Tag Archives: Saxophone

Personal Soundtrack

6 Sep

The Song

Chinatown by Destroyer

Seeped in atmosphere and packed with disparate yet vivid imagery, “Chinatown” provides one of those listening experiences in which you’re still trying to figure out what you just heard as you’re pressing ‘repeat’ for the third straight time.  And after a few days of first hearing it, snatches of chords or lyrics from the song will find their way into your head like a half-remembered moment from a long and hazy night out on the town.  There are all kinds of musical ideas and melodic runs bouncing around “Chinatown” – from the smoky brass section to the electric flourishes to the Bowie-esque vocals – and yet against all odds they coalesce into a catchy piece of pop/rock.

The unique flair of “Chinatown” is present all over Destroyer’s most recent album Kaputt and it often feels as if Dan Bejar, the man behind Destroyer, has found a way to record all of his music in exactly the same manner as which it sounds in his head.  No self-censoring, no drawing within the lines.  Just plug in the mic and go to some strange, noir-ish, lovesick cityscape.  It’s a totally different sound than anything you’ve heard in a long time.  It can take you places if you go with it.

The Activity

You should have known the dame was trouble from the moment she walked into your office, dragging on that cigarette and batting those lashes at you like she had no idea the damage they were causing.  You should have known that her whole story was fishy from the start.  That there was something going on, something underneath those smoky eyes and pouting lips that did not bode well for anyone who got involved.  Something that you, as the experienced Private Dick you are, should probably pay attention to.  And yet, you got involved.

You took the case – took it hook, line, and sinker.

There was the tailing of the husband, the skulking in shadows while you looked for evidence of the cheating habits she tearfully told you about.  There was the eavesdropping on the young girls in the bars – maybe in on it, maybe not – who she assured you were the Other Women.  One of which, she proclaimed breathlessly, would be the one that the husband would eventually bolt for.  And finally, there was the break-in of the husband’s so-called Love Pad.

He, the husband, was supposed to be out on the town when you slipped in.  As a result, you weren’t as cautious as you would have been.  You didn’t bother checking the area out before you used the key she gave you to open up the door and come waltzing right in.  Your fingerprints were – are – all over everything.  A fact that became much more important when you turned on the light in the living room of this so-called Love Pad and found the husband lying right where she left him.

The husband was just sitting there, shot through the chest with your gun – you missed that part too – and unable to do anything as she took all their cash and high-tailed it out of town.  You weren’t able to do anything either, at first, as you stood there and realized what had gone down.  That you were the mook set up to take the fall in this sordid tale, as the lady in black disappeared into the night.

That was at first though.  As you took your leave of that Love Pad and collected your thoughts, you got a little of that old flair back.  Those old smarts that have kept you alive in this city for so many years.  You took a moment to do some investigating, and found out where she was hiding.  Where you’re standing right now, smoking in the halo of the streelamp, as you wonder what to do next.  Where things always end up.

Chinatown.

 

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?