Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jukebox: The French Semester

Jukebox is a feature where we ask our favorite artists, bloggers and DJs their opinions on four songs that are currently generating buzz. Then we ask them for songs that we should be buzzing about. This week, we put quarters in the record machine with Riaz of The French Semester...

A quick preface: our comments here reflect a thinking that 1). lyrics are paramount and 2). subtlety is the root of intensity. This doesn't mean perfect pitch and performance matter so much, it just means heavy thought goes into words and the deliveries shouldn't be in-your-face (punk died at a hospital in Orange County). This is just one way of looking at the world but we have no problem explaining . . .

Neko Case - "Middle Cyclone"
This is a great use of music box technology. I'd like to think it's all live and analog rather than sequenced but either way we'll take it. Pretty tasteful backing vocals here doing just what they should: cradling. Some good lyrics in this song, except the wayward mention of "love" perhaps.

Deer Tick - "Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)"
Beautiful use of reverb and vocal saturation. Love the familiar rootsiness of it. A great execution of an aesthetic we've sought at times. But sometimes words have a way of tracking the instrumentation more than guiding it. We prefer the latter but thats just a matter of taste. (See the Neil Halstead track below.....)

Great Northern - "Houses"
Pretty creative play between percussion and guitar at the outset but with a little foreshadow of whats to come later - which is a very big, produced-sounding chorus section. Also, the melody is actually pretty tame but the backing vocal track is really interesting. Could do with more of the negative space.

The Thermals - "Now We Can See"
Similar appeal to our ears as the Deer Tick track. Timeless sounding, esp in the chorusey vocal riff. But, the lyrics are a little preachy and nostalgic.
This seems to be a trend right now in LA bands - won't mention any names. Could do without the word "baby" but let's assume its ironic. A pretty likeable song . . .

The French Semester's Picks...

•The Spires - "Riot" (MySpace)
The whole album Writen in a Year. . . is amazing in its simplicity and inspiration. A great example how less is more, how lyrics and words take you there, and instruments are dancing. Lightly. Like they were meant to.

•Indienella - "Noche De los Meurtos Vivientes" (MySpace)
The guitar sounds are perfectly engineered from dirty to clean (!). The stocatto drum rhythm is genius, it doesn't waiver but lays out a heartbeat - in a song inspired by zombies no less. When a song seems epic without major changeups in instrumentation you know its a good one. Listen to the way the two vocals start to interact midway through: like a reverse backing falsetto effect. Makes you want to master a new language.

•Neil Halstead - "Cindy" (MySpace)
Off his latest album, the opening track. Former Mojave 3 and Slowdive lion tamer now turned straight folk-craftsman, although "folk" doesnt do it justice. This song is everything I look for: thoughtful imagistic words, great rhythm, and delicate vocal delivery. Notice how the lyrics are actually PART of the arrangement - bent around chord changes and left hanging between lines to form two separate thoughts in one sometimes. Love it.


Anonymous said...

i found this helpful.

Sarah said...

I love Great Northern and The Spires. My top two favorite bands right now.