Sunday, November 29, 2009

Henry Cow - "Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" (1973)

There is something of theater music in this that makes me consider its stylistic origins in Kurt Weill, though I'm not sure how much Weill as an influence accounts for what goes on here melodically and harmonically. Seemingly a sort of genre unto itself, this song is both an extraordinary composition and an extremely resourceful and beautiful sonic creation.

"Nine Funerals of the Citizen King" on Amazon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Le Orme - "Milano 1968" (1969)

Some late '60s rock music from around the world shares an emerging progressive aesthetic that's much more rooted in the pop/rock music of the preceding couple of years and, in this way, distinct from early English progressive rock. Le Orme (who would of course evolve into a prog band later on) were quite a talented band in this vein and "Milano 1968," with its compositional structure and instrumental parts, is a nice example of the style.

"Milano 1968" on Lala.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Incredible String Band - "See Your Face and Know You" (1967)

What must be almost everything that was wonderful about Robin Williamson's early songwriting style in one compact, 2:37 composition: the modal guitar writing, the natural sounding freedom in the meter, the striving after real poetry, the schooled mastery of style.

"See Your Face and Know You" on Amazon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wings - "You Gave Me the Answer" (1975)

The vocal with the megaphone effect sits very nicely in the mix so you can really hear the nuances of a virtuosic performance: the crisp hitting of notes, the tremolo, the choice of falsetto or natural voice for high notes.

Instrumental break is elaborate in context, but also efficient and economical. Deviation in the construction of the last verse is, like many other things in the song, very successful in its stylistic evocation.

"You Gave Me the Answer" on Lala.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

R.E.M. - "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville " (1984)

Such power in the stylistic evocation, composition, arrangement (piano, tremolo lead guitar) and, grandest of all, execution (vocal harmonies in the chorus). Sweeping in scope.

"(Don't Go Back to) Rockville" on Lala.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bridget St. John - "The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity" (1969)

There can be such strength in basic musical units - a chord, a note - in St. John's songs. Here, it's the construction of the one verse repeating for the song's almost four-minute duration: the holding of the chord resulting in the simple metric irregularity of the third line, the final, held notes in the concluding fourth lines.

"The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity" on Lala.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Left Banke - "Walk Away Renee" (1966)

The intro is only four notes: 4-3-2-1, which does not constitute a melody. It's only a cadence without anything preceding it.

Where did they come up with this idea? It's not a cadence that's used in any other part of the song. Could it have been the ending of a longer intro, with the beginning edited out?

In any case, it's a powerful moment that encapsulates, in about as small a package as possible, some of the great things about that period's stylistic approach to balance between compositional richness and economy in a 2:40 single.

"Walk Away Renee" on Lala.