Archive

Posts Tagged ‘2011’
01 Sep

Week 225: “Outta My System” by My Morning Jacket (Washed Out remix)

My-Morning-Jacket-Outta-My-System-Remixez-y-Friendz

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iTunes.

A mandatory part of growing up is having a mind-blowing conversation with a close friend or two, typically while lying on your back looking at the stars. This conversation is likely to include some or all of the following statements:

“What if the whole universe is just happening inside a single drop of water?”
“Ever wonder why you’re…you?”
“It’s mathematically impossible that there aren’t other life forms out there.”
“I think that God is just, like…everything. But also nothing.”
“What is money, anyway? Everybody should just be able to take what they need.”
“Imagine if that star just blew up right in front of us right now?”
“What does the universe look like from outside the universe?”

This remix, by Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene) captures the innocent magic of such conversations perfectly. Try to remember where you were when you had your own youthful philosophical sessions, and imagine yourself there while you listen to this song.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The crickets.

2. The vocal samples, filled with deep thoughts that just make you want to let your mouth fall open slightly and say, “whoa.”

3. Rather than re-state the whole song, Washed Out focuses on the first lyrical line, and loops it. I like it when remixes do that; it’s like taking a painting you already like, and magnifying one corner to really notice the details.

Recommended listening activity:

Imagining who you would be if your parents had never met.

16 Jun

Week 214: “Hello My Old Heart” by The Oh Hellos

ohhello

Bandcamp.

I really like the name of this band. It’s the perfect expression of the small but happy surprises that make life fun.

You’re leaving your house in the morning and (oh, hello!) a neighbourhood cat has decided to greet you by weaving its way around your ankles. You put on a pair of pants you haven’t worn in a while and (oh, hello!) there’s a crumpled $5 bill in the pocket. You make a quick trip to the grocery store and (oh, hello!) the item you were going to buy anyway is on sale for super cheap.

It’s those tiny detours from expectation that can brighten your day.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The “ba-dum bah” vocals at the beginning.

2. The way the guitar counts itself in at 1:18.

3. After three soft-spoken, thoughtful minutes, it suddenly (oh, hello!) turns into a toe-tapping, hand-clapping joy-fest at 3:24.

Recommended listening activity:

Being pleasantly surprised.

27 Jan

Week 194: “Deep Cold” by Carl Bray

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Soundcloud.

A few days from now, groundhogs across North America will cheerfully emerge to let us humans know how many more weeks of winter we can expect.

Actually, considering what this winter has been like so far, the groundhogs will probably just jump out, do this, and head right back to their cozy ground holes. That’s definitely how I’ve felt more than a few days this winter.

In previous posts, I’ve already suggested various ways to enjoy winter, and even how to deny its very existence. So today, I’ll assume that your strategy is hibernation, and recommend the following books to keep you company while you’re safely wrapped up in bed:

  • In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Because it’s hilarious, fascinating, and it’s about Australia, which is probably hotter than wherever you are right now.
  • Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay. Because he writes awesome thrillers, and this one opens with someone dying when their car falls through the ice on a lake. So no matter how bad this winter has been for you, it probably hasn’t been that bad.
  • Frost in May by Antonia White. Because it’s a crazy (and only semi-fictional) look into a young girl’s life at a school run by nuns. And we should probably accept the fact that we might actually have to deal with frost this May.
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey. Because laughter helps keep you warm.
  • Tintin In Tibet by Herge. Because it’s the best winter-themed book of all time.

And of course, no matter what you choose to read, Carl Bray’s “Deep Cold” can be your soundtrack.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The drippy opening chords remind me of melting ice.

2. The right-hand craziness at 3 minutes reminds me of rolling down a snowy hill.

3. The way the bassist starts bowing instead of plucking at 4:04 reminds me of letting out a nice big yawn from the warm safety of a heavy duvet cover.

Recommended listening activity:

Making an elaborate book-holding device out of pillows so that you can keep your arms under the covers.

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16 Dec

Week 188: “Blow Up” by Floex

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Bandcamp.

Like a lot of people, I found out about Floex because his music was featured in the fascinatingly addictive game, “Machinarium”. If you like puzzles, the movie “Wall-E”, and spending a lot of time on your iPad, I can highly recommend it as your next time-consuming game.

If not, you should at least take a listen to Floex (aka Tomas Dvorak). I haven’t been able to find out whether he is related to this Dvorak, but he’s certainly got the talent of his namesake. His dreamy soundscapes are like a de-caffeinated Jaga Jazzist, and this song in particular shows off his ability to create a soothing, effortless atmosphere.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The quiet piano, recorded close enough to capture the dampers on the strings, and fingernails on the keys.

2. The clarinet. Played by Floex himself, and so softly that the reed barely produces a sound.

3. The synth noises that begin to build during the song’s final minute. The only image I can conjure up is a slow-motion picnic in outer space. So let’s go with that.

Recommended listening activity:

Slowly adding drops of food colouring to a glass of water with an eye-dropper.

28 Oct

Week 181: “Skipping Rocks” by Oddisee

oddissee

Bandcamp.
iTunes.

Do you remember the first time you learned it was possible to skip rocks?

I bet you probably do. The first time someone shows you how to skip rocks, it’s like a kind of magic. You’re having a lazy day at the cottage, at camp, at the beach, or wherever, and somebody whips a stone across the surface of the water.

Your jaw drops. They might as well have levitated the rock using their minds.

This is a rock. Something heavy. Something that’s supposed to make a single splash before sinking to the bottom. But instead, this wizard of the waterfront has turned the rock into some kind of hovercraft. Instead of making a splash, like all the stones you’ve ever thrown, this one leaves a trail of expanding ripples in the water, like a jet leaving its vapors in the sky. Amazing.

Living in the grown-up world, sometimes you’ve got to seek out the things that pull you back to that kind of amazement. Maybe this song will help bring that feeling back.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The stuttering rhythm shared by the bass, piano and drums is the perfect instrumental representation of a stone gliding across a pond.

2. The horns really open things up as the song hits the 1-minute mark.

3. The strings in the background make sure that the horns don’t party too hard.

Recommended listening activity:

Well, obviously.

23 Sep

Week 176: “Illuminine” by Thurston Moore

OLE-953-Thurston-Moore-Demolished-Thoughts

Amazon.
iTunes.

Wandering aimlessly through an art gallery is awesome. Not because it makes you feel cultured or superior, but because you never know what’s around the next corner.

It’s especially true in galleries that feature modern art. One moment you’re walking past a huge sculpture of a chicken, and then you turn the corner and come face to face with a portrait of Winston Churchill made of old soup labels. And sure, lots of it might appear pointless or stupid, but just walk in a different direction and you’re on to something else. And the best part is that you never know when you’ll be completely captivated by something.

This happened to me a few months ago, when I saw a film installation called “Street” by James Nares. It’s an hour of super-slow-motion street scenes. Nothing spectacular; just people going about their daily business. But of course it is spectacular, because it’s like looking at a panoramic photo so huge that it can’t fit on a single screen. Or like reading tiny pieces of text from a hundred different stories at once. Every shot is unpredictable, like turning another corner in an art gallery, which I think is part of the artist’s point: everyday life, although apparently mundane, contains within it a lot of wonderful moments.

Anyway, I hadn’t thought much about the installation until a reader suggested that I take a listen to “Illuminine” by ex-Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore, whose music is featured in Nares’ film.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. As in the “Street” instillation, he’s using a 12-string guitar, which always has a way of making things sound dreamier.

2. Moore’s voice has a bit of a sing-speak quality to it, like Leonard Cohen’s.

3. The strings add a nice new dimension. There’s even a brief splash of harp at 1:54.

Recommended listening activity:

Watching a busy pedestrian area at rush hour and pretending it’s a parade.

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19 Aug

Week 171: “Keep” by Nils Frahm

felt

Amazon.
iTunes.

If I ever visit Germany, the first city I will visit is Hamburg. And when I get to Hamburg, the first place I will go is an exhibit called Miniatur Wunderland.

Miniatur Wunderland (which Wikipedia helpfully points out is German for “miniature wonderland”) is the world’s largest miniature railway. It’s a tiny world all its own, with dozens of landscapes, hundreds of trains, 200 000 tiny human figurines, and more than 12km of track. If it existed when I was 8 years old, there’s a good chance I would have run away from home to live there.

As well as being home to this tiny train-topia, Germany is home to musician/composer Nils Frahm, who creates soundscapes as intricate and captivating as Miniatur Wunderland’s models. So if (when) I make it to Hamburg to visit the world’s biggest model train set, my personal soundtrack for the occasion will be “Keep” by Nils Frahm.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. It’s got all kinds of similar yet distinct sounds; piano, glockenspiel, xylophone…sometimes I think I can hear the persistent ding of a level crossing.

2. It’s got crazy cross-rhythms. Threes and fours overlap like points on a railway.

3. It doesn’t fade in or out; it just starts, happens, and stops.

Recommended listening activity:

Standing on a bridge overlooking the tracks.

08 Jul

Week 165: “Daydream” by Tycho

Tycho-Dive

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iTunes.

When he’s Tycho, Scott Hansen creates dreamy, textured electronic soundscapes. When he’s Scott Hansen, he’s a photographer and designer whose work provides the perfect visual accompaniment to his music. Or maybe it’s the other way round. I’m not sure whether he was a musician or a designer first, but he’s a great example of an artist who doesn’t hem himself into one medium.

I wish more artists would follow his lead.

I’ll admit, I laughed when Madonna wrote a children’s book. I chuckled at the idea of Keanu Reeves in a rock band. But why should my first reaction to this type of unusual branching out be dismissive? Why should I look down my nose and say, “stick with what you know”?

“Stick with what you know” is a way of thinking that flourished in the industrial age, when specialization ruled the world. Schooling was designed to lead students down an ever-narrowing path, with the goal of making them fit into a specific part of society. This isn’t to say that everybody should be a generalist; specialization still has its place, and you can’t know everything.

But I get the feeling that the more artists experiment with different forms, the better they become at their own specialty. Imagine if some of the industrial age’s prominent artists had branched out. What would a line of clothing designed by Debussy be like? How about a lullaby written by Van Gogh? A painting by Dickens?

If the audio-visual ties between Tycho’s music and Scott Hansen’s design are anything to go by, museums around the world would be a bit more fascinating if some of those artists had been encouraged to venture from “what they knew” into something new.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The repeating guitar line gives the impression of a swinging hammock.

2. The deep kick drum gives the impression of a relaxed heartbeat.

3. The high-frequency noise (which reminds me of Boards of Canada) has a hazy, sunset-like feel to it.

Recommended listening activity:

Re-imagining your resumé.

10 Jun

Week 161: “Natural Green” by Blazo

blazo

Bandcamp.

You’ve been inside too long. Go outside.

Go.

Go take a walk.

Bring this song with you.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The opening laid-back jazz sample turns into a full-out groove. The musical equivalent of a long winter turning into a sudden spring.

2. After the drums come in, you can still hear the brushes of the original jazz drums in the background.

3. It’s shorter than you want it to be, begging you to put it on repeat all morning.

Recommended listening activity:

Practising the ancient art of dance-walking.

14 Jan

Week 140: “Hold On (feat. Sampha)” by SBTRKT

Amazon.
iTunes.

The formula for musical success in the early 21st Century seems to be something like this:

  • Come up with a cool name
  • Take out the vowels in said name
  • Sit back and accept accolades

The pioneers of the no-vowels approach were classic rock bands like Styx and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they were cheating a bit with their liberal use of the letter ‘y’. Modern electronic acts have perfected the formula with the key addition of writing their name in ALL CAPS. Bands like MGMT and MSTRKRFT have found commercial and critical success with their distaste for vowels…they’ve even led some people to imagine what a few classic albums might have looked like if the trend had started earlier.

But no matter what you think of this strange trend, you’ve got to hand it to London-based DJ and producer SBTRKT; not only has he subtracted the vowels from his name, but in this gorgeous song, he’s also subtracted the extra synth noises and beeps characteristic of dance music, creating a minimalist masterpiece.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The thumb piano. For an instrument that’s probably been around as long as the pyramids, not enough songs feature it.

2. The kick drum. Compressed so that everything gets slightly quieter when it hits, it adds an edge to the otherwise soft song.

3. The vocals. The singer is Sampha, and not only does he have two vowels in his name, but his soft voice is a nice counterpoint to the insistent kick drum in SBTRKT’s music. He slurs his words somewhat, which (appropriately) places the emphasis on the vowels.

Recommended listening activity:

RLXNG WTH SM HT CHKLT.

22 Oct

Week 128: “Sweet Unrest” by Apparat

Amazon.
iTunes.

I went to the watch store the other day.

The battery in my watch had died, and to get it replaced, I went to a clock/watch repair shop near where I live. And I don’t mean the appliance section of a department store. This was an old-school, mom-and-pop, smells-like-a-clock-store type of place. I didn’t even fully realize that such stores still existed. It was a bit of an out-of-century experience to be surrounded by technology that hasn’t changed since the 1800s.

But the thing that struck me most as I walked into the place was the sound: the ticking of dozens and dozens of clocks of every imaginable size and style, each one clicking at its own pace, telling its own time. I couldn’t spot a single one that had the actual time on it. It was weird.

And it made me think of this song. So here it is.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The cross-rhythms. This is a very percussion-heavy song, in that many of the instruments are important for their rhythm as well as the actual note they’re playing. The further you get in the song, the more 3’s against 4’s you start to hear…and the more you start to feel like you’re living in a clock repair shop.

2. The choir. They sound separate from the rest of the song because they don’t seem to be tied to the beat in any way.

3. The organ. As the song ends, the chords are sustained by the stuttering organ, which slowly fades to silence.

Recommended listening activity:

Synchronizing all the clocks in your house.

10 Sep

Week 122: “Sa Sa Samoa” by Korallreven

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iTunes.

Raise your hand if you have ever asked yourself, “…gee, if Enya owned a nightclub in the basement of a Cathedral in Nairobi, what kind of music would they play?”

Anybody?

No?

Okay, but if you ever do ask yourself that, remember that the answer is “Sa Sa Samoa” by the Swedish ambient duo Korallreven.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The haunting voices. Hard as it is to believe, the singing on this track is not a choir, but one person, layered many times over. Her name is Julianna Barwick, and she specializes in the type of music that probably plays on repeat at the entrance to heaven.

2. The echoing synths. Especially the one at 0:39, which sounds like a robotic angel-cat.

3. The slowly building drums. Like in this song, the percussion builds slowly, so as not to disturb the softness of the song’s opening. But by the time you get to the end, it’s enough to get everyone in Enya’s nightclub dancing.

Recommended listening activity:

Sticking glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling of your bedroom.

06 Aug

Week 117: “Second Hand” by errunriv

I’ve always been interested in song titles.

When I first heard this song, I assumed that the title referred to something inherited, as in “second-hand clothing”. But after a few listens, I noticed that there was no hyphen in the title, and suddenly realized that it might be making reference to the “second hand” on a clock. For some reason, thinking of a clock made me hear the song in a different way.

For a brief moment, I sat there contemplating how amazing the human brain is; how our understanding of a song’s title can change our perception of the song itself. How our like or dislike of a person can be influenced by the person’s name. How our enthusiasm for a shirt can be influenced by the music playing in the store when we try it on.

Then the moment was over, and I went back to eating my sandwich.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. Repetition. The piano’s simple, repetitive pattern of (mostly) thirds at the beginning of the song really reminds me of Philip Glass.

2. Surprise. The clarinet that comes in at 0:27 is an unlikely companion for the piano. I’m not sure what instrument I was expecting, but it wasn’t the clarinet.

3. Entropy. Much like “Turn the Koala” by Red Blue Green, this song gradually disintegrates into chaos. The thirds turn into all kinds of intervals, the regular rhythm they follow falls apart, and it’s capped off by the clarinet spinning away up a scale just before the 5-minute mark, like an unintentionally triggered firework.

Recommended listening activity:

Arranging your books by colour, rather than by title.

28 May

Week 107: “She Went Quietly” by Charlie Winston

Amazon.
iTunes.

When I was six, I had a girlfriend named Natalia.

Of course, when you’re six, you have no idea what a girlfriend is. All you know is that this person is fun to be around, their clothes and hair are different from yours, and people giggle at you when they say, “she’s your girl-friend!”

Natalia and I had some great times together. We’d collect rocks on the playground, run around in no particular direction, and my brother would read us scary stories, which I really liked because Natalia would hold my hand when she got scared.

Eventually, our friendship ended when Natalia moved away. I don’t know where she went, only that it was “two highways away,” and that I would never see her again. I remember watching her wave goodbye from her car and wondering to myself how long “never” was. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t fully understand it, because it probably would have been more painful that way…but being six, it didn’t affect me much. It just meant that I had to collect rocks by myself for a while.

And now, for lack of a better segue, I’d like to tell you about a sweet little song on the subject of girls leaving, by British songwriter Charlie Winston.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. Ambiguous lyrics. On the surface, it seems like the song’s main character just up and left one day, leaving her old life behind with little more than a goodbye note. But if you listen to it as a suicide song or a break-up song, there’s room for those interpretations as well. Maybe when she returns at the end, it’s just in the narrator’s mind, or in a dream, or maybe he’s just okay with her being gone.

2. Sparse instrumentation. By the time the second chorus is over, part of me expects a string section or a gospel choir, but Winston keeps it simple. And I love the little “oooh” that he throws in at 2:30.

3. Like the main character’s departure, the song ends quietly. No big final chorus, just a half-verse that ends on a tiny “sorry”.

Recommended listening activity:

Watching the rearview mirror as something fades into the distance.

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19 Mar

Week 97: “Plastic” by Midnight Lion

Buy it here.

Every country has a Glasgow.

Glasgow tends to exist in the shadow of Edinburgh. Just an hour’s drive to the east, Edinburgh is the wealthier city, the more popular tourist destination, the seat of Scottish government. Edinburgh’s natural setting is more beautiful, its buildings better maintained, its arts scene more well-known.

Even though Glasgow is slightly larger, and though it’s got plenty to be proud of, you get the sense that ever since the decline of its industry, it has become the “other child”; the one who didn’t finish school, didn’t get a great job, married someone the parents didn’t approve of.

But that’s why I love “Plastic” by Midnight Lion. It’s an anthem for the underdog, sung with pride by Glasgow native Stewart Brock.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. You can hear his Scottish accent. Too often, non-American singers try to manufacture an American accent, and I’ve never understood why. I love the Celtic twist on the vowels in words like, “up”, “back”, and of course, “Glaswegian”.

2. You can sense his love for his city. He doesn’t deny Glasgow’s grittiness or post-industrial scars, but celebrates them in wonderful lines like, “I might just paint my soul the city/Full of colour, make it dark, and make it gritty/Sketch it out lest I forget/The rain town.”

3. You can feel the song about to explode. For the first three minutes, you’re just waiting for it to open up, and then it finally does. The rush of sound brings out the line, “Stood barefoot in my own little portion of the river”.

Recommended listening activity:

Accepting your shortcomings instead of blaming yourself for them.

05 Mar

Week 95: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye

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iTunes.

In the same way that Erato enjoyed 15 minutes of internet stardom by putting a creative twist on Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”, the independent band Walk Off The Earth made a clever video cover of this song that you’ve probably already seen via every one of your friends on Facebook, or possibly attached to an email with the subject line: “I don’t usually forward videos, but this is *amazing*!!!”

While I appreciate the creativity of the Walk Off The Earth version, I think the original (which has a pretty creative video of its own, by the way) wins out.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The xylophone. Everything about the first minute of the song is delicate- the voice, the guitar, the percussion –but the xylophone is the best part. And I can’t help singing “baa-baa black sheep” in my head whenever I hear it.

2. The verse sung by Kimbra. I find that when songs follow the he-sings-she-sings format they either turn out being poignant or supremely lame. For me, the “she-sings” verse of this song is effective because you don’t see it coming. It interrupts what you thought was going to be a brokenhearted rant and reminds us that there are two sides to every story.

3. The sudden ending. Perhaps Gotye’s way of implying that the best way to end it is with a clean break.

Recommended listening activity:

Cleansing your inbox by deleting messages you’d rather not read again.

13 Feb

Week 92: “Every Little Thing” by Good Lovelies

Amazon.
iTunes.

In an effort to be inclusive, one of my goals with this blog has been to include as many musical genres as possible. But it’s tough to fight your own biases, and I had long ago resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never be able to tag a post as “country”.

Imagine my delight, then, when Wikipedia informed me that Canada’s Good Lovelies, who I’d always thought of as pretty folky, were officially classified as country! (Well, actually it was folk slash country, but I’ll take it.)

With a devoted following, a Juno award, and harmonies tighter than jeans at a cowboy convention, the Good Lovelies are just the perfect thing to break the genre barrier here at BSOTW.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The humming at the beginning. Right away, the song sounds as cozy as a crackling fireplace.

2. I love that in the chorus, on beat two of every bar, they throw a subtle little handclap into the mix. Never before have handclaps been so relaxing.  It kind of reminds me of the big second beat in the chorus of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”.

3. The big “oh oh ohs” that take the song home, starting at 2:30. If this is what country is becoming, I’m going to need some new boots.

Recommended listening activity:

Leaving the porch light on for someone who isn’t home yet.

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16 Jan

Week 88: “My Favorite Color” by Kutiman

I’ve already rambled on about sample-based music and remix culture in previous posts, so I won’t bore you with it again, but I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Ophir Kutiel, aka Kutiman.

Kutiman is the 21st-century extension of the DJs who, in the early days of hip-hop, would dig through crates of old funk and soul records to find the perfect break, the perfect beat, upon which to build their music. A graduate of the jazz program at Rimon Music College in Israel, Kutiman rose to internet fame in 2009, when he spent two months sifting through hundreds of YouTube videos people had posted of themselves playing instruments, found snippets that caught his ear, and pasted them together to create a series of songs called ThruYOU. The results are as incredible to watch as they are to listen to.

He’s posted several other songs using the same method in the years since, and they’re all worth a listen, but this one, to me, stands out.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The singer. Sounds like a combination of Billie Holiday and Bajka.

2. The light drums that come in at 1:23, giving the song its groove.

3. The fact that none of the people in the video had any idea that the clip they were uploading would become part of something like this. It’s this kind of unintentional collaboration that makes the internet a beautiful thing.

Recommended listening activity:

Using clippings from old magazines to make a birthday card for someone.

19 Dec

Week 84: “DFACE” by Leah Kardos

kardos

Bandcamp.

Whenever it comes up in conversation that I endured almost a decade of piano lessons as a child, people often get a wistful look on their faces, before saying something like, “Oh, it must be so great to just be able to sit at a piano and play.”

But strangely enough, lots of the memories I have of learning to play the piano involve things other than the actual sitting-and-playing part. If you were lucky enough to take piano lessons, perhaps you’ll know what I mean. Here is a brief run-down of some of my strongest memories of taking piano lessons:

  • I remember the wrinkles on my piano teacher’s hands.
  • I remember the face of the kid who had his lessons right before me.
  • I remember the sound of the clock ticking during my exams.
  • I remember scales.

For some reason, I really liked practicing scales. No matter how hard the pieces were that I was supposed to be learning, the scales never changed, and I loved that predictability. I could remember where the sharps and flats were. I could visualize them before even playing the scale. Maybe that’s why I love this song so much; it reminds me of the comforting up and down of playing scales.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The wandering time signature. I’m tempted to count it as regular 4/4, but because the notes in the right hand are sometimes grouped in fives, and sometimes in sevens, I keep losing track of where the downbeat is. It makes me feel a bit musically inept, as if I’ve just tied my own shoelaces together.

2. The vocal clip. The grainy old voice that urges us to memorize the spaces in the treble clef is a great contrast to the clear, echoing notes in the piano.

3. The subtle thuds that fade in as the song nears the 2-minute mark. Like a racing heartbeat.

Recommended listening activity:

Sitting on a swing and turning around and around until you can’t turn anymore…and then letting yourself spin.

07 Nov

Week 78: “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn (as covered by Erato)

If there was ever proof that less is more, this song is it.

A charming re-working of a decidedly mediocre song by pop star Robyn, this song, performed by Swedish vocal group Erato, does what all good cover songs do: it takes the original song, strips it down to its basic strengths, and fills the gaps with something completely new.

A clip of Erato (well, three of them anyway) singing the song became internet wildfire a couple weeks ago, and the simplicity of the video just adds to the song’s charm. Shot in black and white on a cheap camera in their cramped Swedish kitchen, it proves that beauty doesn’t need a big budget. (Robyn’s video, in case you were wondering, is an awkward combination of Flashdance and Napoleon Dynamite. You probably don’t need to see it, but if you’re curious and you enjoy feeling slightly uncomfortable, go for it.)

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The percussion. Erato trades in Robyn’s highly produced sound for used cottage cheese containers. No word yet on whether the success of the YouTube clip has boosted cottage cheese sales in Stockholm.

2. The three-part harmonies. Okay, this might contradict my “less is more” argument, but Erato’s vocal arrangement is gorgeous.

3. The lyrics. To be fair to Robyn, she gave Erato some good lyrics to work with. This is an interesting take on the break-up song; a plea for compassion from the “other woman”, making her case that honesty is the only approach to a complicated situation…that’s good stuff. Robyn’s come a long way since “Show Me Love”.

Recommended listening activity:

Building a castle out of Tupperware.