Friday, May 23, 2014


It seems that these are my R.E.M. and B-52 days for music. 'Shiny Happy People' still replays over and over, all while I live my life, go to work, peek at my archived messages on Facebook and see some profile icon of a girl kissing some other happy girl's cheek, and experience van renting. I go through these things. In 2008, for a while it was a song called 'In the City.' Early 2013, I was singing the falsetto "oooh" bits of Genesis' 'Misunderstanding' in the car (and went through a whole Genesis phase).

I should point out that it's quite a drastic change from the last decade. From at least 2005 to 2011, all I ever listened to, virtually, was Madness. There was a small variety of different stuff I listened to, but they weren't as constant as that 80s British band. If I had a song playing in high rotation in my head, it was a Madness one, just different over time. It started with 'Our House.' Then 'Calling Cards.' Then 'Sunday Morning' at one point, and 'The Sun and the Rain.' 'Not Home Today came around eventually, until I had listened to almost everything and had minor favourites throughout. There were random other stuff I heard that I liked, whether it be 'Freeze Frame' by the J. Geils Band or 'Ah! Leah!' by Donnie Iris, but starting in 2012...there's a variety of Canadian, British, and (even) American stuff that I can't get enough of. It's amazing. And I'm going from genre to genre in the sense that I generally enjoyed something like Alternative rock or New Wave or even electronica (like that 'It Feels so Good' song) but never paid attention to it because I was so obsessed with Madness-sounding stuff, ska and reggae and minor pop.

These days it's the Alternative Rock of the early 90s, just predating grunge, for me. I'm heading here from one Athens-based band to another, The B-52s with their song 'Roam.'

I'd heard it in the background of my life before (like in stores or perhaps on TV or the radio) and knew the general chorus, but never really tried listening to it properly. I did once, and appreciated the easy, bright guitar chords, but disliked the growly tones of the Pierson/Wilson duo during the verses. You know in singing when a woman tries to growl her voice in a sort of deep or forceful way? I personally dislike it. While I enjoy vocals, female or otherwise, in a song, I always cringe at female solo performances because of how high or pointedly inflected their voices can sound, virtually piercing my ears. Once or twice in high school, instead of playing the National Anthem in the morning, they got a girl to sing it. I cringed half of the time due to her powerful, high voice. There wasn't anything wrong with it, it was just sensitive to my ears...and I dislike it as a result.

Those growly tones put me off from listening to it again until recently. Taking my broader musical tastes and interests into account, I decided to re-look up the mogg. files people have placed online of songs. One of the things I love to do with a song is take it apart, literally, and hear how it works, instrument by instrument. You can do that to an effect by turning the volume down, or slowing the song down in Audacity or Audition, or trying the centre channel extractor in either program, which removes certain instruments from the mix. Or, most effectively, you can look up the mogg. files of songs games like Rockband or Guitar Hero have master-tracked into their games, mogg. files that people have uploaded, and download them to hear each original instrument track and mix.

It's amazing when you want to get an acute sense of how a song was recorded (to an extent) as well as how each exact instrument sounds, exactly. Thanks to the mogg. files of certain songs I've looked up that I like, I know how the drums and bass were played, and I'm able to hear each note by ear directly, without the rest of the song to distract me. Did you know that a second drum is hit simultaneously with the snare drum in 'Losing my Religion' except for the chorus? It's like the drummer hit the snare and floor tom at the same time each time, giving the backbeat of the song a deep tone. I didn't even realize that until I heard them directly.

Anyway, getting back to 'Roam,' I saw it listed and decided to try the music again. I could mute the vocals altogether if I wanted. I opened it in Audacity and solo'ed the drum, bass, and guitar tracks.

What I got was something that was sunny, on the move, bright, and always brought down to earth by the end of each musical procession by a beautiful B note or chord.

The song starts on E and always ends on B, whether those notes or chords in between are D or A or whatever. It does sound somewhat similar to R.E.M.'s early 90s stuff, in terms of guitar sound I think - unique on its own to a point, but with similarities in brightness and procession. That B at the end just resolves it perfectly - like it comes back down to earth, returns to sense, whatever. I get two synesthetic spatial directions - East and Southeast. During the chorus it's more of a morning orange, and during the verses, especially after an A note/chord, it's a bright, easy green in a southeast direction. I get likable, easy relating personality. I see myself in it as well, as if I naturally occupy that sound or direction or colour. I could go on and on about that one musical note. The guitar on the E procession after the second chorus gives me a noon light and it's like I'm looking up at an almost sunny-white sky in a slightly west direction, as if I'm looking up out of a convertable or roof window of a car, as we're travelling west on an adventure. The E...D, E (high), and B.

The lyrics aren't that bad...I listened to them again and it's just that one obvious time during the second verse where both of them get growly, like they have a severe cold and their voices are way off. They don't even execute it very well. But the rest of the vocals are well-delivered, especially the hip-to-hip refrain heading into the end, where they just repeat that verse. They harmonize their voices beautifully to that B at the end, with the words "through the wilderness." It's lovely. And I've already said that Kate Pierson's voice is extremely attractive, at least in the 'Shiny Happy People' song. It's kind of proven during that fade away, over the B. Awesome inflections with those last three actually gives me some euphoria when I hear it.

The song generally synesthetically gives me an adventure-based viewpoint, but that's just influence from the lyrics (lyrical influence does apply to synesthesia). That's how I get that sort of 'the world is at your feet' feeling from the music and that aforementioned white-sky on a road trip.

It's quite a good song to listen to, vocals or not. They seem to paint a slightly romantic view of travel, the way they sing about trips starting with kisses and traveling "with the love we feel." It retrospectively reminds me of that girl I was best friends with late last was her #1 passion. I even sung the chorus in front of her once and she responded that she "knew the song." Good memories.

That song uses B so darn well...

Justin C.

-Oh yes, right...if you apparently have a happy relationship, you don't need to hang about here. I'm the distant past. This place just harms the relationship. Gee.

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