Song of the Day: Welcome Home by Radical Face

Radical Face’s Ben Cooper is a talented and inspired musician from Jacksonville, Florida.  Cooper chose the name Radical Face after seeing these words written on a flyer; he liked the ring to it and the name stuck.  Cooper later found out that the flyer was for a plastic surgeon and the text actually read “Radical Face Lifts.” Cooper is also one-half of Electric President and Iron Orchestra and one third of Mother’s Basement.  Cooper began exploring the arts as a young boy through drawing and painting, and by middle school he was creating short movies with his friends and later, discovered his interest in music.

“Welcome Home” was featured in a Nikon commercial that replicates a montage of sentimental and memorable videos that define people and who they are.  I really like Nikon’s use of this song and the visuals they set to go along with it.  The personal value that is associated with photographs and videos, as crude or professional as they are, captures the essence of “Welcome Home,” which allows this commercial and song to seamlessly mesh together.

Cooper’s style can be deemed as acoustic and alternative rock, although it is difficult to label Radical Face’s style, as it is very dynamic.  “Welcome Home” is song filled with emotion, both lyrically and instrumentally.  You can tell Cooper’s soul is put into this song from the very beginning as the chimes blowing in the wind create a dramatic and ominous effect.  The delicate vocals that are introduced after the short musical overture gently build as the song progresses.  The introduction of the strumming guitar creates a tender dynamic to this song that is repeated in each verse.

The chorus of this song is by far the most intense part, and my favorite.  A crescendo leads to the introduction of a deep, bold piano melody.  Cooper’s lyrics are poetic, which adds to the emotion that this song portrays.  You can tell he is singing about a passionate matter, but it is difficult to completely decipher the situation Cooper is trying to depict through his articulate lyrics.  There are many meanings to “Welcome Home,” and it is left up to the listener to interpret this song as they wish, which is another aspect of this song that makes it so enjoyable to listen to.

 

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Song of the Day: New Slang by The Shins

The Shins are an indie rock band formed in 1996 from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Band members James Mercer, Joe Plummer, Jessica Dodson, Yuuki Matthews, and Richard Swift never fail to create instrumentally rich tracks tied together with expressive and animated lyrics. The many elements The Shins are able to incorporate into their music showcase each member’s musical talent.

The Shins are able to do something with their music that is becoming a rarity these days; they are able to captivate the listener and pull them deep into the song, allowing the listener to develop a personal connection with the music. The enthralling nature of their track, “New Slang,” which came out as a single in 2001 for their debut album, Oh, Inverted World, leaves me in awe every time I listen to it.

“New Slang” holds emotion behind each chord, and vigor behind each lyric. The strong and steady guitar strum that sets this song’s pace evokes a tranquil tone, while the bold and upbeat tambourine spurs a cheerful feeling. I like this song because I find it to be very versatile. It doesn’t have an overbearing sound to it that dictates your mood; instead, you are able to see the elements you want in The Shin’s subtle musical tones.

It is no wonder why The Shins have yet to fade off the music scene. Their delicate approach, deep sound, and musical ability will always be appealing to listeners who enjoy their indie rock foundation and diverse musical talent.

Music in the Movies: (500) Days of Summer

In the last segment of Music in the Movies, I focused on Quentin Tarantino’s use of music and his penchant for presenting songs as diegetic sounds. In (500) Days of Summer, the music is presented as non-diegetic but it still effectively serves the filmmaker’s goals. (500) Days of Summer is a quirky, clever, and incredibly honest romantic comedy that was released in the summer of 2009. Very witty, often quite humorous, and paced extremely well, the film was lauded by critics and landed on a number of “Top Ten” year-end lists of 2009.  It starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, a hopeless romantic, and Zooey Deschanel as the oft-distant Summer. It featured a soundtrack filled with the best that the indie rock, alternative rock and folk rock genres have to offer. More important though, instead of just being thrown into the movie randomly, these songs were employed extremely effectively, enhancing the emotionality of a number of scenes. The soundtrack fully captures the “hipness” and offbeat postmodernism that (500) Days of Summer so embodies.

The entire track listing of the soundtrack is below, but there are a number of songs that were featured in the movie which were not on the soundtrack. Belle and Sebastian’s “The Boy with the Arab Strap,” which I wrote about here, was featured, as well as Spoon’s “The Infinite Pet,” The Black Lips’ “Veni Vidi Vici,” and “The Music” by Paper Route. Several of the songs were used particularly well to increase the sentiments of a number of scenes. Regina Spektor’s “Us,” during the opening credits in conjunction with the home movies on the screen helped set a cautiously hopeful tone for the entire movie. “There Goes the Fear,” employed with a well-shot montage, also stood out to me as it almost symbolized Tom falling for Summer.

The use of “Sweet Disposition” on the train to the wedding also worked well as it reflected Tom’s hope for a second chance with Summer and instilled similar hope in the audience who at this point is already rooting for Tom. Feist’s “Mushaboom” in the very next scene was utilized similarly and it continued to echo Tom’s hopeful sentiments. The extremely clever split-screen shot that compared Tom’s expectations to reality was accompanied by Regina Spektor’s “Hero,” a perfect complement as the song starts out hopeful but ends in a dizzying disappointing tone, mirroring Tom’s feelings. “Vagabond” was utilized flawlessly, probably the best of any of the tracks. Tom had just hit rock-bottom and he was slowly recovering and picking up the broken pieces of his life. “Vagabond” conveys an inspiring feeling of re-creation, and its involvement in the scene completely enhanced its effect. “She’s Got You High” was played during the closing credits and really almost tied up the loose ends of the story, instilling confidence in the audience that Tom has truly found love this time and is happy.

(500) Days of Summer is a perfect example of effective use of music in a movie. Never overshadowing the action unfolding on screen but always providing a boost, the music helped communicate both the ecstasy and the heartbreak that Tom experiences over the course of the movie. While there were good performances and an extremely witty script, an impeccable use of music was one of the integral reasons why (500) Days of Summer was one of the surprise movies of 2009.

  1. “A Story of Boy Meets Girl” – Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen
  2. “Us” – Regina Spektor
  3. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” – The Smiths
  4. “Bad Kids” – Black Lips
  5. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” – The Smiths
  6. “There Goes the Fear” – Doves
  7. “You Make My Dreams” – Hall & Oates
  8. “Sweet Disposition” – The Temper Trap
  9. “Quelqu’un m’a dit” – Carla Bruni
  10. “Mushaboom” – Feist
  11. “Hero” – Regina Spektor
  12. “Bookends” – Simon & Garfunkel
  13. “Vagabond” – Wolfmother
  14. “She’s Got You High” – Mumm-Ra
  15. “Here Comes Your Man” – Meaghan Smith
  16. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” – She & Him

Song of the Day: Night on the Sun by Modest Mouse

There is really nothing quite like old Modest Mouse. The rawness of it is almost overpowering, and some of their newer stuff, while being more refined, seems overproduced and lacks some of the rough almost desperation you hear in some of the early tracks. “Night on the Sun” is the title track of Modest Mouse’s 1999 EP, which was released only in Japan. It’s a lengthy track, over 9 minutes long, but once again Isaac Brock proves his poetic prowess and as all the instruments seem to flow together so perfectly, the resulting instrumental segments are truly enthralling.

Despite a ridiculously expansive discography, Modest Mouse never quite gained the full notoriety they deserved. I’ve heard them compared to The Velvet Underground, as they seem to expand guitar-centric rock music to levels most have never heard of and frankly, most aren’t ready for. Like The Velvet Underground, I think Modest Mouse will come to be appreciated much more in retrospect. The Lonesome Crowded West to me is one of the best and most ambitious albums released in the last 20 years. It represented the band’s breakthrough, a creative masterpiece and was so incredibly diverse. The emotional shift from one song to the next is remarkable as the conveyance of sentiments from assured to susceptible is seamless and as such, breathtaking.”Night on the Sun” was just one of a handful I could have chosen which is a true testament of the depth of Modest Mouse’s arsenal.

Song of the Day: The Boy with the Arab Strap by Belle & Sebastian

“Color my life with the chaos of trouble”

The album cover for The Boy with the Arab Strap (1998)

“The Boy with the Arab Strap” is a song from Scottish indie pop band Belle & Sebastian’s 1998 album of the same name. While it wasn’t played in the film (500) Days of Summer its mentioned as Summer’s high school yearbook quote which was “Color my life with the chaos of trouble,” lyrics from this song. In 2011, English music magazine NME named “The Boy with the Arab Strap” the 130th best song of the last 150 years. The name is inspired by the Scottish band Arab Strap and this song almost seems to trash their lead singer, Aidan Moffat although Belle & Sebastian have refused to acknowledge this publicly. The name Belle & Sebastian is derived from Belle et Sébastien, a 1965 French children’s book by Cécile Aubry. While constantly lauded by critics, Belle & Sebastian have been a bit of a commercial disappointment as their music, which has often been described as”wistful pop,” hasn’t quite caught on with the public. Nevertheless, I really enjoy their work and this song in particular.

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