Songs of Winter

Posted: January 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Songs of Winter

The best time for contemplation is on late winter nights, a friend said to me. Sometimes he holes up in his bedroom and while the world sleeps, he thinks.

The cold harnesses the mind and hones the senses. We see divisions more clearly: the geometry of a bedside table, the sharp difference of darkness and light, the separation of communal identity and the lone self. In winter, the watercolor smear of summer is gone and the world has suddenly come into focus.

Winter keeps us indoors for long spans, which is hell for restless people. But more time affords longer commitments, like that of listening to a record in its entirety. Here are some frosty nuggets.

Music Has the Right to Children – Boards of Canada

Music Has the Right to Children is a future-music dream city submerged in murky water and subliminal messages. Melodies dissolve just as they reach boiling point. Many sounds are so subtle they hardly exist, so strap on some headphones. Hazy jams like “Aquarius” and “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” loom high, stretching a hip-hop beat and warping it forever past time. If Kubrick made beats…

Kind of Blue – Miles Davis

“All Blues” is the winter song on the jazz record. These alien chord changes don’t ever touch ground, despite heaps of praise. A tense theme for driving home from work at the end of dusk, the song has no peers. Kind of Blue is so unassuming but it demands your attention. This kind of record is extinct; it’s for people that have to wait for things.

Kid A – Radiohead

I remember first listening to all of Kid A in the early morning, on a stretch of highway in Colorado. We passed cranes and incomplete shopping malls, all of it dusted with snow, to the chug of “The National Anthem.” The car coasted around a mountain pass during “In Limbo,” a drugged funhouse mirror. It’s an album, man, and each song is a stream into one frigid reservoir.

Knives Don’t Have Your Back – Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton

Haines sets out on a desolate adventure from Metric, the electric-rock group, with nothing but a husky contralto and jazz in the liner notes. “The first three songs all begin with the same note,” a friend pointed out, and he’s right; this is a mood record. The music of a late winter night should be concentrated, sparse and factual. Haines’ path is sad and beautiful.

Others:

  • The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground
  • 23 – Blonde Redhead
  • The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse
  • Sanguine – Julianna Barwick
  • Turn On the Bright Lights – Interpol
  • Songs of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen
  • Demon Dayz – Gorillaz

3 Song Thursday – Wordless Codas

Posted: February 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music, Limited Series | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

A coda is a musical means to an end. It’s the final transition into a song’s finish. This concluding passage is often what the listener remembers after the glow of the music has faded, and it determines whether a song sprints or stumbles over the finish line. These are a few of my favorite songs with instrumental codas, in which the singer is either too exhausted or too overwhelmed to continue.

1. “PDA” – Interpol

Interpol’s albums have grown exponentially worse with each new release, but this song is from their moody masterpiece of a debut, Turn On The Bright Lights. The song chugs along mechanically, led by throbbing bass drum hits and stabbing, dissonant guitars, returning to a confounding chorus about sleeping on “200 couches.” But then the song pauses, brightens. The chugging returns more excited than before, carrying a fragile organ coo on its shoulders, and the sounds zigzag and crash into silence.

2. “I Know There’s An Answer” – The Beach Boys

This wonderful Pet Sounds track is buried awkwardly in the third quarter of the album, which is perhaps why it is so criminally ignored. All the components of the song’s final 37 seconds are singularly present throughout the entire song: the bizarre circus piano, the merry banjo, and that tambourine. But it’s not until the song’s wordless coda that the threads are played together, and it is the blending of these elements that create true magic. It’s Christmas morning, it’s your first kiss, it’s absolutely perfect.

3. “Stop Breathin'” – Pavement

The song seems to begin in the middle of a phrase, without introduction. Stephen Malkmus croaks, “Dad, they broke me,” over drunken arpeggios and repeats the line twice at the finish of the first chorus. But he sings it only once for the second chorus, so we know a change is coming. Suddenly all falls silent, save for the sluggish 6/8 heartbeats of the drums. A brooding finger picked guitar line enters and is soon joined by another, each of them rising, falling and intersecting. The noise builds to a fever pitch, narrows to one single note of feedback, and then erupts again, roaring into a second coda.



RW: Heinrich Manuever (Phones Remix)

Posted: December 10th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Remix of the Week | Tags: | Comments Off on RW: Heinrich Manuever (Phones Remix)

My first experience with Interpol was more than a few years ago on an Xbox demo disc, with the song “Obstacle 1”. I loved the song, and rushed over to my then brand new computer, and downloaded it off of Kazaa.

But time has changed, and so has Interpol, even though “Obstacle 1” is a playable track on the newest Guitar Hero released two months ago. Two albums later, Our Love to Admire is released. I initially did not bond with it, but I love it now.

Well I’ve found a piece of music that would have made it much easier to cope with the new Interpol.

Interpol – The Heinrich Maneuver (Phones Remix)

It’s the perfect choice for the dance lover in me, and helps me truly love Interpol that much more.

I hope your ears dance when no one is looking. Ω