mtg is teaching playwriting this semester, and is considering making her students do a blogging response project, wherein they read plays, blog about what they think made those plays successful, and then read and comment on the blogs of other students who are doing the same. It's an exercise in construction through group de-construction.
Will this work for songs? Who knows? But I'm not blogging about anything else these days, and knowing more about how to successfully construct a good song would be a lot of use to me. The rules will be made up as we go along. So...
Blue Ridge Mountains -- Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut made everybody's year-end top ten list. It would have made mine if I, you know, had one. When this song comes on my machine at work, after thirty seconds I forget what I was doing and start staring wistfully out of the window. It's not just that this song is good, it's transcendent.
- It sounds epic. Dark, cavernous reverb, like we're in a cathedral. Vocal harmonies to match, it sounds almost like a boys choir in the intro.
- Interesting, unusual lead instrument. I thought it was a hammer dulcimer at first, but it turns out to be a mandolin doubled with a piano.
- Starts simple (and in mono--it's not in stereo until about half way through), and builds to a huge crescendo, but without any of the usual rock-and-roll elements. No electric guitars. No driving beats. No bass guitar at all that I can hear. Shakers, pounding on the piano, bass drum, the same lead riff we heard in the quiet parts, those same soaring harmonies all create the drive instead.
- Unusual structure. No verse/chorus per se, there's a first part and a second part that's repeated, and so is chorus-like. Definitely unlike anything you'd hear on the radio.
- Lyrically it seems like there's some mysterious family secret being referred to, but otherwise I have no idea what this song is about. And it definitely doesn't matter.
- Singer with a good and reasonably strong voice with really just a hint of character. Certainly at his edge on this song, he breaks a couple of times on the high parts, but not in a way that sounds unpleasant. He neither carries the song nor impedes it, he just kind of rides it.