Welcome to Detours Picks!
Here’s what we’ve been listening to this month!
I picked Month of May by Arcade Fire for the April song wrap-up. I know, a little early, but it’s an awesome track off of my all-time favourite album. Aside from winning album of the year at the 2010 Grammys, it took home major wins at the Junos and the Britts, and was widely critically acclaimed. This album is, as I mentioned, my favourite of all time. Hands down. Even despite the weird mixing (or lack thereof). The overall orchestration between the many core band members and the strings is really excellent and feels natural and well composed in tracks like Empty Room. The synths in songs like Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) are amazing as textural components and as lead melody workhorses. But right now I’m shining a light on one of the little gems on this album.
I like to think that Month of May is the opening of the second half of the album, on the vinyl it’s the first track of the second disc. Blasting out of the gate with a killer combo of really driving, gritty distorted guitars and a barebones drum part between the kick and snare, sitting just a little behind the beat, very relaxed and commanding. And such memorable lyrics! Right in the middle of a mostly melancholy, nostalgic trip through suburbia throughout the album, this song has a rebellious punky edge to it, with lots of repeated vocal lines – “So young – so young! So much pain for someone so young” and chants galore. Month of May is a palate-cleansing song made for head bopping. The closing vamp, with lots of layered guitars and synths and strings, has a great lyric to fade the song out into the ethereal Wasted Hours,
“Start again in the month of May/come on and throw the wires away”.
My choice for April is Hang on to Yourself by David Bowie, from the classic – and wonderfully named – 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. This one might not be one of the higher-profile tracks off this famous album, but it’s always been one that stuck in my mind, since I first started listening to Bowie’s discography. This song leads with a great, classic rock and roll sounding guitar riff which, when combined with a vocal style that’s more talking and shouting than singing, gives the track a really fun, rougher quality, especially in the context of the rest of the album. And of course, it wouldn’t be one of my picks if it didn’t have a strong, active bass line, and this one’s no exception. The bass is fast and fun to play here, and it’s no doubt one of the main reasons that this song stood out for me.
Ziggy Stardust is an important album to me on a personal level, as it was my first real introduction to David Bowie, a legendary artist who I’ve only properly appreciated in recent years. This album showed me some of the great music that I’d been missing out on. It got me to finally sit down and start listening to the rest of his work, and discovering what would go on to become one of my favourite musical artists.
LCD Soundsystem is one of my favourite bands, so it was just a matter of time before they would appear on one of these. They were at the front of my mind this month due to the weather becoming nicer, so I’ve been going for bike rides every couple of days. When I go out on my bike I like to listen to an album all the way through. LCD are the perfect band for biking to, the constant beating pulse of their songs help keep me energized and moving. Out of all the LCD albums This Is Happening is probably my favourite, and I’ve given it at least two spins this April. This album has a ton of amazing songs, but I’m going to shoutout an underappreciated gem You Wanted A Hit.
The song carries many of the characteristics of an LCD Soundsystem song, multi-layered synths, overlapping drum grooves, and a bass line that doesn’t stop chugging. If you haven’t noticed, one of my favorite things in music is layering and arranging. Similarly to the American Football song from last month and the Television song previously, I love songs that piece together many small parts to form an interesting and complex composition. LCD are one of the best at this, fusing Talking Heads-esque grooves, dance synths, and punk drums and bass into a masterclass in layering, arranging, and songwriting.
The overall song structure is also very interesting. With a seemingly unrelated intro that leads into the main section of the song. This next section being the meat of the song is structured like normal, with verses and choruses. But at the final chorus, the intro joins in with the groove and brings the song full circle.
The meaning behind the song and lyrics are pretty interesting as well, James Murphy (front man of LCD) was hanging out with Chris Martin (of Coldplay fame). When speaking about LCD’s new album and the songwriting process, Martin simply asked “Why don’t you guys just make a hit song?”. “You think I’m not trying?” Murphy thought to himself, but this led to him analyzing what a “hit” song is, and why LCD songs may not be considered “hits”. This sentiment is expressed in the lyrics:
“And so you wanted a hit, Well this is how we do hits”
And honestly I’m glad that LCD doesn’t write hits, I’d take an LCD song over a hit any day.
As the warmer months approach I felt my April pick reflecting that. This month I chose Ice Cream Sundae, a single that was released by newcomers on the indie rock scene, Inhaler.
Inhaler may be new on the scene as a band, but lead singer Elijah Hewson is no stranger to the world of rock and roll. Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, possibly the most famous Irish rock musician to ever live, is Elijah’s dad. Now you’re probably thinking it’s no wonder the band has had the success they have, but connections aside, they are the real deal.
Not only is Elijah the spitting image of his father but he was blessed with his vocal pipes as well. He sings with the ease, passion, and strength that his father does over their modern The Killers meets U2 kind of sound. This summer marks the release of their debut album, and to set things off they had Ice Cream Sundae as a stand alone release to grab the worlds attention.
As soon as the track begins you hear atmospheric synths and heavily affected string lines that help drop you into the world of the song. It’s like the chorus says “Easy as an Ice Cream Sundae” how easily the melody flows in this melancholy, yet uplifting mood. It makes you feel as if even though you are stuck in the mundane, their is hope at the end of the road.
The lyrics are quite simple and stay very much a part of complementing the mood rather then guiding it. Just like in Mr. Brightside by The Killers, they repeat the first verse in place of a second one. As a lyricist, I think if done right, this can create a nice use of repetition and circular motion within the song. Almost as if the character is still chasing the same goal, or stuck in a moment reliving the world.
It fits quite well with the overall theme of the song, “I’m in the pursuit of happiness”. It’s the opening line of the song, a perspective and goal of positivity. The character sings this at both tops of the verses, almost as if the pursuit continues. And even though the chorus is uplifting who knows if they really get there? Inhaler keeps us waiting, wanting more, and anticipating things to come from the young and exciting new band.