Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Electro Pop Anyone?

I have really been in the mood for pop music lately. I go through phases for sure. I have had many periods where music in the Western classical tradition has been the only variety I have enjoyed.

But I have always loved popular music as well. At first I was interested in songwriting, and I still am, but production is where much pop music these days reaches its greatest level of sophistication.

The Bird and the Bee are a really interesting group. Their latest album is "Interpreting the Masters Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates". Nine out of the ten tracks are indeed covers of Hall and Oates tunes - and they are great! But my favorite right now is the only original tune on the record - "Heard it on the Radio".

This is primarily a rhythm track - the verse is fairly repetitious melodically, but in this instance it is exactly what we need. Harmonically it is pretty interesting - the bridge into the chorus is a great connecter with a descending line into a secondary dominant. The middle instrumental section, while a bit repetitious, covers some ground. But what is great is that, while it is exploratory, it is all in service to the release into the beautiful chorus, the end of which has a cool minor iv in first inversion/ augmented feel which carries us right back into the minor vi beginning of the verse.

The best moment of the song is at around 2:25. The bass is probably the coolest part of the whole tune - it is rhythmic and funky throughout. Honestly, I don't know if it is played, programmed or a bit of both. But coming out of the bridge, the bass just lays down straight quarter notes, right on the beat, and it is the phattest thing I have heard in a while. I hear it as a stout, resolute dedication to the prettiness of pop music at its best. Damn I love it. Buy the mp3 and crank it. Crank it!

Hear is another cool electro pop song by the group Stars. The production is a bit more rockin', but less sophisticated than the previous tune. It's a cool song, but the bridge section is less successful at building tension. The song definitely loses steam. However the chorus is lovely as the singer swoops upwards "Yoouuu" - then a nice line "touch turns into fisticuffs".

It's tough to write songs that are dance-y, have good pop hooks, seem sincere and are interesting to listen to. Both these tunes pull it off.


  1. Thanks for the tip with these.
    So far I've only heard the Bird and the Bee song, but I love the subtle little harmonic touches you mentioned. I love it when bands throw in a little chromaticism that doesn't do what you think it should, like when a secondary dominant doesn't ACT as a dominant, but more of a borrowed chord. (See also Fountains of Wayne.)

    Have you heard some of the stuff Julian Casablancas did on his newest album. There some similar gestures...

  2. I have the Casablancas album, but I haven't listened it.

    Adding to my iPod now....

    Any cool Fountains of Wayne songs to recommend?

  3. "Mexican Wine" instantly comes to mind as we are discussing the applied dominants, but I love that whole _Welcome Interstate Managers_ album.

    "The Girl I Can't Forget" also has a similar chromaticism halfway through its choruses on the words "And I'd lost my keys and LOST MY PHONE"

  4. Ah, this makes me miss The Empty Suits!!

  5. I love the Julian Casablancas album.