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Archive for October, 2010

*gentle applause*

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Coachella

This is pretty dang cool.

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I love nearly all sorts of music, I really do. I think the exceptions are typically screamer-rock and Nickelback. But don’t think I don’t enjoy harder rock, though. Who can argue the brilliance of Rage Against the Machine? I can’t and won’t.

But when I think of all the genres and styles that I’ve heard the one characteristic that I find in the music I never tire of is a strong melody. Not surprising at all. But at a time when more and more music is composed in an attempt to be innovative rather than stand as strong songs I find a catchy melody terribly attractive. Don’t we all, though?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love hearing new sounds, fresh approaches to crafting what we know as songs, different approaches to come up with a different soundtrack. But, for me, there’s just something arresting about a great melody.

I remember when I first heard Katy Perry’s single, “California Girls.” I thought it was lame. Then I heard her single, “Teenage Dream” and I couldn’t stop listening to it. Such a catchy song. Okay, maybe that’s not the best example…

If I were to list movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park most people could immediately hum a melody from the films’ soundtrack. John Williams proved his brilliance time and again in composing such striking melodies to fit any scene he provided a soundtrack for. He’s not alone. Even as write, I can hum the theme for “John Locke” that Michael Giacchino composed for LOST which I remember from the show’s earlier seasons. So good.

I don’t dare compare beautiful classical pieces with modern pop music but they share a common element in the weight of a strong melody. This is only my view but I feel that a song with great production and creativity but a weak melody can not stand up to a song that’s recorded poorly and simply but has a great melody. Again, that’s just me. I can think of a hundred songs using the latest tricks to achieve a great recording but I usually can’t handle more than a couple of listens to it. Contrast that with a poorly recorded demo of Rich Mullins‘, a song I have yet to tire of.

And all of this brings me to Colbie Caillat.

I love Colbie’s music but I can’t say I’ve been a super huge fan. I don’t dislike her at all, I just don’t keep up with her every move. I hope that makes sense.

I remember hearing a song from her first album, Coco, while randomly walking around Target one day, before her single “Bubbly” blew up as a hit. It sometimes takes only one song to win me over so I ended up buying the album that day. I don’t think I listened to any other CD for the next month. “Beautiful” and “simple” were about the only words I had to describe it. Hearing her songs on the radio gave me hope for pop music again.

I have her second record, Breakthrough, but I never gave it the thorough listen it deserved. I did that recently and, much like her debut, it is full of the same beautiful, simple music. And this realization hit me about Colbie: she’s one of the best artists out there who can craft a strong pop song with no frills or tricks or gimmick.

Her songs have brilliantly strong melodies, so strong that the music that supports it is perfectly simple. If you listen to her albums a majority of the tracks don’t possess a distinctive musical motif or instrumentation. It’s just enough to showcase the melody and that’s really it. It’s almost to the point where if you could mute the entire band on the record and listen to only her voice sing, it wouldn’t be much weaker of a song, if at all.

Now, I’m not saying that Colbie Caillat can’t be beat or that hers are the greatest songs ever. But I feel like she’s one of the few popular artists out there who can pull this style off. And maybe that’s not a bad gauge for the quality of a melody. How singable or listenable is a song if you strip away everything but the melody? Maybe occasionally depriving a song of recording gimmicks or unusual sounds will force us to craft a better song. Sometimes simple is a better way to go.

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Okay, so today I bought Maria Mena‘s album “Cause And Effect” and I’m simply in love with it all. Call me a sap but it’s turned out to be a very refreshing soundtrack and one I know I’m going to be coming back to again and again.

Here’s the one song I heard that won me over.

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You can buy it here.

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