Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Impressive Songs, Volume 2 (New And Improved!)

Let me start out Volume 2 with an announcement that I've worked out the bugs with Volume 1, namely by unceremoniously dumping my previous FTP hosting client for a more promising one. Let's see how that works out. Since I'm trying out a new service, let me know if you have any problems accessing the songs. I don't think anyone should. Also, since I have more space with this service, I put them in a bit lower quality MP3 format so Mac users can actually hear them without having to go through conversion processes. At first the quality annoyed me as an audiophile, but I just have to keep in mind that these are meant to be samples of the songs to whet the listener's appetite to go out and legally purchase a higher quality format if they so desire. You can follow the updated links in Volume 1 at the original posting, here, and I've also updated the link in the post "I Have A Theme Song," here.

Now, onward and upward to today's actual post. Again, my disclaimer that this is intended to expose the reader to songs they might not otherwise be exposed to, which have impressed me as having raised the bar in musicianship in one way or another. They are all being offered in fairly low quality format as a sampling so the reader might be tempted to actually buy the music in question at a higher quality. I am doing this in good faith and support of the artists. No harm is intended to the original copyright owners of the songs. If any artists do take offense to me praising their work, let me know, and I will remove their file.

Pain Of Salvation - "Ashes"
When Daniel Gildenlöw wrote The Perfect Element, Part 1, his intention was to create an album that took themes blissfully ignored by the general public and smack them across the listener's brain with frightening intensity. The album started out with two young children, both of whom were abused — the boy physically, the girl sexually, both mentally — and followed them through their intertwining childhood relationships and into late adolescence, examining how the abuses they suffered as children played into their development. The album went on to explore themes such as abandonment, drug use, sexual identity, depression, murder, and suicide. It is unequalled in emotional social commentary by any other album and many other movies. You will cry. You will be shocked. And no matter how removed you are from the subject matter at hand, you will identify with the characters, unless you are just completely heartless. "Ashes" is just one example of the explosive songwriting on the album. Interesting side note, on their live acoustic album 12:5, they reworked the song in a different key and turned this dark, ominous song into a romantic ballad.

Beck — "Nobody's Fault But My Own"
Beck is the most prolific songwriter to come down the popular music pike since Bob Dylan; you know I'd have to include a Beck song at some point. This song is musically a bit atypical of him. It's a slower, softer, reflective song than his usual faire, (or should I say "flare"?), but the lyrics are never less poignant. The somber tone of this song really lets the lyrical and emotional content of the song shine through. The thing I like the most about Beck Hansen is the way he strings together seemingly unrelated words, often implying completely different meanings to them, but making them work perfectly in context. In my opinion, this is one of the deepest songs he's come out with, and the highlight off his Mutations album.

Dream Theater — "Space Dye Vest"
This song has a long and sordid history to the point that it barely qualifies as a Dream Theater song. The only reason I'm attributing it to them and not Kevin Moore himself or his Chroma Key project is that it was performed by Dream Theater and closes their benchmark Awake album. Still, Dream Theater refuses to acknowledge the song. It was only played live once by the band as a Christmas present at an annual fan club show. The reason is that Kevin Moore quit the band just after the release of Awake, and he personally composed every detail of the song himself up to and including coaching James LaBrie how he wanted it sung. (There are demos with Kevin Moore on vocals and they sound almost identical.) Drummer and band spokesperson Mike Portnoy once said that if he knew then that Kevin Moore was planning on quitting the band, they wouldn't have released "Space Dye Vest" under their name since it wasn't really their song. Despite the controversy, you can easily see by the emotional complexity yet easy accessibility of this song when compared to that of Dream Theater's work with Kevin Moore and contrasted to their work post-Kevin Moore that Kevin was one of the staples to Dream Theater's early adeptness in songwriting. This song is immeasurably personal to me. Despite being compositionally and lyrically brilliant, Awake came out at a time in my life when I could really connect with the themes in the songs and I owe that album, particularly this song, a partial debt of gratitude for my being where I am today.

Iron Maiden - "Face In The Sand"
A mellow, almost cheerful guitar lick suddenly shifts to a dramatic, foreboding ambience which builds to an apocalyptic crescendo that explodes in the form of Bruce Dickinson singing at the top of his lungs a vision of the end times that is increasingly relevant with each passing day. The music maintains the sense of urgency and dread while Dickinson's qualities as an emotional and theatrical singer have never been proven more valid. He singlehandedly creates the overpowering sense of awe at the vision unravelling in his words while applying the appropriate amount of anger and doom in precisely the right spots. This was a sleeper from Dances of Death, largely ignored by fans and the band itself, but in my opinion it's one of the crowning achievements from the album. It blew me away both lyrically and musically from the first time I heard it. It's easily become my favorite Iron Maiden song ever.

Finally, as usual, I'm ending this with an upbeat song, one I'm sure the most demented of you will absolutely adore. This song is absolutely not work safe or kid-friendly. Since the artist has disappeared into obscurity, even on the Internet, and the album is by far no longer available, I'm offering it in a higher quality format because I believe it needs to live on and be proliferated as much as possible. It's an absolutely genius comedy song. My absolute favorte humorous song ever.

Mr. Zipp - "She Left Me For A Destitute Quadraplegic (Because Of The Good Sex)"
The lyrics sung by the nasally voiced guy are insane enough, but to add to the hilarity, they added a straight man to make comments in the background about just how insane the lyrics of the song are. The nasal guy, presumably Mr. Zipp, (although I believe they're too personalities portrayed by the same guy), rattles off the words in diligently disciplined efficiency ignoring the almost constant heckling by the straight man who is, eventually, able to keep up with the pace and insanity of the otherwise catchy song. The comments at the beginning and end only add to the intentional absurdity of the song. Also, I shoudl warn you, it starts out with a scream of horrified death. Don't worry, it makes sense in context, (if there actually is any context to be had here); I just wanted you to be warned.

Well that's it for today's round of impressive musicianship. I hope you can enjoy the songs I've selected. Please go back and listen to the songs in the
previous volume if you weren't able to access them before, and please let me know if you have trouble accessing them now so I can troubleshoot the problem. Thanks!

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