glad I stayed fairly reserved. The album is only slightly better than mediocre.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing when you think about it. It certainly could have been worse; but it could have also been a lot better. The songs, for the most part, feel pretty bland and seem to borrow from others. After listening to “Under Cover Of Darkness” I found myself comparing it to new Weezer. It’s an OK song, but, like Rivers and the gang, it felt tired and lacklustre.
There are a few enjoyable tracks on here though. The opening track, “Machu Picchu” is quite good and I’m fond of “Metabloism” which has a ominous, darker sort of sound to it, while remaining distinctly Strokes-ish. That being said, I never found myself wanting to hit repeat and they don’t stick out like a “Last Nite” or “Reptilia”.
What Angles really lacks is some punch or depth. There is not a track on here that really stands out in terms of sound or emotion. I usually try and listen to an album about three times through before forming a solid opinion but I found that it felt the same from the first listen to fourth and beyond.
In short, there are definitely some good songs on here and it plays well as background music but, outside of that, save your money.
Just over a week ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Fresh Kils, a very successful producer/engineer from Toronto and half of the duo “The Extremities” (along with Uncle Fester). He was headed out to South By South West in Austin the next day so I tried our interview short. Over an hour later, I had learned about a variety of things including his introduction to hip-hop, his early years in Toronto and his recent body of work.
MVRemix: How did you get your start?
Fresh Kils: Well I grew up in Toronto, and interestingly enough I wasn’t that much of a hip-hop head in high school. I remember specifically losing friends to Cyprus Hill at one point… I was a late bloomer.
When I moved to Halifax, I went to college and moved next door to Uncle Fester, so basically it’s all his fault. We became friends on a musical level and things sort of went from there. Halifax was a really exciting time, Buck 65 was blowing up, Skratch Bastid was just starting, and a very young Classified was out there doing his thing.
There was a lot of excitement about underground rap and there was an energy to it. There was a sense that what some of these guys were doing was being received beyond the confines of the province, or the country.
I got really attracted to the production. When Fester started showing me drum breaks, sampling and that whole thing I was totally sold.
I was all about the beats for so long because [the raps] just didn’t speak to me. The one record that put it over was The Juggernauts – Clear Blue Skies. When I heard that, it kind of convinced me of the power of the lyrics. It’s not to say that I didn’t listen to the lyrics [before], I just didn’t really understand the power of it fully as an art form until I heard that.
MVRemix: So when did you start with the Extremities? When did you guys become “official” I guess you could say?
Fresh Kils: Well, Fester and I would do so much production together that we’ve technically always been [the Extremities] , we just never really thought of it like that. We had done a number of instrumentals and we had been working on something we’d called “The Extremities” but we didn’t put anything out.
Years later, Fester is working at the CBC [in Halifax]. They were re-archiving a whole lot of their library and getting rid of their old records. Fester, through this process, fell upon some incredible stuff.
Among them were a number of CBC session records. John Kong did a CBC vault remix record years ago on his label, and we sorta had this idea. We were like “Hell, why don’t we do something similar”. So [Fester] pitched this idea to remix these CBC session records that we found.
This one producer in particular really loved the idea but he didn’t want us get into legal issues of trying to figure out where the publishing rights were. He came back to us and said “We’ve commissioned these jazz players to do a record for us an we’re going to give you the ProTools [session] for that. You can make a record out of it.”
It was super intimidating at first because they basically got four or five of the best musicians in the country. One of them being the late Doug Riley who’s got the Order Of Canada for music. So it’s not like I can loop up one of their records and they’ll be impressed. They’re musicians in the purest sense.
We set about trying to do something really cool. I think the CBC, the producers, they were looking for a youthful perspective, and it was funny because we kind of flipped the script on them going “We’ve got to get incredibly musical with this thing” because we want the respect of these musicians.
The point is that that is when The Extremities was something. Fester and I had worked on tons of other people’s records over the years and we’d managed to be able to work together online but when we had that project it really galvanized us.
MVRemix: How was the transition from Halifax to Toronto for you? I mean to go from somewhere with such a tight knit community like Halifax and then you come to Toronto…
Fresh Kils: It was the worst year of my life actually. Partially because of what you just said; I definitely uprooted. In Halifax was I was running a studio and doing everything. I recorded bluegrass I recorded punk records I was doing hip hop records… I was just inhaling music.
The Halifax scene was tight and awesome and with the studio I’d helped developed a bit of the scene. I was diversified, I wasn’t necessarily all hip-hop stuff like I was doing things in other genres, collaborations were getting better and there was everything.
So moving back here I was gonna go to school. I wanted to go to sound engineering school to kinda figure out what the hell I was doing. and also to be here in Toronto where the action is. Halifax is cool but in terms of making money and opportunities it’s not the same.
When I went to school I was really excited. Here I am going to production engineering school and I’m going to be with a whole bunch of musicians and passionate people. What I got instead were kids right out of high school smoking weed everyday. Don’t get me wrong, you’re right out of high school, you’re not supposed to know what you wanna do, but there were just so many people joking around. There was this one girl down there who was like “I was gonna go to law school but this seemed like more fun”. I guess I was just a dick because I went there motivated and knowing what I wanted. I got lost and there was just a lot of bullshit.
The one good thing is that it did help me focus on learning shit that was important. I came out of that and my beats were so much better, I had a good understanding of MIDI, I got my feet wet with ProTools, my mixing was better… I knew what I wanted to know so I asked the right questions.
That year probably proceeded by one of the best years of my life. which was getting my internship straight out of school with K-Cut from the Main Source. They produced some of the hugest hip hop classics… ever.
He was part of that time, he was part of that era. Everyone talks about the golden era of hip hop and he was part of it. It wasn’t like there were 100’s of people making rap music, there was a very small group of elite so they all knew each other. Like Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul… they all knew each other and were friends. So through K-Cut I got to meet and work with some huge names.
And when I thought I’d learned a lot from school, that year changed it. I tracked so many beats with K-Cut, I learned the MPC, I learned how they wrote songs…
MVRemix: You made an interesting comment there talking about the “golden era” of hip-hop. Obviously you’ve been in the scene in both Halifax and Toronto so what do you think of the scene today? How has it progressed? It seems like Canadian hip-hop is gaining a lot more cred as the years have gone by.
Fresh Kils: I think it’s interesting. Toronto, for example, when I moved back, was terrible. There was a whole lot of people in Scarborough doing their own thing, and people in downtown doing their own thing, and people in Thornhill doing their own thing, and nobody’s talking.
There was so much beef. It’s like going to a show and all your ex-girlfriends are there, there’s so much baggage in the room and everyone’s mean-mugging everybody. It was a terrible thing and no one knew anybody or was trying to know anybody.
And now, it’s totally flipped around. Toronto especially. There’s definitely a divide between East coast and West coast… but you’re seeing a lot cross-pollination. You’ll see a lot of people that are collaborating or know each other that you wouldn’t have seen before. There’s a lot more mutual respect for everybody.
MVRemix: Do you know what caused that to come about?
Fresh Kils: Drake’s name comes up in conversations like this because there’s an “eye on Toronto”. There’s artists that have come out of here that are doing some damage worldwide. So there’s a sense that we’re proud of it so we feel better about things.
Also there’s less competition right? The pie’s getting a little bigger so there’s more to eat. Before, trying to get your album reviewed in Exclaim! or NOW Magazine is just crazy, like who do you gotta know to make that happen? It was like hyenas fighting for scraps. Now there just seems to be there’s more outlets with things being online and stuff. It just seems like there’s more love so people have their guards down a bit more.
The funny thing for me, in my personal experience, is people who come to the studio and they size me up. They look at me and they’ll be like “Well, what does this guy know about my art or where I’m from?” And that’s a legitimate gripe. I mean if I’m an artist, anybody I’m working with I want to be able to trust. But 10 minutes later we got this beat bangin’ and everyone’s having a good time and it flips.
That being said I think the whole idea of “Canadian hip-hop” is a bit of a misnomer because the joke about Canadian musicians is that no one gives a shit about them until they export themselves somewhere else. K-os was doing his thing but it wasn’t until Missy Elliot rocked that drum and bass remix that everybody was like “Oh shit, K-os”. And that’s not to say K-os isn’t an incredibly talented individual because he always was, but it does come down to being able to export yourself.
MVRemix: 2010 was a huge year for you. Some of the albums you’ve worked on have been nominated for a Juno [Vaudville – D-Sisive and Treat Of The Day – Ghettosocks], done work on 5 of the top 10 hip-hop albums on Earshot… You must have been incredibly busy this year I take it?
Fresh Kils: You know what it is? Well, in all honesty, I didn’t work any less hard or more hard on those records than I did on the plethora of records I worked on before. It really is a testament to D-Sisive and Ghettosocks and their ability to really connect and push their art to get those kinds of accolades.
I mean yes, I was incredibly busy last year, but it has been that way for the past few years. What’s been happening is the quality of work has gotten better and therefore the quality of the accolades have come about.
I guess what sorta changed in the last couple of years is instead of working my ass off period, I’m working smart. I try to look at things more like investments.
I met Ghettosocks through old Halifax connections when I was up there and we hit it off. Ghettosocks brought D-Sisive to guest on his record and he liked what he saw; so we get Vaudville.
And for all the great records, records that I’m proud of working on, there’s dozens and dozens that not only haven’t gotten anything, but wouldn’t deserve to.
That’s the other joke. For Ghettosocks’s record and D-Sisive’s record I didn’t get paid any more. In fact, with Ghettosocks’s record, we did a lot of bartering because he doesn’t have a lot of money, but that was a record I want to do. I was happy to lend my time and everything else to it because I felt it.
[On the Juno nods]: It isn’t so much the Junos for me, it’s that my mom and dad get the Junos. You know my mom and dad don’t get Ghettosocks but they get the Junos and they can be proud of that achievement.
MVRemix: Talk a little bit about how you work with artists. How do you sort of collaborate between artist and producer?
Fresh Kils: Personally, I’ve really been trying to shy away from the whole “beat CD” thing where someone just picks a beat out of a bunch of stuff. The problem that I have with that is that I do so many different things. I’ve done ignorant southern rap stuff to New York boom bap to jazzy emotive schmaltz, so its difficult for me to be like, “Here’s a beat CD, go.”
What I’ve been doing more and more now, and of course Vaudville is the perfect example… I love building stuff from scratch. I like working on stuff, with the MC, from the beginning. Starting from a concept and following it through. The thing that I always find is that, 9 times out of 10, the artist is going to get what they want because they’re helping to guide the creative process. That’s going to ensure the artist is happy.
I like to challenge myself to do things and I like to have someone to bounce stuff off. For example, some of the best beats I’ve ever made are doing remixes for other people, because when I hear an amazing vocal or verse that’s killin’, it makes me do an amazing remix. I did an Alex Dimez remix and that’s one of the most slammin’, hardcore, grimy beats I’ve ever made. I would never have made it if I was just working in my apartment in a vacuum, so I’m very very much about that now.
I like strong conceptual songs. I like ideas and I would way rather explore an idea; I find that stuff happens less often. Both Ghettosocks and D-Sisive have vision. For example, there’s a song on Treat Of The Day called Guillotine. If you listened to that beat on a tape, you would never pick that beat and yet here comes Ghettosocks with this incredible concept. He takes this guy saying “guilty”, turns it into “guillotine” and writes a whole Wu-Tang tribute song about buying “Fatal Flying Guillotine” at a garage sale. That’s fuckin’ cool!
MVRemix: How often do you get the chance to perform live?
Fresh Kils: There was a time where I was playing every week or every other week. It was great because the thing about the MPC that’s so cool is that I can easily fit into someone’s set. If someone has a song with me and I have my MPC, I can plug in, I can rock a beat or two, I can improvise some stuff… it’s a really cool element.
And watching hip-hop shows; it’s the worst live music to see. It’s essentially glorified karaoke and there aren’t a lot of people who have the power and charisma to really command and audience with just himself and a CD. If you don’t have a DJ or a hype man it’s not very engaging so that became a huge thing for me with the MPC. Once I sort of figured out a way to do it effectively I was performing so much because I could just jump onstage and rock the beat. And if you have a DJ, we can do a little back and forth.
With the Extremities it gets crazy. I mean we opened for De La Soul last year, we had a keyboard player, we had a sax player… Sometimes sax can be schmaltzy but Anthony Rinaldi’s so killer and he’s got a great ear for it.
MVRemix: Do you get to tour or is it just one off shows since you’re producing?
Fresh Kils: I’ve been lucky that my clients have been really cool, but it’s not a good look for me to be like “Hey, I gotta take off for two weeks.” Still, I try to do a couple tours a year. We did the Extremities last June, I did a tour with The Get By and Timbuktu end of last year and definitely July we’re going to be doing something again for the jazz fest. I’m always looking for stuff you know? I wanna perform as much as I can.
MVRemix: Obviously you’ve got SXSW coming up but other than that what’s next for Fresh Kils?
Fresh Kils: The big thing is trying to get the Extremities album done by July. I’m also trying to finish “Bullet Tooth Tony” which is a collaboration between Pumpkinhead, Elite from Jersey, Ghettosocks, Timbuktu and my boy DJ Frame. And then just a lot of collaborations and remixes.
You can find some of Fresh Kils work on D-Sisive’s Vaudville, Ghettosocks’s Treat Of The Day and at Myspace.
Francis Farewell Starlite is not your average frontman. Hell, I don’t even know if Francis has an average bone in his body, but it translates to some really interesting work.
If you’ve heard his music or seen any of his videos, you’ll know how hard it is to describe the band that is Francis And The Lights. There’s bits of soul, rock, pop, hip-hop and everything else fused into something that is definitely unique.
He just recently finished touring with Drake and MGMT (on separate tours) and we managed to get a hold of him for an interview.
MVRemix: I noticed the video for “Darling It’s Alright” was directed by Jake Schreier who used to play keys in the band. Was this a concept you both came up with together? Was it easier to work with some one you know so well?
Francis Starlite: Jake Schreier and I intend to collaborate on more music videos in the future. Both Darling, it’s Alright and “The Top” were true collaborations between he and I, from beginning to end.
MVRemix: What inspires your music?
Francis Starlite: The potential to make something good.
MVRemix: What is it like to take your sound to larger venues? Does it translate well or do you prefer the intimacy and feel of smaller clubs?
Francis Starlite: A large venue and large audience is a thrilling artistic proposition. Both are good though.
MVRemix: If you check out your muxtape you can see that there are all kinds of alternate versions of songs posted. Is this something done for fans to enjoy or for a more personal reason? Are your piano lessons done for the same reason?
Francis Starlite: I do it because I would want to hear those alternate versions if i was a fan of Francis and the Lights. I release them because I think they are good in some way.
MVRemix: I read on the blog that there’s an upcoming concert film in the works. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Francis Starlite: I had to hold off working on a concert film because the performances, footage, and audio quality weren’t good enough. I hope to make a good concert film in the future.
Francis Starlite: My mother. She gave me the book as a present. I will forever be deeply thankful for this. This book has affected and influenced my work and my life more than anything else. More than any band, friend, parent, or role model. When i first read it, i realized the errors of my ways, and set out to try and correct them. Some of my favorite rules are: “be clear,” “prefer the standard to the offbeat,” “omit needless words,” and, “work from a suitable design.” My stomach jumps just writing them down, right now.
MVRemix: Do you feel a lot different now that you have a full album to promote? How does this compare from releasing EPs in the past?
Francis Starlite: I don’t think of this album as any different in importance than my previous releases.
MVRemix: What’s next for Francis And The Lights?
Francis Starlite: I hope to release more music in the future, and go on another tour before the year is over.
One of the best feelings in the music world is a pleasant surprise. Whether it’s a good opening band or a classic track you haven’t heard in a while, the joy that comes from the unexpected seems to resonate more than most. And at the pinnacle of that feeling, is the moment you discover a band that’s more than meets the eye.
My typical method for testing out an album is to give it the “chore” test. If you’ve read some of my other blogs, then you may be familiar with my affinity for listening to music in the shower. For albums, a shower isn’t quite long enough, so I’ll find some time to do the dishes or clean my room.
Well, I have two reasons.
1) I might actually do something productive this way.
2) If these songs can catch my attention during a mindless task, then it’s probably worth investing some time into. Any record can be enjoyed if you try enough, but find an album that demands attention and suddenly it’s a whole different story.
So with all that said, I downloaded the music onto my iPod, set up my speakers and set to tackle the pots and pans from last night’s chicken.
Here is where I made my first mistake. DVAS will make you dance.
With elements of disco, funk and a splash of 8 bit, you’d be forgiven if you thought you wound up back in the 80’s. Thankfully, this 3-piece based in Toronto keeps a modern feel to it, sounding somewhere in between Daft Punk and Chromeo.
So, before I could even put the soap in the water, I was dropped right into the intensity that is DVAS at its best. The title track that opens the album is instantly catchy, undeniably fun and had me shaking and moving while I scrubbed along. The second track didn’t let up either, or the third. Or the fourth.
But, even though Society had tickled my subconscious, I mentally played it down. With a stream of dance hits right out of the gate, it was just another shallow album right? It’ll be fun to spin for a while but it’ll no doubt lack any depth to remain important.
I was wrong again; the midpoint is just the beginning. After the band has got you worked up and sweaty on the first half, DVAS use the second to show you that they’re more than that. An instrumental like Telegraph takes the upbeat feel of the dance floor and captures it as a blissful, floating feeling. Meanwhile, Back 2 Basix delivers soft ballad love like Marvin Gaye with a keytar.
And what’s truly magical about this album is how hard pressed I am to find a lack-lustre tune. Each song has been carefully pieced together to form a cohesive unit.
Ambient Room is a great example of this. One moment the song is as bare as a vocal track, and the next you’ve got a layered and complex work of art. No hook seems tacked on, no bridge seems unnatural; the song just blossoms before our very ears. The whole process is wonderfully fluid and that’s a tough skill to bring to a track, let alone the whole album.
But that’s part of the beauty with a debut record. Expectations are generally low enough that you can really make an impact with some quality work. I know that it has with me, and I’ll be pulling for DVAS to take this to the next album when surprise isn’t on their side.
Catch DVAS in your town by checking their tour schedule here.
Very rarely do I wake up before 11:00am feeling “alive.” A typical morning for me involves a long drawn-out argument from my brain to my body. One wants to get moving, the other wants to wrap a blanket around me and remain motionless; it’s pretty pathetic.
So, when I have one of those days where I bolt out of bed, feeling on top of the world, I know that I have to savour this moment for as long as possible.
And that’s where Planet Telex comes in.
At first it seems like an unlikely choice and, well, I guess it is. Very rarely do we associate “Radiohead” with “feel-goodery”.
But this ain’t your average song, and the moment that music kicks in you know you’re in for something epic.
First, the opening keys give you a sense of something big, and the drums flesh it and give it a shape. A wicked moving beat that gets paired with an equally incredible bass line guarantees to get your head nodding.
Then the jittery guitars of the verse and haunting keys in the chorus wrap you into a wall of sound, like a suit of thick smoky armor.
And, to complete that unstoppable feeling, lead singer Thom Yorke gives us a blank slate to play in. He sets up a world where everything we knew is gone and we alone can start fresh; recreate everything.
I want to preface this article by saying I’m not much of a lyrics guy.
I get shit for it all the time with my friends but I have my reasons.
Far too often do I get people telling me “Check out this song, the lyrics are so good.” Usually in these cases I do, only to be less than impressed. Why? Because they don’t make any sense to me.
I know that a lot of times that’s half the point. Lyrics are supposed to be subtle or open to interpretation but I, for the most part, just can’t care. I might be inclined to dig a little deeper if the song is good, but writing is never my primary incentive to listen to a song. If you think that everyone’s going to listen to your song because you have some great lyrics, you’re an idiot. Or possibly Neil Young.
So what I really like to look for in a song is an emotion. I want the singer and the rest of the band to make me feel; to make me care enough to keep listening. The inflection of the words and the way they are sung definitely play into this, but bottom line is always the sound.
That being said, every once in a while a song will get through to me and blow my mind.
Even though it’s a bit of an older track, I got back into listening to “Do The Right Thing” by band called The Dudes. Four guys from Alberta who have a great summer rock ‘n’ roll sort of sound. Their stuff is easy to pick up and listen to and it’s no surprise I fell back into the habit during some of the nicer days this month.
This song in particular is especially great in the sense that it’s a quick and catchy. An upbeat sound with some crashing guitars, a little call and answer breakdown; a solid tune all around.
And so it remained in that sense to me, until just the other day when I was showering (ladies, calm yourselves).
I always bring my iPod dock into the shower with me so I can listen to some of my favourite songs while I suds up. Naturally, “Do The Right Thing” came on and, as I am wont to do, I started singing along. Maybe it was the echo of my tiny bathroom or maybe I was just a little more enlightened that day, but I started paying attention to the lyrics bit by bit.
My bedroom’s worse than the Catholic Church I let anyone in
And I’ve made time for girls From every walk of life and line of work It’s nice I’m sure There must be something more
And that’s when I started putting the pieces together. This song that sounded so upbeat really carries the message of a torn heart. A conflicted man between his carnal habits and what he really wants.
My heart’s wide open and I sure was hoping You could close it down
It seems I’m finding out That loving you girl can be so frightening
Suddenly the guitars didn’t have quite the same defiant crash as they did before. Sure they’re rocking, but there’s something else to it. It’s almost like a false sense of bravado over an insecure lick.
And by the time the call and answer part came around, it was no longer just a nice breakdown but almost a pleading voice from a drowning soul.
Say my name And I will give you anything
Kiss my face And I will kiss yours anywhere
Love don’t go And watch me lose control
Now maybe I’m being a little over dramatic, but to effortlessly give a song such a unified feeling in sound and lyrics shows great skill from these boys.
And, most importantly, it doesn’t use lyrics as a crutch. It’s already an excellent track that becomes even greater when the meaning is accounted for.
If all songs function by that principle maybe I’ll come around to paying more attention to the work put into words.