Change, Growth And The Musical Direction Of A Band

Musicians end up working together as a band for many reasons. It could be a group of friends who decide they want to learn to play to be like their favorite band. They pick up instruments and learn to play together organically. It could be musicians from several established bands deciding they’d like to work together on a project. Some bands are put together using ads in online sites or fanzines. One thing you need at the beginning of a band is some kind of shared direction in the type of music you want to make. Not having a shared vision is why the vast majority of bands fall apart before they even get started (that and personality conflict – the great destroyer of any shared project among humans). So most bands that get off the ground usually have some agreement on the type of music they create when they begin. The interesting part takes place after the band has been together for a while. That’s when a big decision comes to the forefront. Do we continue with the style of music that initially made us popular? Do we try different styles of music we’ve become interested in and risk losing our diehard fans? This is the crossroads moment. And there’s no right or wrong answer. Either choice could push a band forward or make it fall apart.

Let’s take a look at a band that I think made some great decisions in their changes in direction and still maintained and even grew their popularity. For this example we’re looking at the Talking Heads. For clarity, when I talk about changes in musical style, it’s not always ‘macro’ changes. The band didn’t move from rock to jazz then to classical. They remained under the huge umbrella of ‘rock’ music, which can sometimes be so broad as to be a meaningless term. But they made very noticeable sonic changes without a change in personnel or instrumentation. And they remained popular until the decision was made to retire the band name (a decision that was not universally wanted by all the band members – another common band situation).

Talking Heads started out as a ‘punk’ band in the CBGB’s scene – although the definition of what was ‘punk’ actually seemed a bit wider then than it is today. I certainly wouldn’t compare their version of ‘punk’ to a band like the Ramones. Their first ‘hit’ song was ‘Psycho Killer’ from the album ‘Talking Heads :77’. This song did have many attributes of the early punk scene. Simple guitar parts, relatively open and separate instrumentation. Musically crisp and choppy. But even this early song had a bit of ‘funky’ to it.

The second album was ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’. The single from this album was a cover of the Al Green song ‘Take Me To The River’. This version still had a more ‘rock’ feel to it. You can hear the same instrumentation from the first album. Simple arrangement that had a lot of separation between the instruments – there was certainly added keyboard presence matching the guitar in this song. The band was moving forward but was still maintaining the basic feel they started with. This song would be changed and expanded in their live show as the band moved forward.

The next album for the band was ‘Fear Of Music’. We start to see the beginnings of a shift happening. They continued to work with Brian Eno as a producer. The sound started to move more in to what was referred to as ‘post-punk’, another term that had a wide and often quite amorphous definition. There were a number of ‘post-punk’ bands that started to move in to more ‘funk’ territory, especially the bands’ rhythm sections. I always felt that a lot of Talking Heads underpinnings relied heavily on Tina Weymouth’s bass. Her playing and the placement of her bass sound in their songs was a great influence on my taking up bass and the way I would mix songs in the future. Stand out song here was ‘Life During Wartime’. You can feel the musical direction changes here – one foot still in post-punk while moving in a different direction. Changes were happening and the band’s popularity was increasing. I think one of the reasons for growing success was that the original line up was still together and the band members all bought in to the changes. Now we can start talking about the band ‘growing’.

The band’s musical growth continued. Their next album was ‘Remain In Light’. They delved in to more afrofunk and polyrhythmic beats. They also did some changes in their studio methods, recording long jams and picking the best parts to ‘loop’ as the basis of songs. A number of accounts state that friction had started in the band. Some members felt David Byrne exerted too much control. Most of the band members were also working on individual projects. This is where a lot of bands will fall apart and go their separate ways. It appears in this case that the changes in studio style and recording helped extend the band’s life. A great example of the style achieved on this album is heard in the song ‘Crosseyed And Painless’.

The band moved musically again for their next few albums. Although they were a successful band, they hadn’t achieved real ‘mainstream success’. That changed with their next album ‘Speaking In Tongues’. Although they retained the rhythmic underpinnings of their previous work, ‘Burning Down The House’ was a more rock oriented track that broke them in to the general public consciousness. On the next album, ‘Little Creatures’, there was another stylistic shift. They moved in to ‘pop rock’ territory with the single ‘And She Was’. I think that the continued growth and change the band experienced was really what kept them together for their last few albums. I imagine achieving commercial success didn’t hurt either.

Commercial success can be a two edged sword. In one way it keeps a band together, because some form of commercial success on your own terms is the dream for most musicians. On the other hand, once you become financially independent it’s much easier to go out on your own and make your music as individual and esoteric as you want. That seems to be the case with Talking Heads, although it appears David Byrne was the main catalyst for the idea that the band wouldn’t ever by reuniting again in their original form. Their final album ‘Naked’ was a mixture of several different styles from previous projects although it did have a commercial hit in ‘Wild Wild Life’. I think they’re a great example of a band who over their career experienced change and growth in their musical direction while maintaining an original lineup. They’re also an example of a band who didn’t feel the need to stay together after this growth stopped just to keep the money flowing. I miss hearing new music from them, but I’m happy they didn’t put out numerous albums of mediocre material once the magic was gone.

April 2021 Grapevine

Spring has finally arrived. It feels so good to get outside, feel some warm sunshine and watch the flowers and plants grow. It certainly helps to clear the mind and add some positivity to day to day life. Changes in music as a business continue. The advent of online music over the years has changed how bands generate revenue. With much music being available for free online, musicians found their best revenue streams were in playing live and selling merchandise. The pandemic has imparted even more changes on the music business. The live music stream of revenue took a big hit. Bands had more difficulty getting together to practice or record. Were there any positive results to be found in music creation? I think there has been some increased creativity in some of the bands that are not huge commercial acts. More time to be ‘inside your own head’ and come up with new ideas. More willingness to take a chance on working on different styles of music. Taking opportunities to work with different artists on projects because you can create tracks and send them through the internet. Hopefully we can return to some sort of normal and the good parts of music creation that halted will return. But I hope we keep the lessons learned about the new methods of creation to make an even better music scene.

First Up: Cory Hanson – ‘Pale Horse Rider’

One of the main things that pull me in to songs is the atmosphere and feel they put across as you’re listening to them. Before you even break them down to the specific parts that touch you, the overall feel gives you a sense of place. The main tracks of this album were recorded in a home studio in Joshua Tree. Having had the opportunity to visit Joshua Tree I can hear this as a sound track to listen to as you wander through that amazing park. The desert really does have a feel all it’s own and this song captures that aura. The instrumentation and sound trend towards country/americana. You can find the guitars, strings, pedal steel and smooth languid drums. For this song the instruments are blended together so no individual piece stands out. That allows them to act as a solid backdrop to place the vocals on. The vocals are up front, set on top of the instruments. The smooth vocal delivery creates a feeling of sadness. I like the video, much of it shot in the desert. It’s interesting that Hanson’s performance in the video appears happy and funny when the music feels a bit more sad and somber. It’s a interesting contrast.

Next Up: Xixa – ‘Eve Of Agnes’

The draw in for me on this tune was the massive, wonderful percussion. We can start with just the actual ‘percussion’ instruments. You have kit drums and a wide variety of other percussion instruments driving the beat of the song. The Tuareg quintet Imraham (we’ve covered some Tuareg music in a previous Grapevine) brings percussion rhythms from North Africa. The melodic instruments continue this rhythm contribution. The guitars snake through the music, using interesting single note lines that definitely give the song a middle eastern feel and flavor. I’d recommend this song for the guitar lines alone. Keyboard synths lay down a base for all of these rhythmic flourishes to sit on top of. The vocals added have very contrasting feels, almost as if they belong to two separate songs. There’s a smooth vocal with a lot of reverb that is a little lower in the mix. When this vocal is on the music smooths out a bit. That vocal is contrasted with the Tuareg vocal that is more percussive and a bit louder and less drenched in reverb. It forms a great back and forth dialogue within the vocal part of the song. They throw in a nice change of pace at about the 2:55 point of the song. Not really a change in tempo, but they remove some of the ‘driving’ elements of the song – you can pick up the bass much more clearly. Nice way to bring the song to an end.

Finally: Julia Stone – ‘Fire In Me’

We’ll finish up with a song whose musical feel serves to highlight the vocals. The underpinnings of ‘Fire In Me’ fall in to the slow burn of electronic keyboards and percussion. The instrumental parts of the song are kept relatively simple. You can hear a bass riff and keyboard figure that repeat throughout the song. The repetition is intentional. It creates a hypnotic mood. A dark room with incense and candles burning. Music like this often feels cinematic. You could hear this song on the soundtrack of movie. It’s sounds like a scene where the character is walking in slow motion through a dark and spooky house. The vocal treatment pushes this even further – the doubling of the voice and the clarity and crisp EQ used in the recording put the vocal squarely on top of the instruments. The ‘response’ second vocal continues this mood. The keyboard is also used as a vocal like response when it comes in between the voices. Mood is the master here.

Retro: Humble Pie – ’30 Days In The Hole’

This song is from Humble Pie’s 1972 album ‘Smokin’. This is the type of song from that era that I love because of the loose feeling of the recording (another would be Rod Stewart’s ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’). It starts right in the beginning with the intro that sounds like they started taping while the band was still organizing how to start the song vocally. Great crunchy guitar comes in with the drums. The bass comes in with a nice little run in the middle of the first verse. The vocal and harmonica in the middle of the song keeps this live feeling going. I’ve talked about this in other ‘retro’ picks – the high end, crunchy guitar sound from that era still rules for me.

If You’re Feeling Adventurous……….

Divide And Dissolve are a band that work long, strange, sludgey instrumental noise experiments. It’s a noisy tune that works like background sound for the end of the world. Not for everyone, but if you’re interested in trying out music that is totally different, sometimes brutal, give it a listen.

In The Studio Ep 14 – EQ And The Foundations Of Sound

Episode 14 of ‘In The Studio’ begins our discussion of the use of frequency equalization in the recording process. This video will cover the basics of sound frequencies and EQ. In the future we will post videos showing the use of equalization in recording, mixing and mastering.

**Edit – at 2:23 in the video when ‘human hearing’ frequencies are discussed I said “20 Hertz to 20,000 Kilohertz”. It should be “20 Hertz to 20 Kilohertz“.

Let’s Talk. Classifying Music – Can You Judge A Book By It’s Cover?

You read a music review in a magazine or online. In the topic line or in the body of the article the reviewer delivers a quick description of the artist being reviewed: ‘punk rock’, ‘bluegrass’, ‘heavy metal’, ‘pop rock’, ‘funk’, ‘hardcore’, ‘classical’. Those are just some basic labels. The labeling can become extremely micro: ‘psychedelic dance party industrial flaming death rock’. We’ve touched on this phenomena a lot on this blog, particularly when reviewing songs in the Grapevine articles. But is this practice good, bad or not important at all? I believe that all of those interpretations can be accurate.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with attempting to label music. There is a vast amount of musical material available. People writing reviews are usually trying to give you a short synopsis of the music so you can decide if you want to listen. I cruise through musical ‘labels’ all the time to help decide if I want to delve deeper in to a band. But as I’ve stated before, this can have a limiting effect and cause you to miss a lot of music that you might actually like. Or it might help you look for a specific musical style online by doing a search for a musical ‘label’ to find new bands. It’s just info. You get to decide how to use it.

Let’s take an example. The Dead South is a band I’ve reviewed before. Let’s take a look at their video for the song ‘Black Lung’:

If you look at how they dress and the instruments they are playing your first thought might be bluegrass music. But is it? In articles I’ve read the band itself has often stated that they don’t consider themselves bluegrass musicians. And if you really listen to the song, I don’t think I’d consider it traditional bluegrass. This song might fall better in to Americana or folk – but again, you’d be describing the music by using a label. Some of their other songs carry a total different vibe. We have talked about this in our Messin’ With The Music series. Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs use mostly acoustic instruments when recording the covers. Again, the mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar, etc are often associated with bluegrass. We’ve consistently stated that we’re not attempting to do ‘bluegrass’ covers of the tunes despite the instrumentation. This pulls in another part of the overall picture. A band wants to present an image that they can be associated with. How you dress, how you look, the instruments you use help construct your image. It’s another form of a label. Fans are looking for something to latch on to. But it’s a label the band creates for themselves. If it’s in the band’s control, I think it’s a good thing. There are limitless examples of record labels creating an image for a band, often with disastrous results.

Let’s listen to another song. This is ‘Radio Clash’ by The Clash:

The Clash have always been considered as one of the great ‘punk’ bands. Is ‘Radio Clash’ a punk song? Musically, I’d be hard pressed to drop the song in to that category. But…….listen to the lyrics. They certainly embody the anti-authority, anti big business attitude of punk. One of the reasons that The Clash are a great band (in my opinion) is the wide variety of musical styles they covered in their career. Even though the music touches a lot of styles, the lyrics and attitude are pretty consistent. They were all about destroying ‘labels’, which in itself was part of their band identity. The Clash controlled their own identity and musical style. You can’t ask for more than that.

How about another one:

White Zombie’s ‘More Human Than Human’. Is it metal? Is it industrial? Hard rock? I can tell you what a great song it is in a dance club. So, can we label it? Would tacking a label on this song cause a lot of people to miss hearing it? If a song is really good, it can sometimes break through barriers and be heard by a wide variety of people (this video has over 31 million views). So labeling can be a two edged sword. Some bands will break through labeling and be successful. The vast majority of bands will never have this level of success. Maybe ‘classifying’ their music will help them, maybe it will hurt them. I think the most important part of the equation is the control the actual band has over their classification and image. If I’m in a band, I want to control my own music. This rolls right in to the topic of bands intentionally misrepresenting their style of music and image. I think that’s totally up to the band. You might present yourself one way to get more publicity. This might work and get people to view you and like what they hear. It could also backfire – “these guys call themselves country music? What a bunch of poseurs”. As long as the band controls their fate it works for me. Who doesn’t want to control their own fate?

One thing I miss that was always part of finding and classifying music is the vinyl album cover (although vinyl has made somewhat of a small comeback). You used to be able to browse in a record store and flip through this wonderful art. A lot of thought went in to the album cover design and the visuals were often created to bring to mind a certain classification of music. Does this Grateful Dead cover for ‘American Beauty’ catch your eye? Does it give you an idea of what the musical style would be? Would you buy the album just because of the album art?

Classifying items is a big part of how the human mind works. This is definitely true in almost any type of art. In the last couple of years I’ve fallen in love with landscape photography. I use many of the images for still pictures on videos on our YouTube channel. The following picture was taken in Yellowstone National Park. I altered it to fit with the music for a Steaming Mulch song. Is it still ‘landscape photography’? Does the viewer get to decide? My final thought – art is subjective. You make the call.

New Music from Lather Scream Moment – ‘Suburban Renewal’

We just finished recording a new single in ChurchHouse studio for the band Lather Scream Moment. It’s their first recorded song of original music. They found our studio online and decided to record here after hearing some of our work. It’s great that a bunch of newer bands have continued the culture of low-fi garage music. The truth is that this style has never really gone away. At times it has gone ‘underground’, but always seems to bubble back to the top when a band with great songs breaks through to the mainstream. When I say ‘mainstream’ I’m really talking about getting some plays and recognition. I honestly could not tell you what’s in the Billboard Top 10. Anyway, this gives me hope for the future. You always want to see new bands put their music out in the public arena regardless of what style of music they play.

It was a fun recording session. Lots of noise and guitars. A bit of controlled chaos. They gave me some examples of what they hoped for in the mix. As a recording engineer that’s a huge help. If you have an idea of what you want, let me know ahead of time. If you want me to decide how to produce the song, I’m good with that too.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the news about ‘the suburbs’ lately. They said the lyrics are about people who want to ‘escape’ the cities and when they move out develop ‘suburban paranoia’. As far as distributing the song they talked about putting it out on cassette. There’s been a vinyl revival and I guess some areas and scenes are having a cassette revival as well. Since they’re not from the area, they said they’ll keep in touch and let me know how it goes. Hopefully we’ll get to work with them again.

So here you go: Lather Scream Moment‘Suburban Renewal’

March 2021 Grapevine

Three months in to 2021. Although I’ll be happy to get to some days of warmth and sunshine, time is passing quicker than I want it to. Every coin has two sides. Anyway……… I expanded my search area for new music this month to some web sites I haven’t been on before. When I can, I mostly like to go through reviews in print magazines. They tend to be pretty concise and relatively short, so you can go through a lot of reviews pretty quickly. Online reviews tend to be much longer. Sometimes you read through a band biography before you start to hear about the album. And I really need something to click with me if I want to be able to write about it, so I look and listen to as much as time allows. But getting a broad view of what’s out there seems worth the time.

First Up: Michael Gay – ‘Long Cold Winter’

Speaking of winter. Saw this video and found it pretty amusing. So I look at a song like this on two levels. The lyrics reflect how I feel a lot of the time in winter. So it’s a good topic to make a funny song and video for. The song is lyrically pretty straight forward which is what makes a catchy fun song work well. So here’s the second part. There’s a pretty great sounding country song musically underneath the lyrics. Very nice pedal steel. Some guitars with reverb and delay. You get a real nice bass lick to start the song. Crisp drums. And a very authentic, well played country sound. I searched around and found info that the song was studio recorded as a live take. Everyone playing at once. That will give a song great feel and it takes a bit of skill. When you listen to it concentrate on the instruments once in while. The song works because it’s a total package of music, lyrics and video.

Next Up: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – ‘Minimum Brain Size’

‘Minimum Brain Size’ is a rhythmic paradise. I was caught right from the beginning with the interplay of the drums and the first guitar that comes in. I love songs that are built on riffs. And the first combo of drums and guitar feels wonderfully off balance. Bass comes in and adds it own riff. All the instruments play off one straight forward beat, but in different patterns. When the vocals come in the guitar simplifies it’s pattern. The vocal is mixed at the same level as the other instruments, so it forms it’s own rhythm. There are different background instruments that pop in and out. Electronic keyboard, a second guitar part, a few sound effects. One way they keep the song interesting is by having the main guitar play several different riffs throughout the song. Some are simpler, some are arpeggiated chords. It allows the song to have changes in tone while maintaining the same overall feel. If you’re wondering about lyrics, I suggest you look them up and go ;Ahhhhh….’ Wha? When you put lyrics at that volume level in a song it serves a purpose. The vocals become more instrumental and you hear the lyrics in little pieces and phrases. Which suits the content of the lyrics. Ex: “Riddle me this, Did you ever grow? Break the spider’s legs, Just to feed the crow, Sympathetic crowds Are not well endowed, They dance like flies on shit, Swarming in the clouds” Yup.

Finally: Hayley And The Crushers – ‘Jacaranda’

Thought we’d hit this winter month with some upbeat pop-punk. Musically this hits all the best touch points. First: crisp, trebly distorted guitar. Getting the sound just right is really important for the feel and tone of the song. There’s an art in getting just the right sound. Enough distortion that it’s crunchy, but not too much or the sound would blur. You have to be able to hear the individual strokes on each chord. If you don’t have the EQ set correctly the guitar will sound muddy. If the guitar sound is muddy it doesn’t drive the song forward. You also have to set the amp up correctly and have the right microphones placed properly. There are things we all take for granted and don’t give much thought to when we’re listening to a song. But something that seems as simple as getting that guitar sound makes all the difference. The bass sits on the chord’s root notes, mirroring the guitar chords and in essence adding a driving bottom end to the guitar. The drum sounds are also kept crisp, even the bass drum. Again, this is all set to keep the song driving forward. The vocals on top are given pretty much the same treatment. Not a lot of reverb because in this song we’re not looking for the spacey ultra reverb feel. Finally, at this time of year it’s nice to see a video of sunshine and bright colors. Makes me look forward to spring.

Retro: KMFDM – ‘Light’

So let’s end March Grapevine with a bang! German industrial dance band KMFDM (originally Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid, loosely translated by the band as “no pity for the majority”) always kick it. For me this brings back amazing memories of dance clubs that specialized in industrial dance. Being on a full dance floor when this song would come on was an unforgettable experience. Great tempo for dance, but also right up the alley for anyone who wants to ‘headbang’. As a guitar player I love KMFDM for adding amazing crunchy guitar sounds to a style that often lives on electronic keys and various sound effects. We talked about ‘riff’ guitar reviewing King Gizzard. This song has some of the coolest guitar riffs you’ll find anywhere. Top it off with a couple of very different vocals. The main vocal is deep and almost spoken. This is paired with a soaring female vocal that adds a total counterpoint to the male vocal. Lyrically – “The blind inspiration, total disillusion, Instant consecration, mind and body fusion, Frontal assault on the seven senses, Orgasmic waste, eccentric and pretentious”. Indeed! Get on up and bounce off the walls!

Steaming Mulch Remastered – ‘A Symphony Of Delirious Fluff’

For this post we have another remastered song by Steaming Mulch. It’s always fun posting a Steaming Mulch song because you never know what you’re going to get. This tune rolls through a variety of different parts. It starts with live drums, guitars and bass. As you go through the song you’ll hear vocals rolling in and out of the mix. They’re altered in a variety of ways – backwards, raising and lowering the pitch, cut and paste. The song moves in to an electronic beat. The band adds different electronic keyboard parts while the guitar floats along on top. In this song the vocals are used more as an instrument then a lyrical addition. Then live drums make their reappearance on top of the electronic beats. There are parts where the live drums have been cut in to smaller pieces and pasted back in to the song repeatedly or have been doubled. The drums have sometimes been distributed to separate stereo channels. The beats, whether live drums or electronic, tie everything together. As always, this is fun from a recording standpoint. You never quite know what’s going to happen. The songs usually have basic parts created before entering the studio, but a lot of parts are created during the recording process. You get extra credit if you can decipher what the vocals are saying (I seriously do not remember exactly what was being said – they don’t provide me with lyric sheets). Hope you have as much fun listening to it as I did recording it.

February 2021 Grapevine

February is the short month of the year. In as much as the weather is not always pleasant (I’m not big on snow, sleet and ice) I’m OK with it being a bit shorter. What to do when you can’t get outside and enjoy nature? Listen to more music. This month I’ve listened to more new material than usual. There is so much to listen to out there. I’ve heard a lot of variety and in the future may delve in to some genres that I don’t review as often. For this month we’ve got some guitar driven ‘indie’ style music. The ‘indie’ musical definition is really wide. I’ll still use that definition although I’m sure you could break songs down to their micro definitions (i.e. ‘swirly retro pop guitar driven emotion oriented vocal croon’). Does it really just fall under the huge heading of ‘rock music’? Who knows? Who cares? I have found that if the review tries to break a song down in to a several word definition in the heading and you just go by that to decide if you want to listen, you might miss a lot of good things. So, onward we go!

First Up: Hospital Bracelet – ‘Feral Rat Anthem’

The song starts out with a clean guitar running chord arpeggios. One interesting decision in recording the song is the mix of the clean guitar with the bass guitar. You almost don’t hear the bass guitar as a separate instrument. It gives the guitar a huge sounding bottom end, making it sound ‘bigger’ than just a single guitar. During these parts of the song the drums maintain a relatively simple beat, putting the emphasis on the vocals and allowing the lyrics to remain very clear and up front. The mix during these quieter parts keeps all the instruments at about the same level. When the song hits the change in dynamics, the power kicks in. The guitar adds distortion and increases it’s presence in the mix. The vocals move to a near scream. The quiet/loud dynamics in a song is used frequently by many artists. Why? It works. The feel of the music mirrors the lyrics in the song. If you want an idea of the mood of the lyrics, take a look at the picture on the album cover. See the drawing of the four hands throwing the bird? That is a good symbol for the lyrics of this song: “I really hope you learn to never forgive yourself because evеryone knows you’re a lying cheat and I hopе you’re always feeling incomplete”. Ouch. Anyone you know?

Next Up: Drive By Truckers – ‘Tough To Let Go’

There’s a number of ways to make a song memorable. It could be having an amazing instrumental or vocal hook that catches everyone’s ears. You could have amazing instrumental players, a guitarist, pianist or drummer whose part makes you stand up and take notice. Or it could be lyrics that simply burn in to you. The best combination can be great lyrics that create an emotional feeling and instrumental parts that play to those lyrics. I think ‘Tough To Let Go’ falls in to the last category. I like the instrumental sound they come up with from the very beginning. A very simple drum pattern, with a great snare sound, grounds the song in a simple beat. Organ, guitar and bass join in to fill out the instruments. Everyone backs down on the instrumental dynamics when the vocals come in. This puts the lyrics directly in the spotlight. The instruments pick up to deliver more power to the lyrics during the chorus. Between the vocal sections is a great, simple lead guitar part. Some lead guitar parts put the emphasis on the instrument. This guitar part echoes the feeling of the vocals, sad and a bit lost. What sticks with me is the lyrics. How do you let go of expectations you had and move on to new things? The lyrics probable hit you harder when you have a few years under your belt and, as the lyrics say, “you’re wondering where did all the time go?”. Where indeed?

Finally: Still Corners – ‘It’s Voodoo’

It’s interesting how different styles of music will affect you depending on your mood. As I go back over the songs picked for this Grapevine I can certainly see a pattern of mood and style. It’s tough enough being relatively house bound during an epidemic. Top that off with a week or two of no sun and way too much snow where it seems that the only time you go out is to shovel in a blizzard. These songs are the current soundtrack in my head. I think we all tend to gravitate to music that fits our internal mood. ‘It’s Voodoo’ continues this narrative. Great job on the guitar sounds and playing in this song. The band manages to have both dreamy background sounds and crisp leads. Listen to the guitar in the beginning of the song. The guitarist is ‘dead stringing’ the notes – leaving your picking hand touching the strings so the note does not ring. As a result you can really pick up the effects being used – some reverb and a great echo. The guitar sets the tone for the entire song. We don’t even have the first vocal until the song is already about a minute in. The vocal delivery matches the feel of the guitar – laid back and dream like. The band makes good use of effects on the vocal, adding a doubled vocal when they want to put emphasis on the lyric. At the three minute mark we drop down to just the guitars – one keeping a beat in the background while the other throws in some tasty lead lines. ‘It’s Voodoo’ is a song carried by the guitar feel – and that was the right mix for this tune.

Retro: Neil Young – ‘After The Gold Rush’

If you want to hear prime examples of mixing emotion with simple arrangements you can always go to Neil Young’s catalogue. His songs are also examples of how amazing songs will hold up decades after they were written and recorded. When I get a chance to hike though the high mountains, stand on the summit and look over the overwhelming beauty of nature, this is one of the songs playing in the soundtrack in my head.

Keep dreaming………

Music By The Flank – ‘Horrible’

In to the second month of 2021. February brought us a lovely snowstorm at the beginning of the week that dropped about 30 inches of snow on us. Saturday has arrived and we’re still digging out. So for this weekend we’re going to deliver another song by The Flank. This song was also on the first album, ‘At Stake’. I’ve always loved this track. It is the only song on the album that was created with a programmed drum track instead of live drums. Although I like the use of live drums on songs, creating a simplified drum track suited the music on ‘Horrible’. The instruments and vocals are played in a very rhythmic manner. We wanted to put emphasis on the melodic side of the instruments and the vocals and we thought that a full drum set might step on them a little bit. There’s always a great feeling working on a project in the studio that has no boundaries, recording what works best for each individual song. I think you tend to produce the best music when you are open to any idea that best serves the song being recorded.

Here’s The Flank’s ‘Horrible’:

Steaming Mulch Remastered – ‘Enormous And Turbo Smooth From Diamond To Rose’

We’re back with another remastered version of a song by Steaming Mulch. This song is a bit different from the last two Steaming Mulch tunes we did recent posts on. The band doesn’t worry about maintaining any particular style. Different songs sometimes have different musicians sitting in to add a new flavor. This song has live drums (which are wild just on their own) with guitars, bass and some muted vocals (no movie clips here). Much of this song was recorded live. The players were in a room together to facilitate their ability to interact when playing. The drums were recorded using direct and room mics in the main studio room with the bass and guitar amps placed in other rooms in the studio to eliminate the amp sound bleeding in to the drum tracks. There were some overdubs completed afterwards, such as the vocals, but the main part of this song is pretty much a live take. I remember this recording as being incredibly loose and fun. Also challenging as doing any kind of ‘live’ recording is. Enjoy.