Monday, September 14, 2015

Low Horns

I've been bouncing between a few different songs at the moment. I haven't reviewed them except for 'Santeria,' because I'm just not up to writing it down at the moment I guess. But this recent thing I've finally listened to is powerful enough to make me want to write about it, largely for its horn section.

It's another Wal-Mart thing. It's played in the store for a few years, and I've always found it potentially good-sounding, but not particularly amazing enough to want me to look it up right away. Just likable. Two days ago I decided to look it up either way, which wasn't too hard.

I'll do a quick critical review first: It's simplistic in its lyrics. "I'm having a great day, because I've got things put together and a girlfriend, and the weather is nice." The progression is simple, but that's okay as all of them, apart from most 70s alternative rock songs, jazz, and older stuff really are simplistic. It's easier for people to listen to simple basic things. On a brief background, the best I could get from Wikipedia is that Luce, the band, formed fifteen years ago in San Francisco and is named after the lead singer's surname. The song here was one of their first releases.

That over with, the reason I like the song is its mixture of acoustic guitar and horns. It has a kind of coffee house indie sound to it, but not too much and not obvious in the sense that it's coming off as 'cool.' I actually dislike songs in that genre as they sound too alternative for my taste and also somewhat superior. It may be an subconscious reason for why I've never taken an interest in any Michael Cera coming-of-age film (as far as I know the end result of every film is of his losing his virginity over and over again, whether at the start (Juno) or the end (every other one)). This song is a bit more subtle in its execution of horns, acoustics and lazy octave-bouncing electric guitar.

What really makes it kick in for me is the latter half of the first verse: A low-sounding horn, perhaps a trombone, provides brief accompaniment. It's quiet and just deep, subtle but still obvious. It raises the horn section from background accompaniment to a centre-stage part of the song. Too often in pop music, when there's a horn section, they merely perform a background riff to raise the presence of the music, or do little fills. 'One World' by The Police is a great example, because it has horns virtually looping over and over again throughout the entire song. I like them, but that's all it is. I find a lot of reggae and ska music uses a simple horn riff that plays intermittently or constantly throughout a song. On the other hand, there's 'No Reply At All' by Genesis, where the horns are virtually everywhere, performing both the bass melody and the vocal melody, as well as adding other parts. They even sound silly sometimes (listen to the very beginning).

'Good Day' uses them both for fills as well as substance. They sort of fall in the middle between prominent, constant use that makes them leaders of the music, and being a mere riff that plays along the same progression. I've quickly found that this song is in G minor. The progression is a I-V-VII-I - a G-D-F-G. On a piano, the equivalent notes to the horn section are GF-D...F-D, D-F-F#G. It essentially plays the same notes, adding an F sharp (the bass guitar does the same sort of thing: G-G...BCD-D...D-F-F...F-F#-G). What elevates the horn section to more than just a background accompaniment is the way the deeper horn sneaks into that first verse, the fills, and the F-E-F build-up to the chorus. There's also a brief solo before the start of the bridge, and in general they get more prominent towards the end of the song. You could say they start off with that low singular trombone in the first verse (which plays its progression only once, briefly) and end very obviously.

This middle-ground is exactly what I personally like, so the song sits nicely with me. Unlike another song I took an interest in that I heard at the store a month or so ago, this one will probably end up in my big list. The other one sounded understated yet too wilful at the same time to me (it was 'Unpredictable' by...well, they were French).

Music: B+
Lyrics: B-

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