Tag Archives: Jazz

Feist: Metals

28 Dec

Broken Social Scene member Feist’s fourth solo album is another one of highly-skilled Indie-Folk-Pop.

Feist has a powerful voice. Whilst she clearly has the capacity to belt every word out at the top of her lungs à la Florence and the Machine, in most of her songs she opts, rather, to sing softly and amplify her vocal recordings, resulting in a notably textured, dynamic and emotive vocal sound.

Feist also plays her dynamics well, oscillating swiftly between bare vocals backed by subtle acoustic guitar and the fuller sound created by prominent vocal harmonies in “The Circle married the Line”, and the final minute and a half of “Undiscovered First” – shouted boisterously over a strong, forceful percussion track – contributes to the entire album as a dynamical outlier, adding more sensitivity by comparison to tracks like “Cicadas and Gulls”.

In addition to emotively-harnessed vocals and skillful work with dynamics, Feist’s music is richly instrumentally-layered. “The Bad in Each Other” – strongly folk-influenced and garbed in wise, true lyrics – exemplifies this, and “Anti Pioneer”, interwoven with Jazz and Blues, displays an ear for tiny but memorable details in the soft, shrouded however poignant piano part that comes into it towards the end.

Feist’s music is excellently finished in terms of its instrumental composition, its dynamics, and of course the rare level of sensitivity in Feist’s vocals.

 

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If only we all were the same kind of bad as you, Tom Waits…

25 Dec

There is never a dull moment with Tom Waits, least of all his latest album, Bad As Me. From fast-paced, hurry-up-and-get-on-the-damn-train bustle of opening track “Chicago” to “New Year’s Eve”: its slow, accordion-led ending track,  the album is a rich and embellished portfolio of Waits’ deft and devilish dabbling in a variety of musical styles, vocal techniques and different musical instruments.

In addition to the deep Jazz and Blues roots that extend their foliage to dapple all of Waits’ music in their shade, Bad As Me also contains elements of Country and European Folk music (also known as “listen, that’s a French accordion!”), as well as songs that cleanly fit into more modern genres like old-school Rock ‘n Roll number “Get Lost”, and classic Hard-Rock track “Satisfied”.

A particularly impressive feature of this album is Waits’ vocal versatility. In “Talking at the Same Time”, Waits sings in a sensitive – albeit still somewhat smoke-screened – falsetto, and in “Get Lost” he cranks his voice up to a choppy,  high-pitched gravel-grind that sounds like the lovechild of a dog’s growl and a wolf’s howl. Other songs, of course, feature Waits’ signature low-pitched, bourbon-soaked grunt.

In amongst Waits’ usual eerie and sinisterly-truthful lyrics are some enriching intertexual references, for example his hailing of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in “Satisfied”, and his commentary on and adaptation of “Auld Lang Syne” in “New Year’s Eve”.

Tom Waits’ Bad As Me has no filler-tracks. Every song is layered, finished and unique in its musical presentation and has its own story to tell in its lyrics. This is definitely an album worth listening to. On repeat.

 

 

Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean

12 Dec

Iron and Wine‘s fourth studio album, Kiss Each Other Clean, is poppier than prior work, however continues to present Sam Beam’s unique narrative imagery in its lyrics.

The album was titled after a line in “Your Fake Name is good enough for Me”, a saxophone-rich jazz track that cynically speaks (among other things) of the brutality of modern urban life, and the often-fickle nature of those who live it. Of the lyric “kiss each other clean”, Beam remarks to Spin.com: “”It insinuates that shit is wrong and that we’re not clean… but at the same time we’re doing something about it.”* The song, halfway through, dissolves into a slowed-down, melodically-repetitive montage of images of all the things to be represented by the urban youth of today, each metaphor encased in the repeated “we will become, become…”. The repetitive melodic structure of this cornucopia of lyrical images seems to pick up on both the personal homogeneity and the temporal repetetivity faced by the postmodern urban-dwelling youth.

Beam’s lyrics – littered with Biblical references and, in places, constructed purely from imagery (as opposed to interpretation) – continue to tell a new story (or set of stories) with each song. “Tree by the River” is the narrative of a man addressing an old lover, Mary-Ann, about the relationship they had when they were seventeen, and how things have changed since then. The narrator’s tone is both reminiscent and contemplative, and the major key of the song calmly waves aside the generic mournfulness often inherent to such nostalgic numbers.

Whilst most of the album is embellished with saxophone riffs and very obviously jazz-influenced, “Godless Brother in Love” is an exquisite layering of piano-arpeggios and each-note-noticeably-strummed guitar chords (as well as rawly-recorded vocal harmonies) straying back into Iron and Wine’s original folk style.

Also closer to Iron and Wine’s earlier music is “Walking far from Home”: “an account of a guy walking far from home, what he sees and experiences… surreal and beautiful and sad all at the same time”*. This track carries a weary feel, and could easily be played in one of the sad bits at the end of House (wait, that sounds familiar…).

Iron and Wine’s lyrics, as aforementioned, continue, despite any musical deviation, to present a patchwork of  meaningful narratives and images – often avoiding overt interpretation thereof, and hence leaving the listener to construct their own understanding of the lyrics – enforcing the value of each track as its own cryptic, adaptable story as well a piece within a collection.