Okay, no flowery intro. I'm eating life cereal, dry, in bed, and these are songs I like, and why.
Kings of Conveniece - Homesick
Alas, decades after we'd given up the search, in Scandinavia of all places, I've discovered with much excitement and shrieking of 'eureka', the heirs to Simon & Garfunkel. The shimmery, jangling acoustic riff that opens this song sounds, to me, the way a kite looks descending slowly back to earth. Though it appears just twice, bookending the tissue-thin, layered vocals (more on those in a minute) that riff serves as the sort of musical DNA for this song, its basic code, in the same way that Dylan's 'Knockin' on Heaven's door' is immediately recognizable upon the tiniest whisper of its mournful, stairsteps-down melody. Rarely am I so moved by such straightforwardly sentimental lyrics, as with these. Singing is like acting, in the sense that, sometimes, no matter how hallmarky the words may strike you, there are some people, some voices, you believe. Oh and what a perfect picture of adult disenchantment "Everyday there's a boy in the mirror, asking me 'what are you doing here?'/ Finding all of my previous motives increasingly unclear...". Hmmm, been there. For what else is the dark side of adulthood, if not the pained, knowing disintegration of youthful idealism, of innocence. We hear that innocence, warm and trickling, like sugar dissolving into hot tea, breathed over the tinkling guitar, the "two soft voices, blended in perfection" as it were, and we cling to it, even if its just for one moment longer.
Silversun Pickups - Melatonin
Anyone who knows me knows that I could be found, this past summer, fervently and with great zeal, spreading the gospel of the Silversun Pickups. This song, is a good old-fashioned, angsty, sonic struggle, a throwback to the delicious, flannel-clad glories of the early nineties. Its most striking characteristic: Brian Aubert's adrogynous voice, fighting, with a low, melodic wail, to penetrate the thick haze of fuzzy, astral guitars. The Silversun Pickups are an L.A. band, and what could be more darkly representative of that city, and its various charms, and demons, than the following meet-cute: "She ran into the wall... We're warm comatose/ And after 6 milligrams, we're talking again...". That, friends, is a portrait of tinseltown's treacheries that rivals any. A grungy, unapologetic, left coast answer to 'New York State of Mind'. All the while, Melatonin courses along a murmuring, machine-gun, guitar line that never, ever, lets you forget the track's intensity. Building, and building, until the climax, where the vocals turn accusatory, Aubert repeating, again and again, with that cool, crunching, melancholy grit "And you sat around, and you sat around..." before it gives way, after a long breath, to the soothing break down, the white foam after the wave.
Amos Lee - Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight
This is one of those unfortunate, assymetrical songs, whose first minute, first verse holds a promise, a raw, and bursting potentiality that the latter half can't hope to deliver on. Many vocalists are accused, wrongly, of possessing a soulful voice. The genuine article is few and far between. Mr Lee, I report to you, is just that. If you close your eyes real tight, you might just hear a thin, diminished Stevie Wondery flourish in his delivery. Don't despair Amos, there can only be one Stevie. Braver still, ballsy even, is the choice to turn the hook, the chorus, on that most hackneyed of places, escaped to lyrically in American music, that place "over the rainbow...". And yet we like it, in the mouth of Amos Lee, it sounds fresh, new.