myTunes: About Face, About Your Fame, Absence of God

15 Apr

“About Face”, Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest

Going in alphabetical order like this leads to funny little things like this: on the album Veckatimest, this particular song is placed on track 8, where it sticks out like a sore thumb to use an easy cliche. It’s the outlier, the track I would be least likely to point to as an example of the Grizzly Bear sound. No pianos, no clanging drums, and no choir boy harmonies, instead the song is built on a Radiohead-like guitar part (a fingered pattern with light distortion, punctuated by occasional blasts of metallic noise). But in this format, where it isn’t surrounded by the lushness of the rest of the album, you can appreciate the subtle inclusion of Grizzly Bear’s usual stylistic choices to evolve what could otherwise be a boilerplate “mellow alternative rock track”. The bass line is surprisingly jazzy in places, and there are some spurts of interesting syncopations and polyrhythms. Three stars.

“About Your Fame”, Apples in Stereo, Tone Soul Evolution

Like above, this song bucks the stereotypical sound of the performing band, but on closer listen reveals itself to fit well inside their repertoire. The Apples are actually probably best known for their song about the Powerpuff Girls (“The Signal in the Sky”), and it lays down the template for this Elephant 6 band (more on the Elephant 6 moment later, to be sure). Crunchy electric guitars, major key melodies, shouty background vocals immediately followed by sweetly sung background vocals, a hook that can easily be sung along with, and all at the perfect pogo-dancing tempo. But in “Heard About Your Fame” we have Hawaiian-style acoustic strum that is only doubled up with electric guitars during the refrain. The tempo is more suitable for a summer drive than a dancefloor, and the melody stays down in the midrange. Vocals are a little bit murky thanks to reverb, but the lyrics are lamenting an old friend who has started to appear on magazines and television, reminding the narrator that he misses them. It’s a bittersweet tune, perfect for a day spent laying in the sun and reflecting on the days gone by. A very pleasant experience. Four stars.

“The Absence of God”, Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous

You know how every once in a while one of your CDs randomly disappears? You didn’t leave it anywhere it could be stolen, you didn’t put it in a different case, you didn’t loan it to anyone, it just disapparates. So unfortunately, I don’t have this full album on my computer, but I did track this song back down again. This song is all 70s Ventura Highway style acoustic guitar hammer-ons and chiming keyboard sounds, giving a very sunny sound to a lyric that is actually a bit of a downer. This is, of course, one of the oldest tricks in the pop music book. Jenny Lewis’ vocals are characteristically sweet and confident as she seems to be debating with her friends (the lyrics pull references to “Rob says…” and “Morgan says…”) about just what the actual point of life is. Many references are made to misfortunes, (“we’re just recreation for all those doctors and lawyers”), as well as the general feeling that life requires learning from mistakes and finding love. But ultimately, the narrator is the final decider, and she rejects these opinions, citing her own destructive tendencies. It’s a perfect mix of sweet sounds and existentialism. Five stars.

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