Tag Archives: Power of Dance

Personal Soundtrack

10 Jun

 

The Song

How Do You Do? by Hot Chip

Like to be able to dance to your love songs?  Hot Chip can help with that.  With frontman Alexis Taylor’s silky falsetto adding a lightness to lyrics that often express a sensitive and passionate worldview, the group’s beat-driven brand of electronic songs offer plenty of emotion to go along with your dance moves.  And there are a lot of dance moves to be found among propulsive anthems like “How Do You Do.”  Starting off with a percolating synth line that brings an alluring edge to the rest of the tune, the song is a joyous celebration of love that bridges the gap between the dance floors of the 80’s and the future.

Clean bursts of synths beam around a spare backbeat like laser beams through the smoke machine of a long-lost night club.  As each new layer of sound is brought in, they come together to form a jam that finally crests in a furious instrumental breakdown that demands to be danced to.  Taylor’s lyrics offer a wide-eyed celebration of his feelings towards a lover, with the refrain “How do you do it? / You make me want to live again” repeating over and over again until the whole thing becomes an anthem.  The high-paced energy of the song slows down at points to let you catch your breath, but when everything starts up again, the dance party has only gotten more furious.

The Activity

You used to think that feelings like this only existed in movies and Hallmark cards, but this full-speed, no-apologies passion that you’re currently harboring is as real as it gets.  It started casually, simply.  Just a locking of eyes across the nightclub dance floor as you both grooved to the DJ’s beat.  But ever since then, as you went from casual texts to frozen yogurt dates to massage trains in the park, your feelings for this person have grown to the point that when you think about them, your breath catches in your throat and you forgot where you are.

You are pretty sure that these feelings go both ways.  But it hasn’t been spoken yet – by either of you.  Things, relationship0-wise, are at a turning point.  It’s still just a relationship, and not a Relationship.  It’s all fun and games.  But you want more, you need it.  If it’s possible.  And the only way you’ll know if it is, is if you put all your cards on the figurative table.  The only way you know how – music.

You spend several days racking your brain for the best, most powerful way to tell them how you feel.  You listen to records and watch romantic comedies, looking for inspiration.  And then finally, you stumble across Say Anything.  The image of John Cusack raising the boom box over his head and letting Peter Gabriel do the talking for him is one that resonates with you.  Your partner in romance has a bedroom window conveniently located in the perfect location for a serenade.  But your burning love is too hot for just a re-enactment of a decades-old movie scene.  You need to do your own thing.

So you spend several more days, writing the perfect lyrics and putting the music together, playing each instrument and recording most of the song.  Most of the song except for the vocals and the keyboard part.  So that when the fateful day comes, and you have your hopeful lover waiting in the window, you can play the synthesized notes yourself.  A live show, for an audience of one.  Just you, the mic, some speakers, and the ‘Board.  And your love.  Does it work?  Do they run down and jump into your arms and start a joyful dance party, followed by some physical lovin’?  Of course.  Music always works.

Personal Soundtrack

10 Apr

 

The Song

That’s Alright by Kindness

One recurring element in 80’s music that is often missing from contemporary releases is a love of the saxophone.  Often laid over manufactured back beats, the brassy sax tones were used by artistic titans like Wham! and Oingo Boingo to bring a sophisticated, soulful funkiness to their tales of wild parties and lost love.  That Auto-tuned sax sound slowly faded along with other remnants of the Neon Decade, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s not necessarily a good thing either. That’s why it is refreshing to hear Kindness bring back the funky potential of the sax sample with his new track “That’s Alright.”

There’s a little sax freestyling in the song’s intro that offers a taste of what’s to come, but it doesn’t fully prepare for the high energy sax-synth sample that arrives gyrating wildly over the rest of the song.  And just in case the sax wasn’t retro enough for your dancing tastes, Kindness quickly introduces us to a nasty little breakdown beat right out of Paula’s Straight Up School of Music.  “That’s Alright” sounds like someone put a hit 1980s dance single through a blender, and then used the tech tools of 2012 to splice everything back together into a catchy neo-retro hybrid.  In all, the song has a party-loving element that retains a bit of a freaky edge at the same time – the repeated, bass-heavy refrain that “The beat is Bad” rings quite true.

The Activity

You’re not sure how you’ve gotten here, but you’ve found yourself in the middle of a dance party seemingly staged for some kind of music video.  There’s a synth- and sax- happy mix of ambiguously 80s music pumping over some unseen speakers, and girls in tight spandex onesies are flying around performing synchronized dance moves.  There’s no discernible entrance or exit, and you’ve just kind of shown up in the middle of the dance floor – which in a detached way, you just kind of go with.

A group of guys in matching Flock of Seagulls haircuts is grooving near you, and you begin to chuckle at their ridiculousness before realizing that you too have the feathered coiffure you had never seen in person, until today.  As you’re starting to wrap your head around this, your attention is yanked over to the appearance of a cartoon cat doing some kind of dance routine with who appears to be Paula Abdul.  You want to stop and ask someone if that’s normal here, but you’re doing the running man uncontrollably and can’t catch your breath to speak.

You try to think what song this music video could be for.  There’s not a specific reason that you can point to for the music video explanation, except for the fact that this expansive space seems like a sound stage, with the walls and ceiling a vague grayish color that reminds you of The Cosby Show.  And speaking of the Cosbys – there’s Bill and Co. themselves, off in a corner doing some carefree grooving.  Bill catches you watching him do an air sax solo and gives a big thumbs up before going back to his jam.  What the hell?  Your head’s going to explode.  And then, just as George Michael steps on to a stage that you could have sworn wasn’t there 30 seconds ago, you jolt awake in your present-day bedroom, covered in sweat.  Just some weird kind of dream about an era you weren’t even old enough to remember…but why is that soulful sax sound from outside your room getting louder?  And why can’t you stop dancing?

Personal Soundtrack

29 Mar

The Song

Sprawl II Remix by Soulwax  [Radio Rip]

 

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire

 

Easily one of the best albums of the past several years, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” has that rare timeless feel to it.  The musicianship behind the songs is incredible, and the entire album holds up just as well on the hundreth listen as it did on the first.  “The Suburbs” seems fated to enter the ‘essential’ albums canon, so that decades from now it can be pointed to as a well-crafted representation of the vague sense of dread and turmoil that marked life in 2010.  The excellent songwriting has a lot to do with the timeless feel of “The Suburbs,” especially with regards to the issues tackled in the lyrics.  Modern American life in the titular suburbs is the main focus of the album, and the lack of fulfillment coupled with a burning desire to just get out are recurring themes.

One of the standout tracks on The Suburbs is “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”.  The title refers to the overwhelming sprawl of the suburbs and the lyrics speak of life and despair in that environment over moody synthesizers.  The electronic element of “Sprawl II” opens it up to remix potential more than any other track, and DJ duo Soulwax have capitalized on that potential with an excellent re-working of the song.

Soulwax take the throbbing bass underlying the original “Sprawl II” and bring it out to forefront, tweaking and manipulating it into a funky, off-kilter beat that gets progressively dirtier as the track progresses.  Adding in what sounds like someone pounding away on a bucket fashioned into a drum, the remix has a high energy level while maintaining the moody darkness of the original.  The theme of ‘living in the sprawl’ remains intact with the new track.   Soulwax does the rare thing with a remix – creating an excellent new song that breathes on its own, while at the same time supplementing and celebrating the spirit of the original song.

The Activity

It’s another weekend morning in the suburb community you’ve called your home for the past eight years.  You moved out here pretty soon after you got married, and have now settled into the straight-shooting life of someone with a nice house, two kids, a dog, and a minivan.  You’re driving a pack of young soccer players to practice in said minivan today, fulfilling your duties as doting Soccer Parent.  One of the players is your 8-year old, who lately has been displaying an alarming tendency to be an entitled, well, brat.

The urban lifestyle of your earlier years has largely blurred into a hazy memory at this point, but there’s still some remnants of your free-spirited side that have been simmering below your well-polished demeanor for quite some time now.  The past few months in particular have been marked with constant reminders of the turbulent yet satisfying life you used to lead in that cramped loft downtown.  Ever since you and the spouse stumbled upon that rock concert at the sweaty, claustrophobic club you thought was a trendy new restaurant, you’ve been feeling more and more restless.  Your spouse quickly dismissed the raucous noise as a novelty, but you’ve quietly been out there a few times since that night, just to drink some cheap beer and let out some energy on the dance floor.  And that little rebellion has started to seep into your mindset as you go about your day in the suburbs.

In fact, this morning you’ve been feeling particularly restless, and the soccer crew is not helping things.  As you pull up to the expansive grass field, your little All-Star is the last one to disembark through the sliding door.  On his way out, he turns to you and says he doesn’t want you driving his friends anymore because everything about you is embarrassing.  And he wants the Grape Capri-Suns ready after practice, because, as he’s said Ten Times, he doesn’t drink this Cherry shit.

As the slow whir of the automatic door punctuates this little exit speech, something inside you just kind of boils over.  In a strange state of calm, you reach for the radio dial and tune to your local indie station.  A dirty little beat comes on, and you crank the volume.  With the windows down and tunes blasting out, you slowly roll the van past the rest of the parents waiting idly in their cars.  You make eye contact with most of them, and an unspoken understanding is shared with some who know how you feel.  These ones fall in line behind your vehicle as you take off into the generic suburb streets.

Riding slow, bumping dance beats, and giving the Eye to anyone who looks your way, you make your way to the parking lot of the SuperMall.  Several other like-minded individuals have joined your procession along the way, and as a particularly great song comes over the speakers, you start circling the parking lot, eventually creating a gleaming ring of vans and CRVs that can hold an epic dance party.  Scared passersby in matching khakis look on as you and the rest of your new crew break it down and let some stress out.  Because someone’s got to do it.

Personal Soundtrack

26 Feb

The Song

We Could Forever by Bonobo

 

Bonobos are a species of great apes that aren’t as well known as chimpanzees, their close relatives in the animal world.  Their relative anonymity is a shame, because they are amazing creatures that love to party.  Seriously – they are most known among anthropologists (people in the know) for their high levels of sexual behavior.  They use sex in nearly all of their group interactions, and have been observed employing and enjoying a staggering variety of sexual positions.  Bonobos are great, so it makes sense that their musical namesake is top-notch as well.  Simon Green is the man behind Bonobo, and under that moniker he’s released laid-back, dynamic electronic music that draws upon jazz, hip-hop, and distinct global sounds.

“We Could Forever” comes from Bonobo’s 2010 album “Black Sands,” and it provides the backdrop for the best international dance party you’ve never had.  The track has a humming energy from the get-go, with an urgent cymbal tap backing a percolating rhythm.  The song’s frenetic jam nears a cresting point near the halfway point, but right when you take a breath, a flute goes bananas in a breakdown and the groove continues.  “Forever” exemplifies the unique greatness of Bonobo’s music – it has instruments and sounds culled from all areas of world music, combined with electronic touches that create an immensely satisfying groove.  Sometimes Bonobo provide a funky rhythmic backdrop to your chillout time, and sometimes with songs like “We Could Forever,” they drop the subtlety and implore you to start dancing.

The Activity

You’re trekking through a lush jungle somewhere near the equator, alone with your thoughts and the low buzz of insects.  Your shirt clings to your back in the humid air and even though it’s nighttime, you have no problem finding your way under the brilliant pearly light of the full moon.  You came on this trip to get away from the grind of everyday life, and find some adventure that you’ve been sorely lacking lately.  So far, everything’s been great with your stay in this tropical and foreign land, but you still don’t feel as if you’ve had any truly crazy experiences.  You took a local’s suggestion and ventured out on a night hike, hoping to find something, and were disappointed until the faint sounds of music reached your ear.

You stopped to gauge direction, and followed the rhythmic pounding of drums as they got louder and louder.  Finally, you come upon a clearing among the vines, and find a vibrant, throbbing circle of people dancing and playing instruments around a bright fire.  There are people from all walks of life, from locals to the beautiful Australian travelers you noticed at your hostel earlier, and they are all in varying states of dance and disrobe.  You move cautiously forward into the clearing, and are noticed by a young Brazilian couple who smile and groove over your way.  The woman grabs your hand as you ask What Is This Place?  The man hands you a gourdlike instrument to shake, and simply says Dança.  And you do.

Friday Relief

24 Feb

Happy Friday! By now your boss is gone, so take off that blazer and throw on the party jacket. Have a great weekend!

[For those with limited time, the action begins at 30 seconds.]