31.1.11

What lyrics?

As a bass player who learned his craft on blues, jazz and funk, I got used to having no lyrics in most of the music I played or listened to. It's only recently I've gotten interested in lyrics again, but I wanted to talk about instrumental music again. Particularly modern stuff.

It's easy to find good music with no singing, just visit the classical section of your favourite music store. For something a little closer to the modern time, most movie soundtracks have plenty to lose yourself in.

What I want to avoid with those is the fact that such soundtracks are often supplementary pieces, designed to be part of a larger piece of art, whether that's an opera, movie, album or something else. It's challenging to find a piece of rock or pop music that was written and designed to stand alone and tell its own story. I want to avoid talking about jazz and such, if only because it's normal to have ensemble pieces for it, as awesome as they may be. Progressive rock does a pretty good job, but because it's Prog, it tends to be a bit out there. Where's more pop-soudning stuff with no lyrics?

One place is right here. Animusic is just awesome. While yes, the music is meant to go along with the animation, it still sounds like a perfectly awesome song on its own. It sounds like a song you would have heard on the radio(though it might have been in 1992 :P).

A lot of celtic bands do instrumental songs as well, though they are often just covers of classic Irish/Scotch/etc folk songs. However, there are cool modern celtic folk tunes I like a lot.

How about you? Do you guys have any interesting instrumental popish-tunes you can recommend?

25.1.11

The best of Chuck's iPod: Nothing Else Matters

This is going to be a new regular thing for this blog (read as: when I have nothing else to talk about :P)

I will take one of my favourite songs and analyze the hell out of it. I will try to make it one of my more obscure songs, or at least obscure outside of the genre. Mostly as an exploration about why the song makes me like it, and by extension why you should too! I love explaining my opinions and then inflicting them on friends! It's just how I roll.

Who knows, there might be a video of these at some point. *strokes chin and raises eyebrow*

As to the analysis, I'll look at the lyrics(if they apply), the instrumentation, the mood, the energy, anything striking, typicalities of the band, all that good stuff.

To start it off, we'll warm the concept up with a fairly easy song, and one that is not obscure by any means: Nothing Else Matters by Metallica.

Lyrics

The lyrical meaning for this song is pretty straightforward. A heartfelt song about the loneliness of being on tour, of longing to be home, of memories of the good times keeping you going. It immediately reminds me of Turn the Page, the other great song about life on the road, which Metallica coincidentally did a cover of(albeit with a very different subtext).

The lyrics are repeated over and over, almost like a mantra, like he's trying to convince someone. Perhaps himself? "All these words I don't just say, and nothing else matters". Yeah, that definitely sounds like a prayer to me.

The energy of the singing increases through the song, starting off softly until reaching a big climax and falling off, almost like a story structure, but still the same lyrics repeated each time. I never thought about like that, that's cool. The story isn't in the words, it's in the emotion. The words are the medium, not the message. That's very cool.

Instrumentation

If you know Metallica at all, then this pretty clearly is not their usual style. It starts off with some acoustic guitar, very soft, lots of echo and effect, some harmonics, it immediately sets the tone. Even when the bass and drums kick in, you feel the weight of it but the pace remains the same. Some soft electric guitar chords are in the background.

The band picks up energy and volume as the song goes on, much in the same way that the singing does. There's a short lull, with an acoustic solo, almost as if they are trying to reign in the feeling. The solo is almost a distraction. When the big climax comes, it comes in with a big electric guitar solo, like a crisis point. The slowness of the tempo helps here, with each smash of the drums punctuating the pace very deliberately.

That's pretty much all I got out of it, as I said this was supposed to be a warmup to the concept. I think it went okay, though, I definitely heard things I hadn't yet, which was the goal.

But as was also the goal, hopefully this gave you new(even brand new) appreciation for a great song you might have otherwise dismissed!

16.1.11

All the way across the sky!

I've had a rough week and weekend, so you are getting two blog posts today. That's just how I roll.

Now, we're going to talk once again about emotion and music and how they go together. And specifically, we'll be discussing it in terms of covers. I've talked about covers and emotion before, but this is more of a series of analyses. I will take one song, look at the original, plus two covers of it, and talk about how the emotion differs.

Now when I talk about the emotion of a song, especially with an analysis like this, I'm talking about more than the lyrics, more than the chords. Inevitably, two people doing the same song will do it differently, the same way two people will paint the same still life differently. I'm talking about the context, what the singer is feeling, what they are trying to make you feel through those words, those chords.

The song in question is Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Classic, Standard, Familiar, all that good stuff.

Here is the original from The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy is singing to Toto(re: herself) about how much she is longing to be somewhere better than the farm, away from her fears and troubles. She's exasperated.

Here is the cover done at the end of season 1 of Glee. Will is relieving everyone else's emotions, after revealing how there is hope for another year to keep the club going. Will is hopeful, he's relieved.

We've looked at musicals so far, here is a straight up concert cover by Eric Clapton. The context is trickier here, but there are hints. There's a swing to the lyrics, there's a softness, a relaxation to his voice, there's a groove. This is an expression of casual optimism.

The point? Words only say so much. Music only says so much. Expression and delivery say a lot.

We're gonna need a montage

If there was ever a movie made about my life, I want the soundtrack written by Vince DiCola.

If that name doesn't sound familiar, maybe you need to rewatch Rocky IV.

That is 80s music in all its glory. Synthesized, overly majestic, cheesy, ear-wormingly catchy, and all kinds of awesome. This soundtrack and movie won a Golden Rasberry, it was so 80s.

But as much as people sneer at sequels and cheesy music, Parody is the sincerest form of flattery.

So remember, a legacy can outlast criticism, don't underestimate kitsch value, and avoid sneering.

Remember, you've got The Touch.

9.1.11

Sunday morning

Nothing like a Victor Wooten solo to wake you up on a Sunday.

And make you realise your inadequacies as a bass player.....

That guy is way too good.