Saturday, February 25, 2006

Machine Messiah (1980) – Yes

The new-look Yes’ 1980 release Drama featured vocalist Trevor Horn and his collaborator in The Buggles, keyboardist Geoff Downes, stepping in for the departed Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, respectively—blasphemy in most circles, but to those with open minds, substitutions which were not as ill-conceived as they initially appeared at the time. On this, the opening track of the album, Horn’s voice is veneered with a sense of familiarity due to bassist Chris Squire’s ubiquitous vocal contributions, as if to mitigate the absence of the group’s long-time frontman by introducing a recognizable voice alongside a new one. Unable to rival Wakeman’s virtuosity, Downes opts for atmosphere over ostentation. As a result, the keyboards dictate the song’s direction rather than become ornamentation like Wakeman’s trills, runs and solos. In a sign of things to come, longtime guitarist Steve Howe and Downes play riffs and runs in unison, a motif they would later revisit in their subsequent stint together in Asia.

“Machine Messiah” is a medieval sonic smorgasbord-as-soundtrack to the exploits of jousting knights battling dragons in mystical forests, along with lyrics tracing the evolution of civilization through industry and conquest. Amid keyboard dives à la the opening of Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With The Devil,” a menacing metal riff gurgles and lumbers like a dragon prowling the forest in search of serfs and feudal lords to terrorize. Alan White’s drums catapult projectiles from inside a kingdom's fortress walls to avert the advancing threat. An acoustic guitar enters like an oblivious minstrel in a buoyant stroll through the kingdom over lilting keyboards. Squire’s gritty bass rears back like a knight’s steed gearing up to charge, then gallops past the citadels out from the kingdom. Chordal triplets spring over a 4/4 rock beat as the knight races into the forest. Meanwhile, jubilant guitar riffs soar above a carnival as a court jester frolics about to the interplay of Squire and Horn’s voices. Keyboard runs writhe above a bedrock of bass which, along with the guitar, follows the keyboard’s lead as knights joust in tournament. An anachronistic ragtime piano clatters down into a dragon’s lair as the metal motif returns. The knight finds himself in the calm depths of the forest for rejuvenation prior to engaging the winged serpent. The bard of the forest placidly strums his lute, invoking the Machine Messiah—the deus ex machina that allows the kingdom to prevail despite a seemingly insurmountable conflict. Emerging from the forest, the knight slays the dragon, whereupon his return the kingdom erupts in jubilation as the King’s subjects celebrate victory with a feast. Howe’s rapturous guitar fanfare elicits grimaces of utter ecstasy. Eventually the festivities wind down, and the knight returns to the forest to pay homage to the Machine Messiah. Unfortunately, a legion of dragons encircle him amid a gaggle of frothing guitars.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Monday, February 20, 2006

    Internal Crash (2005) – Loquat

    A piano serenely accompanies Kylee Swenson’s elegant voice as she weaves the somber ruminations of a stroke survivor’s relative. She rues how so much can be lost so quickly: “Internal crash took up seconds / and stole his years / which are hard to win back.” To reconcile this loss of vitality, Swenson dissociates bodily infirmity from the soul’s persistence. Throughout the song she refers to “you,” casting herself as a victim in the second person, as well as distancing herself from the selfish focus on how the stroke has become an imposition upon her. She finally admits that her self-centeredness stems from the extreme psychological toll the stroke has taken upon her, making her perspective as a victim more sympathetic. Indeed, the internal crash inflicted extensive collateral damage.

  • Listen to "Internal Crash" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Sunday, February 19, 2006

    The 15th (1979) – Wire

    Apparently, the title of this song prosaically refers to the fact that it was the 15th song Colin Newman had written in a specific batch of songs. This would explain why the lyrics are so oblique that the “it” referred to throughout can mean anything the listener wishes. Conceivably, the “it” refers to the song itself—a cynical interpretation that comports with Newman’s aloof vocal styling. He mocks the haughtiness with which this song will be analyzed, reduced to a mere object, as if opinion were empirical evidence. Newman riddles that the song’s tenuous basis will be its critical undoing; in substance, the song is about itself, and thus about nothing.

    “The 15th” is most remarkable in that it was released in 1979, yet it sounds like something Interpol aspires to. This is not to say that it fits some retro revival template to be mined every twenty years by the hipster kids; rather, it means that the gist of Wire’s ideas was so fundamentally cool, that it was always worthy of being emulated. From its rote downstroked guitars, nonchalant synthesizer, stilted drumming, and rudimentary guitar riff, to Newman’s ambiguous lyrics, the stolid “15th” was always relevant to those for whom emotional detachment was de rigueur.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • No One Needs To Know (1995) – Shania Twain

    It’s generally considered bad form to confess a penchant for Shania Twain’s music. While Twain’s voice may be off-putting to some, more tolerant listeners may find something worthwhile in her catalog. To be fair to her detractors, Twain’s songs tend to be superficial exercises in the banal and the trivial (“That Don’t Impress Me Much,” “Man, I Feel Like A Woman,” “Party For Two”). However, there are times when her attempts at country music succeed, stumbling across substance in such superficiality. In “No One Needs To Know,” with country twang and boot-scoot in tow, Shania plays coy about a romantic endeavor, envisioning life with her future husband. She has everything planned to a T: the details of her wedding, the children they’ll have, the name of their dog. Awww, how sweet. The problem is . . . they don’t even have a relationship yet. For now, she has no intention of letting anyone know how she feels about him, so she can indulge her fantasies without running the risk of ruining them. In that regard, despite its happy-go-lucky do-si-do, “No One Needs To Know” betrays her own doubts about the prospects for her future happiness and the possibility that she’ll only live out this charmed life in her dreams, which is why she is reluctant to set reality in motion. Hence, we can only imagine that reality will utterly disappoint her when the fella turns out to be a moonshinin’, two-timin’, no good son-of-a-gun.

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  • See You In September (1959) – The Tempos (Sherman Edwards & Donald Meyer/Sid Wayne)

    Recorded in the days before year-round schooling threatened the viability of teenage summer flings, “See You In September” could have been performed around a beach bonfire on the first weekend of summer vacation. The arrangement is resourceful: drums and bongos rumba and a double bass ambles in the left channel where barely audible trills of piano periodically appear; in the right channel a guitar pick rakes out percussive notes that resemble organ staccatos. Borderline operatic voices belt out an apprehensive melody portraying the insecurity of a high-school romance that will be tested by physical separation. One can imagine, though, that the relationship is doomed, and new names will adorn the declarations of devotion on their respective Pee-Chees this fall.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Tightly (2002) – Neko Case

    In this celebration of nocturnal strolls that corrals the spirit of Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight,” Neko Case delights in the freedom she enjoys under moonlit skies. Brimming with fondness for her leisurely vespertine pursuits, Case’s ardent voice cloaks the listener in luxurious reverb. Twang guitar, double bass, upright piano and brushed drums accompany her saunter along suburban streets, where she cherishes every moment of clarity in thought. Although there is an inherent danger in a woman walking alone at night, the stars, the darkness, the moon, the trees all accentuate her feelings, inspiring her to indulge her fancies. Still, even if she’s willing to entertain romantic midnight overtures, she is loath to sacrifice her latitude.

  • Listen to "Tightly" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (1986) – The Smiths

    Reveling in the good fortune of sharing a drive with the object of his affection, Morrissey finds an opportunity to escape his world of insecurity. He dreads the alienation in his own life and craves the validation he receives in living vicariously. Andy Rourke’s peripatetic bassline meanders throughout the aimless drive past string flourishes and echoes of flute-like synth. In his apathy toward life, Morrissey declares his fatalistic devotion, romanticizing the honor of perishing together in a gory accident. However, epitomizing social ineptness, he squanders an opportune moment when his courage momentarily swells: A confession of love and solicitation of reciprocity, perhaps? An offer of a tawdry encounter? A double suicide proposal? Given his near faux pas, Morrissey must remain content to believe in the light that never goes out: the hope of a brighter future, the will to live, the desire to love—even when he sees nothing but a bleak existence to return home to.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Saturday, February 18, 2006

    Lost Summer Love (1964) – Shelley Fabares

    Donna Reed’s television daughter and Coach’s wife had a fairly successful recording career in her early 20’s, including the No. 1 hit single “Johnny Angel” in 1962. The wistful “Lost Summer Love” recounts a familiar story of teenage romance that only lasts a summer, leaving in its wake broken promises, illusory dreams and distant memories. Time moves ahead to the march of a snare and bass guitar, as background girl group harmonies mingle with Fabares’ pleasant voice in melodic phrases that convey a reverie tinged with fondness and regret. Simple yet affecting, “Lost Summer Love” commemorates the youthful idealism of a bygone era when romance washed in and out of lives with the summer tide.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Darjeeling (1994) - Rodan

    Appearing on the best 7” ever released (Simple Machines’ Inclined Plane), Rodan’s “Darjeeling” rounded out the all-star lineup of Tsunami (covering Flower’s “Beauty pt. II”), Superchunk (“Baxter”), and Unrest (“Winona Ryder”). Each of these songs arguably ranks near the top of each band’s oeuvre. Rodan’s contribution, with its erratic stop-start sequence, is quintessential math-rock—albeit incorporating principles of basic arithmetic, not calculus—calling the listener up to the blackboard to tally along with the ride cymbal in anticipation of each outburst as the band races out of the gates. Dual sizzling guitars, a growling bass, and walloping drums lurch, lunge and gallop in unison, easing into a lope through the countryside for a graze in the meadow, resuming into a sprint that briefly reprises the opening gait before plunging off a cliff in delirium.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Breaking Us In Two (2003) – Mandy Moore (J. J. Jackson)

    It’s not often that a cover version arguably surpasses the original—rarer still if that version features a teen pop star who has also starred in movies. Mandy Moore’s rendition of Joe Jackson’s “Breaking Us In Two” is one such anomaly.

    Moore’s vocals wash in on a bed of warm tube compression, imparting a soothing ambiance to Joe Jackson’s frank proposal to reevaluate a relationship by spending time apart. Whereas Jackson’s vocals are a bit whiny and slightly tenuous, Moore’s exude a balance of expression, smoothness and control, with a pout in her voice that heightens its appeal. Lingering in her lower register, she emphasizes melody over range and power, avoiding vocal gymnastics which detract from the experience, in the process revealing a subtle understanding of the lyrics that Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson lack, and a welcome restraint that Christina Aguilera does not possess. The production is much more “audible” in the cover arrangement, evocative of a nightclub atmosphere, while the original suggests coffeehouse due to the prominent congas and sparser arrangement. The cover eliminates the unfortunate toy piano from the original, and the tasteful vibe solo is a vast improvement over the original’s cheesy synth solo. Although the fuller arrangement overwhelms Moore’s vocals at times, overall it reinforces them, showcasing her maturation into an adult singer.

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  • Reckless (Club Mix) (1984) – Ice-T, Chris “The Glove” Taylor & Dave E. Storrs

    In a genre whose songs tend to dull as they age, the Club Mix of “Reckless” continues to electrify, due largely to the programming skills of Dave Storrs. Building upon the solid foundation of the old standby “Planet Rock/Numbers” beat, a punchy kick drum, crisp tommy-gunning snare and skittering hi-hats propel the tempo. Auxiliary percussion bustles within the mix: clattering hand claps and a clacking wood block boomerang across channels, overlaying subtle percussive plinking. Ice-T’s vocal presentation is relatively restrained, avoiding histrionics or affectation that risk antiquation. As well, the lyrics have avoided becoming passé by shunning catchphrases and slang, instead extolling the trio in relatively benign, straightforward terms. The Glove implements his scratching in a musical manner with select turntable samples, judiciously laced with stereo delay (the “grunt” scratch about 2 minutes in is the ace up his sleeve). The Club Mix adds hints of reverse echo, and an unexpected panning stutter of Ice-T’s “reckless, reckless, reck, reck, reck, reckless!” Overall, the production is clean and creative, introducing sonic whooshes and surges at strategic moments.

    The highlight, however, is the pulsating sequenced bassline that ricochets about during the second scratching break, augmented by a haunted house organ. Rhythmically complex, musical and percussive, it defines the song and ensures its continued relevance in the annals of electro-funk.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Broken Witch (2004) – Liars

    A bell clanks in the darkness. Robed and hooded villagers gather around a bonfire for the Invocation. Meanwhile, with each electronic blip, Puritans approach the village with torches raised, intent on burning it down. As a dissonant guitar brays, the Necromancer begins a ritualistic chant, conjuring the spirits of Shapeshifters to inhabit the bodies of the villagers so that they may repel the advancing invaders. Amid off-kilter clicks and clatter that sound like 8-bit resolution drums recorded in a small hut, the incantation crescendos. The conventicle entreats the Soothsayer to foretell of victory. In the shadows cast by the flickering flames, their possessed bodies transmogrify into various incarnations: bears, horses, wolves, birds of prey. The litany rises to the foreboding sky: “We are the army you see through the red haze of BLOOD! Screams erupt across the moonlit fields, now awash in crimson. The White Witch stands amidst the sanguineous carnage, exhorting the beasts to decimate those who dared to encroach upon her village.

  • Listen to "Broken Witch" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree (1973) – Tony Orlando & Dawn

    The sprightly prance of “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” finds an ex-convict returning home, anxiously anticipating the sign which will indicate whether his woman wants him back or not. Apparently, Tony Orlando enjoyed communicating with the aid of symbols and code: a yellow ribbon around an oak tree meant “Welcome Home!”; three knocks on the ceiling meant you wanted him, twice on the pipe meant forget about it (“Knock Three Times”). What was his signal for the response to a marriage proposal? Leave the hot water running for yes, cold for no? In any event, his inability to take an answer face-to-face like a man brought us some great pop songs. However, “Yellow Ribbon” asks the listener to believe that a man just released after three years in prison would be content to accept “no” for an answer and keep on riding past her house. You said what, Tony? Nah, I ain’t tryin’ to hear that. Dude’s gonna be stalking her until she relents. I don’t know . . . maybe things were different in the seventies. Still, you can’t help but be moved when he gets the O.K. a hundredfold. Maybe it’s the power of forgiveness and the spirit of redemption, but you have to feel happy for the guy.

  • Listen to "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Forward To Death (1980) – Dead Kennedys

    Sometimes the world sucks and one wishes to opt out of society. And sometimes one needs to indulge nihilistic bitterness and vent antagonistic vitriol in a psychological enema in order to avoid erupting in a violent paroxysm. For those times, “Forward To Death” fits the bill just fine. Jello Biafra expectorates in his signature quavering mosquito buzz that is as grating as it is confrontational. With such unmitigated sentiment as, “I don’t need your fucking world/This world brings me down / Gag with every breath . . . I’m looking forward to death,” there’s no buffer between thought and expression, no euphemisms to mollify the invective, no sugar-coating the bile. He just vomits it out, wipes his mouth on his t-shirt, and leaves the mess for someone else to come along and slip in. Sometimes, such loutishness is the best policy.

  • Listen to "Forward To Death" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    The Sound of Music (1965) – Julie Andrews (Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)

    The Sound of Music is a cultural cornerstone from which may spring a lifelong appreciation of music. Every child who watches the film experiences the power of music to bring joy, to melt stoic hearts, to foster burgeoning love, to inspire, to entertain, to escape (both figuratively and literally). The opening theme celebrates this essence as Julie Andrews basks in the ways that music touches her soul. As she lilts with musical ardor, it doesn’t matter what one’s musical preferences are—in their own way, anyone who has truly been moved by music knows what she means.

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  • Who Knew? (2000) – Eminem

    Eminem’s craft lies in his lyrical vexations and mocking singsong hooks that pester until they lodge themselves in your brain (check out “Rain Man,” for instance, in which he plays the idiot savant to a tee): in other words, he’s a master of the annoyingly catchy rhyme. As good an example as any, “Who Knew” serves on a broader sociological level as a catalyst for discourse on the ultimate responsibility for teenagers’ behavior. It’s also highly entertaining, if only to hear Eminem blurt out words mocking those who are incited by his lyrics without regard for their context.

    Skulking to slinky sequenced synthesizers and beats, Eminem feigns ignorance about the effect his lyrics could have on a teenager who might kill himself or strike a girl. Of course, he’s not that naïve, but he has a point: you can only blame music for so much. To the extent that teenagers act out violence upon self or others, Mr. Mathers shunts the blame to parents and to the teens themselves who idiotically take his lyrics to be literal behavioral cues.

    While parents shouldn’t necessarily hand over a copy of The Marshall Mathers LP to their 10 year-old, Eminem gives us fair warning that we are better off teaching our children about the violence, profanity and misguided views (misogyny, homophobia) to which they will inevitably be exposed, so that they might develop a sense of right and wrong that will serve them well as adults. In that regard, it’ll be interesting to see how his daughter Hailie grows up. His love for her is well-documented, but one has to wonder what hearing songs your father wrote about killing your mother and dumping her in a lake (“Kim”; “’97 Bonnie and Clyde”) does to a young girl. Even Slim Shady himself admits in 2002’s “My Dad’s Gone Crazy” that he wouldn’t let her listen to his music.

  • Listen to “Who Knew?” and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Kim" (2000) - Eminem
  • Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Build A Castle (1986) - Undercover

    Undercover, a Christian band formed in the early ‘80s, released their watershed album Branded in 1986. That album was a marked departure from earlier works Undercover, God Rules, and Boys and Girls Renounce The World on two fronts: first, new lead singer Sim Wilson’s resonant baritone infused a darker feel into the material than did Bill Walden’s cheery tone; second, the music had undergone a gradual transformation over the years from Oingo Boingo-esque new wave with naïve lyrics, to a darker, edgier approach. The introspection (Branded, Side 1) and despair (Branded, Side 2) reflected in the lyrics exemplify a practical, often somber, testament of faith.

    In “Build A Castle,” Wilson muses that death claims even the wealthiest and most powerful of men. Life is ephemeral. Accordingly, Wilson assesses his life by asking a question which ambiguously could apply to a loved one, to God, or to both: ”Did I ever take the time to hold your hand? / To live before I die / and did I ever take the time / to look into your eyes?” Stirring synth strings and voice pads convey an acute sense of accountability. Guitarist Gym Nicholson punctuates throughout with squeals, trills and whinnies that agitate in urgency.

    Instead of preaching to the choir, Undercover’s refreshing approach to evangelical music attests to their beliefs in a manner more pragmatic than dogmatic, asking rhetorical questions that actually require honest answers.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • One Hundred Years (1982) – The Cure

    In a clamour of stygian proportions, a primitive drum machine rumbles ominously; a bass moans like a grieving wraith; a guitar caterwauls like an elephant being tortured. When the last glimmer of hope has all but vanished, “One Hundred Years” snuffs out the light completely. Robert Smith’s wailing evokes shades of doom, suicide, murder, slaughter, bereavement, decrepitude, strangulation, genocide, and the weariness of enduring what seems like a hundred year ordeal. He doesn’t obsess over the morbid details for their shock value; rather, he’s trying to place his own despair and self-loathing on the scale of human suffering in order to gain perspective. One can only conclude he’s quite a few standard deviations above the pain index average.

  • Listen to "One Hundred Years" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Monday, February 13, 2006

    Stay Away From Robert Mitchum (1993) – April March

    Set to an upbeat, swinging 50’s-esque arrangement of acoustic guitar, double bass, keyboards, brushed drums, vibraphone, and girlishly winsome vocals, the enchanting April March’s slightly eccentric take on a movie star crush finds her warning all others not to mess with her man. She spends a lot of time with him, but occasionally other women vie for his affections. That’s okay. Ms. March is confident that he’ll rebuff their advances. You see, he’s Robert Mitchum—the film star who enjoyed his heyday in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. She knows him well because she’s “become a fixture at the Wax House.” That’s right . . . she’s sweet on a wax figure. The woman otherwise known as Elinore Blake is delusional enough to personify the ersatz Mitchum’s thoughts, yet also realizes that he’s a “candle that they called a man.” So, she’s not really crazy, she just projects her unrequited adoration for Robert Mitchum onto an inanimate object crafted in his likeness. That’s adorably kooky. And the delightful assortment of background vocals render us amenable to indulge her whimsy.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Storm The Legion (2001) - !!! (chk chk chk)

    It’s not often that a groove-oriented song is anti-drug. Set to a Gang of Four-esque neo-disco beat, throbbing bass, percussive guitars, and occasional horns, “Storm The Legion” finds a recreational drug user taking an honest look at a vacuous and self-destructive past, confronting the reasons for getting high and the consequences of chemical dependency: the enlightenment justification; the effects on his friends who have crossed the line from use into abuse, who glorify the past because they have no future; questioning whether the joke wasn’t on him, given the brain damage he sustained.

    Vocalist Nic Offer understands the allure of it all, but also recognizes the aftermath. In its nervous agitation, “Storm The Legion” seeks to assail the mindset of the multitude that stumble through the fog machine haze, although they may be too zonked to mind the affront.

  • Listen to "Storm The Legion" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Without You (1982) – Asia

    In “Without You,” fire, smoke and varying degrees of darkness and light symbolize the stages and outlook of John Wetton’s relationship. Keyboards sedately greet the morning’s first light as a new romance begins. But, a byproduct of the flames of passion is the haze of uncertainty about the future. As the sky further illuminates, it dawns upon Wetton that they must actively forge a future together, instead of becoming complacent in the present, or risk another failed relationship. Throughout, guitarist Steve Howe intersperses a cluster of trills. Wetton’s sonorous multi-layered vocal harmonies explore augmented chords in the transitionary “without you” refrain, caressing notes that may initially sound foreign to the chord (a distinctive Wetton signature).

    However, the burning desire within soon dwindles. In the gloaming, the dimly lit vastness finds him unexpectedly alone. There is a glimmer of brightness in the interlude: Geoff Downes springs one of his trademark jaunty keyboard phrases in unison with Howe’s guitar. Wetton confesses a longing that is exacerbated by uncertainty, yet Howe’s expressive soloing conveys a sense of optimism while Carl Palmer frolics among the toms. However, the mood inevitably turns somber again as the guitar spirals back down to a forlorn reality.

    A bell tolls in the twilight. On some evenings, Wetton dwells upon his heartache. Yet, his memories stave off the loneliness. A new dawn appears—and with it new horizons of hope—as the sound of snare paradiddles fades out.

  • Listen to "Without You" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Stand Up Tall (2004) – Dizzee Rascal

    “Stand Up Tall” employs an uncluttered yet irresistible arrangement: a frenetic 909 beat with handclaps, a simple sequenced line with occasional modulation, pseudo-pizzicato strings impishly peppering the refrain. However, it’s the rate at which Rascit expectorates the lyrics that stupefies (giving Busta Rhymes’ “Gimme Some More” a run for the money). To the uninitiated ear, Dizzee Rascal’s volubility coupled with his heavy cockney accent is another language. It purports to be English, at least colloquially. But even reading a lyric sheet, it’s hard to follow his flow, particularly because of his pronunciation. While this may be off-putting to some, the preferred etiquette is to sit back and marvel at his talent simply in relaying the words from his brain to his mouth in such a nimble manner. In the most discernible section, Dizzee wishes his cohorts fortune, but dismisses his critics: “To my Southside crew get paper / I tell da playa hater c u later. . . .” There’s wit and humor to be found here; the more formidable task is hearing it.

  • Listen to "Stand Up Tall" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Figure Eight (1973) – Blossom Dearie (Bob Dorough)

    This Bob Dorough-penned song from the 1970s educational series Schoolhouse Rock: Multiplication Rock recounts the multiplication table as it pertains to the number eight. While it may seem silly to sing the praises of a song that is based on such an elementary concept, “Figure Eight” exceeds any expectations one might have. The most achingly melancholic notes cascade from an electric piano, nylon string guitar and cello, as if floating in space. Blossom Dearie’s frail voice suits the pensive mood. In the break, Dearie recites the multiples of eight from one through twelve to a playful jingle reminiscent of a ‘70s diaper commercial. The number closes with Dearie making the strangely poignant observation that a figure eight placed on its side is the symbol for infinity, as a vibraphone disappears into incalculable vastness.

  • Listen to "Figure Eight" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • There’s Only One Thing Left To Say (1994) – Velocity Girl

    Velocity Girl were close to being the perfect pop group, and this is nearly the perfect pop song. In “There’s Only One Thing Left To Say,” Velocity Girl look to ‘60s Motown for a framework, borrowing the rhythm section of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love,” then adding their own noise pop accoutrements: the jangle of guitars—slightly overdriven, vibrato’d and tremolo’d. In the effervescence, Sarah Shannon’s voice, lent also to harmonies and background vocals, is remarkably pretty (whereas in her later solo work, her voice is allowed the space to be enchantingly beautiful). Her lilting vocal melody works perfectly over the bouncy rhythm established by the bass, drums and tambourine.

    A new romance has caused Shannon to lose her bearings; she’s practically dysfunctional now, so instead of being so uptight, she decides to bask in her giddiness. Having attempted to articulate her feelings in writing numerous times before only to discard them, she hopes that he instinctively understands how she feels about him: “Love notes littered on the landscape / translate everything I ever said / Read quick, you might catch that dizzy feeling.” She knows which words could seal the deal, but she’s tongue-tied: “There’s only one thing left to say / Why should I let it slip away?” This song should cinch it for ya, Sarah.

  • Listen to “There’s Only One Thing Left To Say” and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Green, Green Grass of Home (1966) – Tom Jones (Curly Putman)

    A man returns to his hometown where his loved ones eagerly await his arrival. A gospel choir commemorates the joyous occasion. His neighbors and old friends will be excited to see him again after all these years. He smiles at the thought of their welcoming embraces, and basks in the familiarity of the home where he was raised. He’ll take a walk with Mary later that day, maybe enjoy a picnic on the grass . . . or so he thinks. He awakens from his dream to the reality that is his death row prison cell. Although he has come to terms with his impending execution at dawn, he still feels a tinge of despair. Yet, he can face death bravely in the knowledge that he’ll be home soon, where he’ll rest in peace “‘neath the green, green grass of home.”

  • Listen to "Green, Green Grass of Home" and purchase at iTunes Music Store.
  • Taste The Floor (1985) – The Jesus & Mary Chain

    Amidst an unprecedented wall of solid-state distortion, Jim Reid’s vocals rose above the gimmick of multi-layered direct-injection overdrive to emerge utterly indifferent. That juxtaposition of bedlam and boredom was seminal to what eventually became the shoegazer movement, but none of its practitioners ever recreated such an obnoxious and overbearing din. During the instrumental “breaks,” guitarist William Reid adds additional layers of overwhelming white noise and feedback—boosted in the frequencies that are most irritating to human hearing—akin to a circular saw slicing through lumber. This is a good thing. One can only sadistically imagine the scores of innocent bystanders who have shielded their ears against this sonic assault blaring from the pop-disk before the droogies ookadeet for a bit of ultraviolence.

  • Listen to "Taste The Floor" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Hot In Herre (2002) – Nelly

    Keyboards puckishly escort the listener into Mephistopheles’ den of unadulterated debauchery, shameless depravity and downright lewdness. “Hot In Herre” is a reflection of present-day decadence sporting an infectious groove that’s near impossible to resist. Drums, guitar and keyboard offset each other on alternating beats, interlacing into a solid foundation which induces the head bobs; syncopated cowbell and programmed hi-hats spark the foot-taps; Nelly’s rhythmic hollering spurs the shimmy. Sure, it’s easy to decry the distinguished literary gems he spews out about bodacious ass, the oh, so subtle invitation to strip, or the eminently eloquent thrust grunts. Harder to resist, though, is sitting still while voicing such condemnation.

  • Listen to “Hot In Herre” and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Space Oddity (1969) – David Bowie

    (Part One of The Moon In The Mind’s Eye tetralogy)

    Initially released during the summer of 1969, (when Harriet Wheeler stayed up as a little girl to watch the first mission to the moon), “Space Oddity” explores the disconnect between public adoration and one’s sense of self-worth. Major Tom’s mission allegorically recounts society’s whimsical fascinations, the trivial details over which the media trifles, and the tenuous creation of celebrity status. However, when Major Tom actually steps out into space, he steps into a psychological vacuum, realizing that he is an insignificant object tethered to a piece of metal. The mission no longer defines him: alone in space, all his accolades on Earth are meaningless. He does not feel like the man he was—Major Tom, the renowned astronaut—so much so, that he has lost the desire to pilot the spacecraft for re-entry, allowing it to continue on its course without navigation. No longer an astronaut, Tom says farewell to his wife and his former identity, orbiting the Earth incommunicado in pursuit of his re-defined existence.

  • Listen to "Space Oddity" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Major Tom (1983) – Peter Schilling

    (Part Two of The Moon In The Mind’s Eye tetralogy)

    As “Space Oddity” redux, Peter Schilling audaciously invoked a David Bowie classic, setting himself up to fail. While “Major Tom” succeeds of its own accord, the fact that it does so despite its derivative theme is a testament to the appeal of Schilling’s adaptation.

    Its pulsating synth, scraping guitar, stout bass and propulsive beat immediately distance “Major Tom” from the more deliberately paced “Space Oddity.” Schilling dwells on the details of the countdown, setting up a red herring that foreshadows a technical malfunction. As in “Space Oddity,” once in orbit, Major Tom questions the meaning of his mission. Likewise, he refuses to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, sending a farewell to his wife. To further clarify the fate of Bowie’s Major Tom, Schilling posits that he voluntarily marooned himself in orbit, perhaps suffering from dementia. What truly elevates Schilling’s version is its uplifting anthemic chorus that melodically parallels its lyrics—drifting, falling, floating. The chorus reveals a little more with each refrain, until its exultant coda is suspended in celestial background vocals, stirring the soul in a spine-tingling denouement.

  • English version not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Ghosts of American Astronauts (1988) – The Mekons

    (Part Three of The Moon In The Mind’s Eye tetralogy)

    “Ghosts of American Astronauts” is an alluring, well-disguised commentary on the values by which America defines its heroes. The grandeur of the first landing on the moon allowed America a diversion from the ongoing Vietnam War. In 1969, America regarded astronauts in general as heroes and held them in high regard, so much so that, even in death, they would remain in the public’s collective memory. The Nixon administration received the glory for the mission’s success, despite its responsibility for the quagmire in Vietnam. On the other hand, U.S. soldiers fighting in Vietnam were vilified as baby killers for whom there was no heroes’ welcome upon their return.

    For all we know, this cinematic event could have been filmed on a soundstage. [In its closing moments, My Favorites “Absolute Zero” alludes to this notion as well.] What good is landing on the moon if the freedoms of America are taken for granted or abused?: “A flag flying free in a vacuum.” Warning of the precarious missions into space to appease mankind’s brazenness, Sally Timms alludes to the inherent dangers of space travel, as if the fate of Icarus were inevitable. Indeed, two years earlier the Space Shuttle Challenger had disintegrated 73 seconds into its flight.

    Timms’ ethereal lead and double-tracked background vocals sedately bathe in lush reverb. Generous compression imparts a dreamlike sheen to the entire mix. Occasionally, a phase shifter causes the heavens above to swirl. Beguiling and insidious, “Ghosts” lulls even as it criticizes a large contingent of its audience—or at least their parents’ generation.

  • Listen to "Ghosts of American Astronauts" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Monochrome (1997) – The Sundays

    (Part Four of The Moon In The Mind’s Eye tetralogy)

    Subdued trumpets transport us back to a moment when the world gathered to watch the July 20, 1969 lunar landing. With childlike fascination, Harriet Wheeler’s delicate voice fondly recalls the hazy details of a night long ago, as if watching an old 8mm film. Wheeler uses the grammatically incorrect “me and my sister” to suggest that she was young at the time (6, in fact), when the siblings surreptitiously spied upon the guests who had gathered around the sitting room telly in the early morning hours.

    At the foot of the staircase, the girls watch the astronauts bound sluggishly across the surface of the moon, as if puppets suspended on wires, cavorting on a surreal stage. Guitar notes waver in elasticity, a state of weightless buoyancy. Wheeler recalls the comfort of hearing adult laughter—familiarity amidst the curious event they are witnessing—and the momentous beauty of the world celebrating in unison. Perhaps Wheeler also wistfully laments the loss of childhood innocence—the days when she could put blind faith in things she did not understand.

    Wheeler takes one last pull at the heartstrings by reminding us of the awe and fanciful perspective of childhood we eventually leave behind—marveling at the dangerous romance of space exploration and the uncertainty of what it all means: “And I run to look in the sky and / I half expect to hear them asking to come down / Will they fly or will they fall?” Quite possibly, to this day, a part of her still wonders. . . .

  • Listen to "Monochrome" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Thursday, February 09, 2006

    You’re Lost Little Girl (1987) – Siouxsie and The Banshees

    Siouxsie and The Banshees transform “You’re Lost Little Girl” into a vehicle that veers in a direction darker than the original. While The Doors’ version is a bit mysterious, their arrangement is also suffused with a subtle breeziness which merely hints at a girl’s mental affliction. The Banshees, on the other hand, toss her headlong into a bout with schizophrenia. Siouxsie’s aseptic intonations drift over a gloomy waltz that soon crumbles into a brazen march embellished with majestic bells, gallant flamenco strums, ceremonial synthesizers and a jittery tambourine. Negotiating the maze of an insane mind, the girl soon plunges into a nightmarish amusement park funhouse, as if circus sideshow freaks have usurped the park after-hours and forced her to confront her madness. Deranged howls spiral on a rollercoaster of erratic glockenspiel and piano in a bizarre interlude—completely foreign to the original—that typifies the ordeal of a girl interrupted, wandering the catacombs of dementia. Perhaps she will find solace in the grotesque distortions of the funhouse mirrors—the only ones which accurately reflect her reality.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Land's End" (1987)– Siouxsie and The Banshees
  • Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Grieve America (2002) – Dame Darcy

    If Winona Ryder’s character Lydia in Beetlejuice had composed a requiem for the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, it would likely materialize as “Grieve America.” Amidst discernable tape hiss, souls lost on that day sound a discombobulated dirge: an off-kilter organ in the left channel; an eerie piano in the right; a pair of ghostly female voices dead center. None share the same key or tempo . . . as if the spirits each wish to tender their own elegy. Even from beyond the grave, anti-Bush sentiment lingers: “The President came to the site / and, standing on my hand, / chanted for the U.S.A. / but doesn’t love our land.” In what appears to be the soundtrack for a morose child’s slapdash bedroom haunted house, a sound effects record crackles out its tracks in sequence: A door creak. A faint organ. Menacing laughter. A spooky slide whistle. Distant thunder. Footsteps. Cracking glass. Absolute silence abruptly follows, as if a soul is passing to the other side. A wolf howls. Maniacal laughter is abruptly cut off as the needle reaches the inner groove. Yet, rather than come off as amateurish, such inchoateness effectuates the haunting manifestation of lives that were extinguished prematurely.

  • Not available at iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Witchcraft Tips" (2002).
  • The Metro (1982) – Berlin

    “The Metro” showcases an arresting arrangement of synthesizers which cast an austere backdrop to Terri Nunn’s recollection of an erstwhile dissolution of a Parisian romance. Dual synthesizer lines simultaneously pulsate in a nimble sequence that pogos atop seven unique notes per measure, continually propelling the song’s momentum, yet maintaining a sense of apprehension. A tight drum machine, synthetic handclaps, and metallic hi-hats denote the hurried pace of rail transit. While the tale of a woman scorned in London is not remarkable in and of itself, the array of vivid and varied tones leaves a distinct impression of wartime and police sirens; time elapses in cascades and droplets of synthesizer. Nunn’s vocals are frigid in the verse, acrimonious in the chorus. Although the break-up occurred long ago, she remains emotionally imbued with pain. Her recital of very specific details of that episode discloses her preoccupation still: white clothing, dour weather, walks along the Seine River, hollow words. She imbibes to numb the bitterness, and ends up shattering her glass in indignation. A piercing sawtooth-wave synth washes in like the tide encircling Mont Saint Michel, as a slow filter sweeps across to add slight dynamics to the solo with shades of the Soviet Bloc. As the song comes to a close, a siren—complete with Doppler Effect—pans across the listening field. Perhaps a vial emptied of its sleeping pills lies next to the shards of broken glass.

  • Listen to "The Metro" and purchase at iTunes Music Store.
  • Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Meantime (2004) – The Futureheads

    An inebriated overdriven bass stumbles into a pub to challenge a couple of guitars to a brawl. The guitars hurl insults from either side of the room. Chairs begin to fly as the drums kick in. A spastic one-note guitar riff, reminiscent of Devo, pogos from side-to-side to get a better view of the fracas.

    “Meantime” is the gleeful soundtrack to roisterous hooligans skipping around a mosh pit as a prelude to a festival of fisticuffs after a football match. In keeping with this confrontational theme, vocalist Barry Hyde preempts the facade of small talk to get candid with a social gadfly he finds vexing: “And you thought that I was joking / when I said you were a moron / When I said it I was smiling / so you thought that I was joking.” Them’s fighin’ words. In casting aspersions, Hyde comes off as impudent, yet offers a diplomatic explanation for his hostility: despite Hyde’s attempts to be civil, the guy is a recidivist nuisance, perhaps with a narcissistic need to be the center of attention. Well, in that case, the guy’s askin’ for it.

  • Listen to "Meantime" and purchase at iTunes Music Store.
  • Saturday, February 04, 2006

    I Only Have Eyes For You (1959) – The Flamingos (Al Dubin/Harry Warren)

    Reflecting the starry-eyed innocence of the fifties, “I Only Have Eyes For You” embodies the golden era of dreamy doo-wop that wafted from tabletop transistor radios and soda fountain jukeboxes. At the local drive-in, an off-duty soda jerk fixes his gaze upon his “steady,” from whom his attention never strays. He is oblivious to the skies above. A hollowbody guitar gently lays its vibrato’d notes upon a pillow of double bass, as a piano softly plinks out close intervals in triplets. Snappy “doo bop shoo bops” interject. Four-part harmonies, drenched in ethereal reverb, meander in the background. Surprisingly stirring chromatic drops in the vocal melody flourish amid unexpected chord progressions throughout. The dreamy beauty of “I Only Have Eyes” sparks nostalgia for the halcyon years of post-war optimism.

  • Listen to "I Only Have Eyes For You" and purchase at iTunes Music Store.
  • War Pigs (1971) – Black Sabbath

    As with Leonard Nimoy’s “Amphibious Assault,” “War Pigs” is an anti-Vietnam War statement that translates well to the present-day war in Iraq. A blues vamp finds a soldier staggering across a battlefield strewn with fresh corpses, wartime sirens blaring. Suddenly, power chords, bass, and drums detonate intermittently. Ozzy Osbourne, his youthful voice infused with condemnation, likens generals to witches and military leaders to sorcerers, who invoke black magic to unleash death and destruction. Guitar and bass chug out a lumbering rhythm, as if armies forge ahead toward their mutual annihilation. Bill Ward’s drum fills scatter in a volley of gunfire and flying shrapnel. Ozzy reprehends the heads of government, and he could just as well be speaking of the Bush administration (in a gripe vehemently spewed 34 years later in System of A Down’s “BYOB”), accusing them of sending the poor to die in senseless wars. Finally, the Apocalypse is nigh, Satan has his day, and the world leaders responsible for the global bloodshed face unfavorable Judgment.

    While Christian fundamentalists would denounce Black Sabbath as satanic, it takes only a cursory read to realize that “War Pigs” is anti-war, warning of doom and reprobation, criticizing government for casually tossing away the lives of soldiers. Ironic, then, that the Religious Right would endorse the re-election of a hawkish George W.

  • Version not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • If (1971) – Bread

    In the same year that Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” was released, “If” also managed an end-of-the-world reference. Atop gentle arpeggios emanating from an acoustic guitar, the watery signature of a tremolo-wah radiates like ripples in the space-time continuum: probes launched to scout uncharted regions. In this pensive declaration of love, David Gates eschews frivolous notions of birds chirping, head-in-the-clouds giddiness, and hearts all aflutter. Instead, he wistfully conjures seemingly inapposite allusions to depression, astral projection, and the Universe’s demise. By the time the bass and strings emerge, the listener is left weightless in the gravity of such devotion.

  • Listen to "If" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Good Morning, Captain (1991) – Slint

    “Good Morning, Captain” is one of the finest moments in music—an exercise in purposeful dynamics and poetic storytelling cloaked in barely audible murmurs. The prevailing opinion is that the lyrics are a tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. However, if one wishes to fit the lyrics into some sort of logical framework, liberties must be taken to expand upon The Rime to enter the world of, say, The Sixth Sense, The WB/CW’s Supernatural, or CBS’s Ghost Whisperer. In that this song has assumed legendary proportions, a possible reading follows:

    [Out of the silence, a lonely guitar materializes, plinking out eerie intervals. Suddenly, a second guitar adds to the dissonance, a bass guitar drones in discord with itself, and impeccably recorded drums—all sizzling hi-hats, cutting brass snare, bellowing tom-toms and cymbal washes—slog an unearthly procession through the darkness.]

    A violent storm has shipwrecked a trade vessel. The entire crew has perished, save for the captain, who has washed ashore upon a desolate beach. When he comes to, it is dawn. He notices a solitary house not far from where he lays, its windows dimly illuminated. He drags himself across the sand toward the house and stumbles onto the doorstep, whimpering to be let inside as the morning chill bites into him.

    [The procession stops momentarily for a brief salvo of guitar and drums. The guitars join the cadence of the bass in a distinctly ominous refrain as supernatural forces converge.]

    No one answers the door. The excruciating pain in his head is relentless, causing him to lose consciousness. He awakens to find the waves lapping upon the foot of the porch. A rustling sound at the window catches his attention.

    [Shortly, amid an eruption of guitars and drums, thunderous toms roll and cymbals crash like lightning across a blustery sky. Suddenly, in the eye of the storm, a guitar pick plinks muted tones as if an extinguished spirit is re-materializing.]

    The captain sees a child peeking at him through the window, apprehensively, knowingly. The boy has been withdrawn and reclusive since his father, the captain of a trade vessel, was lost at sea a year ago. On occasion, as now, the boy hears a voice from outside that asks to be let in. He recoils from the window, withdrawing from the murmured plea.

    [The instruments recede, leaving the plaintive strains of a lone guitar.]

    A glimmer of recognition flashes through the captain’s mind. There is a strange familiarity about these waterlogged steps, the weatherbeaten door, the boarded window on the second floor. Although disoriented, the captain now recalls the tears of the son he left behind the day he set sail. He whispers a remorseful apology through the door.

    [Suddenly, distorted guitars, roiling bass and hammering drums consolidate and swell, as if a rogue wave is preparing to swallow a ship in its fury.]

    The boy knows the voice well. He responds in kind: he misses his father; he’s grown since then.

    The captain promises to make up for lost time. The boy struggles to overcome the grip of his fear, longing, and regret, knowing full well what happens next . . . every time.

    Finally mustering the courage, he flings open the front door. Alas, he is greeted by the sound of waves crashing upon the shore, a frigid wind . . . and an empty doorstep.


    An anguished howl peals from the doorway into the salty air, as the boy cries out: “I MISS YOU!!!”

    The wails fuel a torrent of churning guitars, which cast off overdriven harmonic overtones amid explosions of snare and cymbals. The ocean shatters the ship to pieces, engulfing the crew in the maelstrom, discarding flotsam, and the captain, upon the shore. As the whitewash of guitars ebbs, the captain lies motionless on the sand.

    When he comes to, it is dawn. He notices a solitary house not far from where he lays. . . . Good morning, Captain.

    * [Lyrics from the song are italicized.]

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.
  • Toxic (2003) – Britney Spears

    Let’s forget how nutty Britney Spears has become and focus on the music. It’s all about the music here. Her voice doesn’t have the soulful tone of Christina Aguilera’s, the smoothness of Mandy Moore’s, or even the uncontrolled (over)power of Jessica “Daisy Duke” Simpson. Basically, Britney sounds as if she’s singing from the roof of her mouth. In spite of all this, 2000’s “Lucky” had its moments of bubblegum brilliance. Yet, it wasn’t until “Toxic” that Britney truly had a hit worthy of being a ringtone. (Hey, it even won a Grammy in 2005 for Best Dance Recording, ya’ll.)

    Cartoonish Arabian strings immediately transport us to a land of sand dunes. The firm strums of a flamenco guitar adorn a very basic beat as Britney unveils the song’s entire premise: intoxicating kisses. Eventually, a synthesized quasi-slide whistle mimics Britney’s voice as our magic carpet glides above the desert. (The most glaring infirmity proves not to be Britney’s voice, believe it or not, but rather the blunder of producers Bloodshy & Avant in suppressing the guitar when it is called upon in the interlude. What is that feeble fuzzy static?) We are then treated to an infectious double-tracked chorus of vocal glissades, bends and jounces. In an inspired moment of Middle East-meets-Wild Wild West, a twang guitar wanders through. (Once again, why is that guitar so effete?)

    Given that “Toxic” is probably the pinnacle of her musical output, if Britney never records another note again, it may be for the best. Actually, let’s just keep our fingers crossed that she can keep Sean Preston alive.

  • Listen to "Toxic" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • 1963 (1987) – New Order

    Tucked away as the B-side to “True Faith,” and as the last song on Disc 2 of Substance, “1963” is a beautiful convergence of elegant storytelling and bittersweet melancholy. Featuring some of Bernard Sumner’s most stirring vocal melodies, the verse conveys a fond reminiscence, the transition is filled with suspicion, and the chorus becomes a desperate plea for mercy. “1963” continues New Order’s flair for the memorable drum intro in the tradition of “Blue Monday,” “Thieves Like Us,” and “Confusion.” Throughout, majestic synthesizers flutter, stab and spring about in nimble dartles. In deference to these orchestral maneuvers, (yes, I know . . .) the guitar strikes an identical chord four times before retiring, and Peter Hook’s signature flanged bass makes a cameo only at the very end.

    According to several internet sources, Sumner claims to have written this song based on a theory that John F. Kennedy had hired a hitman to kill Jackie so that he could be with Marilyn Monroe, but instead the bullet(s) hit him. If this theory is indeed floating out there, it suffers from a major logical flaw—Marilyn died on August 5, 1962; Kennedy was assassinated over a year later on November 22, 1963. Moreover, whether or not Sumner actually did write the lyrics based on a Marilyn/Kennedy/Jackie love triangle, it is difficult—indeed, ridiculous—to envision the President of the United States killing his wife at point-blank range.

    Instead, here’s a suggested backstory:

    At the age of 19, Johnny was sent to Vietnam in 1962, during the initial stages of the conflict. It is well-documented that the War ruined the lives of many soldiers, who either paid with their lives, their bodies and/or their minds. Johnny was no exception. While in Vietnam, the trauma of killing children strapped with explosives caused him to crack, losing the ability to discern wrong from right, reality from delusion. In the midst of his despair, he fell in love with a Vietnamese girl, married her, and intended to bring her to the States when the war was over. However, his tour of duty was relatively short and he soon returned back to the United States, where his waiting American wife needed to be disposed of. The song commemorates Johnny’s homecoming, told from the perspective of his wife as she realizes that he is not the same man he once was, especially once he points a pistol in her face. At the moment before her death, she exhorts her husband to spare her with a plea for mercy—words that become her epitaph.

  • Listen to "1963" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Dancing Queen (1976) – ABBA

    It’s difficult to comprehend how a disco song with such trivial lyrics can be so splendid. The key lies in its dynamic melodies, chord progressions and vocal harmonies, which are artfully symphonized to create mood changes that parallel the lyrics. The verse is a carefree jaunt in search of a discotheque, momentarily sober in need of a dance fix, swelling into a chorus of liberation where mirrored discoballs cast light upon a teen habitué dancing, jiving, time of her life(ing). The dulcet voices of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad are two of the purest pop music has ever known. The uncanny similarity in timbre infuses their vocals with the spacious warmth of dual-tracking when they sing in unison, and their slightly discernable Swedish accents enhance the appeal. Their command of harmonic interplay is showcased as their voices diverge into ascending and descending melodies in the chorus, which—by the way—contains the most gratifying “ooh ooooooh” in pop history. Seriously. That melismatic“ooh ooooooh” is pop music at its best—indulging visceral desires without regard for cerebral deficiencies.

  • Listen to "Dancing Queen" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • See also "Thank You For The Music" (1978) – ABBA