Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Doug Spata's iPod - 2010

 Last year around this time I posted an iPod playlist and the response was overwhelming - I got TWO comments.  From people I didn't even know!  Makes me feel like the next Julie Powell.  I've expanded my iPod contents, so I thought it was time to do it again.  And to make things even more appealing, I'm going to include video links.

1. We Are Golden by MIKA.  Last year I discussed MIKA's song "Lollipop" and hoped that his next album would be just as good.  Well, interwebs, I had nothing to fear.  His second album may be even better, with even stronger melodies, more acrobatic falsetto, and bolder arrangements.  The album opener is a call to arms for eager, ambitious youth everywhere.  This song makes my heart jump.

2. Single Ladies by Beyoncé.  I am fascinated by this song.  The vocals are okay and the video is pretty good, but what amazes me every time I hear this one is that it uses polytonality.  There are two different key signatures going on at the same time - specifically, she's singing in E Major and the music (the synth bassline) is in E Minor.  This is a level of harmonic complexity unheard of in pop music and is usually found in the work of avant-garde modern composers like Philip Glass.  In fact, it's a technique that my favorite composer, Igor Stravinsky, used in The Rite of Spring.  Lots of rock musicians hover around the fringe of music and consider themselves cutting-edge innovators, but here's mainstream Beyoncé putting them all to shame.  Amazing.

Bonus Video!  Here's a great duo called Pomplamoose doing their own version of Single Ladies with more traditional harmonies:

3. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk.  Yet another fantastic dance tune with a lot of musical innovation to offer.  First: the hockett.  THE HOCKETT!!  Oh, interwebs, the use of hockett in this song makes me grin uncontrollably.  They present the first melody (on beats 1 and 3), then they present the second melody (on beats 2 and 4) then they combine them to make a whole new melody.  I loves me some good hockett and anyone who has played my music knows my infatuation with combined melodies.  Especially in Wait your Turn, A Hero's Welcome, and the accompaniment parts on Las Mariposas Exoticas.  The second innovative thing about this song: after the hockett section, it takes on the form of a theme and variations.  The traditional verse-chorus-verse form of most pop songs is thrown out the window in favor of a form favored by the likes of Brahms and Mozart.  Brilliant.  Have a listen:

4. Yeh Ishq Hai from the movie Jab We Met.  I came across this song while I was doing research for a new composition and used it as a reference point for Bollywood style.  The music is absolutely enchanting.  I love hearing the tabla drums and other Indian instruments, but the style is just right for my Western ears.  I've never seen the movie and I have no earthly idea what she's singing about, but I've seen the word "Ishq" show up in so many Bollywood song titles that I can only assume it means "love." It just proves that a good melody can communicate in any language.

5. Little Secrets by Passion Pit.  Not a lot of innovation here - it's just a really catchy song with a great beat, fantastic melodies, a killer synth part, and (like We Are Golden) a wonderful use of childrens' choir.  And y'know what?  That's perfectly okay.  Music doesn't have to be innovative to be great and this song is simply a whole lot of fun on its own terms.  Also: I heard the song before seeing the video and had an entirely different image in my head of how the band would look.  The song took me by surprise and then the band surprised me again.  Enjoy!

That's five songs - enough for now.  I'll think about another five for a different post.

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