Whimsical: I Always Dream Of You

One of the best/worst suggestions for any musician is to put their music out on youtube. After all, it’s where all the normies go to find their music. Yet making a music video is a struggle in and of itself. The thing is, music can be this spontaneous creation that, if you have the right DAW or recording equipment, can be instantaneous gratification. Music videos on the other hand, well you have to plan for that. You actually have to film it. Then edit it. And for the absolute worst part of it, you got to wait for the video to render… Only to upload it, and get 300 views…

This is my experience. As I’ve mentioned before I used to be an aspiring filmmaker, who made cringe video upon cringe video. So whenever an artist makes a music video, I already have a lot of respect for them. Then add to the fact that this is one of the most serene beautiful bedroom pop pieces I’ve ever heard. Well then, you’ve got my attention.

First thing first, this a music blog, and I have to start with the music. The guitars are an absolute joy to listen to. They have this wonderful soothing meditative tone, and each are layered in this melodic harmony. Each guitar piece in and of itself could be the lead guitar, each of them are that melodic. Yet instead of clashing together, they compliment each other. Then when the song goes to that quiet-verse, loud-chorus structure that’s in most alternative rock bands. The guitars take a back seat. Which I am so grateful for. Turn on the radio to any rock station, and you’ll hear that Nickelback sludge guitar sound on the chorus, and it absolutely ruins every song they are featured in.

While the guitars are fantastic, what carries the song is the vocals. Which are so angelic, and so pleasing to the ear. They’re the kind of vocals, that even if Buckethead heard them, he’d probably tone it down on the guitar. It’s kind of the same principle with George Harrison, who is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Not because he was the talented virtuoso who ever played guitar, but because every single note he played complimented the song. While the Beatles had average vocals (objectively speaking, subjectively they’re the greatest singers of all time) they could make amazing vocal melodies. So having a guitarist shredding on stage, would just distract from the main focus of the song, that is the vocal melodies. And in Whimsical’s case you want to do everything in your power to highlight those amazing vocals.

Now we get into the music video. Which I really enjoy. Mainly because as I’ve said, any artist who makes a music video nowadays has my respect. But because they accomplish a lot, within a reasonable budget. Too many times I’ve seen artists get ripped off, paying $500 for a music video. When in actuality they could’ve accomplished the same feat themselves, and learned about a new art form in the process.

Most of the scenic shots seem to be from stock images, which I could be wrong about, but where the music video shines is those shots of the lead singer going down the tunnel. It’s an interesting place, couple that with a crossfade of golden clouds, and it’s like walking down a tunnel into heaven. Which fits the music perfectly.

There are a few problems I have with the music video. The strengths of the music video is how seamless the shots of the lead singer, and the crossfade of the scenic imagery is. It has that ethereal quality which does a great job of capturing the sound of the music. Yet near the end, that ethereal kind of feeling is taken away when the lead singer is too in focus. The lighting seems harsh on her, and the contrast between that and the gorgeous background makes the music video seem cheap. Kind of like when you’re watching a documentary about Romans, and all of the sudden you see one of the legionnaires in a pair of blue jeans. It takes you out of the experience.

Yet it’s a minor, itsy bitsy flaw that shouldn’t detract anyone’s enjoyment of the music, and music video. Definitely check this band out, and if you ever want to venture out into making music videos Whimsical is definitely the band you should study.

Patrick Bates: Salad Days

https://versesrecords.bandcamp.com/album/salad-days

Let’s go back in time, to the mid to late 00’s. Back when Myspace was a thing, the emo scene dominated rock music, MTV sometimes played music (?), Myspace was still a thing, and I was a long haired, skinny jean wearing, skater. Now that we’re closing on the 2010’s we’re at that period where our perspective changes on what happened back in the mid to late 00’s. To where, what was once cringey, now becomes endearing.

Listening to Patrick Bates’ Salad Days is like a trip to the past, but one that is more focused on what made the music of the past sound good. Take synthwave or even vaporwave. Nobody at the time thought elevator music, smooth jazz, synths, or lounge music was good at the time. You would literally have to be Nostradamus himself, to predict a future where people would revitalize those musical genres.

So the same principle can apply to rock music of the 00’s. When we think back to rock music of that time period we think of guyliner, emo myspace pages, My Chemical Romance, etc. Even though people can pretend that they were musically sophisticated and listened to the Garage Rock revitalization movement (that totally happened according to Spotify). Most people didn’t. I should know because I was there. All everybody listened to was emo music.

So why do I bring up emo music? Well take a listen to the guitar on this song. Specifically the guitar intro.

Now it has this fast paced, reverbed out, melancholy guitar intro. That was used in almost all of alternative rock back then. The cliche would go that there would be this quiet, intricate, fast paced guitar playing, then followed by some screams, and power chords. It was so overplayed, so overdone, and so overused; that people got sick of it, and hence where the cringe comes from.

So now listen to this song New Deal, you can hear the same type of guitar playing. Almost the same type of vocals. Yet what Patrick Bates does is that like any good artist, he knows how to sieve through the dirt to get to the gold. The fast paced intricate guitar playing was good, it still holds up, but what isn’t good is what follows: the screams, the powerchords, the breakdowns, etc. Patrick Bates understands this, and instead of playing the same formula, he uses the intricate fast paced guitar playing the same way Philip Glass uses his minimalist piano playing–to build a sense of anxiety. The guitar will lead up to somewhere only to go back to square one, we’re desperate for a resolution, then when the drums are introduced the anxiety is only further heightened, and finally when it’s resolved instead of screams we hear an expansive sound. A sound that is layered and nuanced. Which rewards the listener, you can hear the shred of some power chords, bizarre guitar bends that makes it sound like some weird 50’s sci-fi B movie, and expansive vocals that makes the vocals sound almost operatic.

Now that we’re on the subject of emo music, do you know one thing it failed spectacularly at? Making a song danceable. I know as soon as I say this there will be plenty of contrarians that will say, “Oh but this song has a nice groove” and blah blah blah blah I don’t care. Jazzba not only has an incredible groove, but one that is very rare to see in music in general. It’s a Waltz. Don’t believe me? Listen to this. Now this could be accidental. After all, the songs on this album were played live for many years, and I believe it’s because they were played for so many years, that this album sounds so refreshing. Because no matter at what venue you play at, people are going to at least want to dance to your music.

A lot of great bands who cut their teeth playing live all developed their sound playing live. And when you play live, you have to be conscientious of what kind of atmosphere you get when your music is being played. So with the brassy synths, expansive vocals, catchy chorus, stringed instruments, acoustic guitar, all structured as a waltz–it creates a romantic environment. And what do most guys who go to bars want to do? Get laid. How do you get laid? You gotta romance the girl! Yet I’m no mind reader, it’s a question of the chicken and the egg. Was this song developed as something to perform? Or is this song an incredibly great track that just so happens to be performable? I dunno. But what’s undeniable is this track would be incredible to listen to live.

Alright so enough about comparisons to emo music, because even though the album has some call backs, it’s not emo. It’s rock n’ roll. Well technically alternative rock, which is a label that distinguishes modern rock from Dad Rock. So does the music itself rock? Yes.

Alright you want an elaboration, so let’s take the first track S_T. The track doesn’t waste any time, and immediately begins with this wall of sound, that’s both tumultuous and beautiful. Yet at closer listen, you can hear the layers of this track begin to peel off. You can hear the ambient lead guitar, the amazing bass playing, and either is harmonized vocals, or some synth or guitar. Either way you get the picture.

Finally let’s move on from rock music, and go to the electronic portion of the album Fits Like a Glove. With it’s lofi electronic drum beat, warm keys, brilliant piano playing, and amazing duet it’s a pleasure to listen to. But it’s also a track that highlights Patrick Bates’ craftsmanship. Every song is incredibly well made, yet it’s when he breaks the conventions of the genre that he’s playing in that we can see his skill. Most of the time musicians generally get an idea, milk that idea for everything it’s worth, and then they regurgitate that idea in a formulaic way that just limits growth. Yet when a musician gets an idea, refines it, adds his own flair to it, and then releases it–well that’s when the mundane becomes beautiful.

This album is really for the people who listened to mid to late 00’s music, and really miss it. You can only listen to the same old songs for so long before it becomes tiresome. So I IMPLORE you to checkout this album because not only does it grow alternative rock’s soundscape. But it’s just a great album period. If more artists tried to be original (like Patrick Bates), rather than being formulaic, getting a record deal, and churning out garbage–rock music wouldn’t be on life support.

So pretty pretty please listen to this, so rock music can grow and not die. And obviously, for being such a great album, I’m going to give this album my recc.

Also here’s the bonus music video, that you’ll undoubtedly love.

Zadock Strawberry: Songs for Nemisis

There’s always something alluring to a dive bar. Sure when you’re young, dumb, and full of cum; clubs are where it’s at. But after awhile you get tired of that. You get tired of that one guy who wants to fight you because you were talking to his girl. You get tired of having to yell over the loud music. You get tired of trying to dance after a few drinks. You get tired of the 5 guys to one girl ratio at every club.

Eventually you find a dive bar, that place where either some sleazy rock n’ roll, or some melancholy song about a love long lost is being played over the old jukebox. A place where you can smoke without having to step outside. Where the person next to you can spill their entire life story, and you do the same thing of course–because who cares, neither of you are going to remember it anyway. It’s place specifically to get fucked up at–a safe space for nihilists–where the only concern isn’t getting laid, it isn’t your job, it isn’t material possessions, it isn’t your paycheck. No it’s a place to get fucked up and forget about all of that.

Every album has a set piece, and for Zadock Strawberry’s Songs for Nemisis, the dive bar would be it’s set-piece. Take Arlington Hall (I Can’t Love You Any More) the first immediate thing you would notice is that excellent intro with that the lead and rhythm guitars in this track has this melancholy reverbed out tone. Which sounds like something that would be played out in the Vegas strip–back when Vegas had good music–late at night, where only the barflys remain. Then you hear the vocals–which is this beautifully raw raspy voice–that feels like they’ve gotten acid burn from taking down too many shots, or smoked too many cigarettes. So with this voice delivering lyrics about how, “I can’t love you anymore, than I already do.” It adds to the great sense of sadness that this song carries with it, as though somebody had too much to drink and are telling way too much about themselves. The rest of the instrumentation builds up this almost confessional song–then the singing stops–you’re sitting all alone at the bar, nobody to tell your story to, and all that’s left is that deep sadness, that you hoped to get rid of 12 shots ago.

The next song Lady in the Machine provides a different kind of sadness. This is a sadness that can’t be expressed by words, because there’s no one to speak them to. The delayed piano, and frantic electronic blurts, and ambient noise like a car failing to start; provides a sense of isolation that was missing in the prior track. Where the previous track seemed like an emotional outpouring, this one feels more like an anxiety ridden sadness. As though it’s closing time, the bartender is emptying out the ashtrays, everyone is gone, except you, and even though you spilled your heart out to a stranger there’s still that sadness that remains–no matter how fucked up you get. Then as the ambient noise is all that’s left, the car that was failing to start, finally starts. It’s closing time.

Tamorudo (India Girl) [feat. Shisha McKee & Meiko Vocaloid3] is an extremely abrupt change. First off it’s electronic music, using Indian music samples, female vocals, and is glitchy while at the same time maintaining coherency. It’s such a radical departure that the song doesn’t even sound anything like the songs preceding it. Yet with any ebb and flow of an album it has a reason for being there. It can be seen as either the intermission of the album, or something to remove the listener out of their comfort zone. The introduction of Indian instruments is incredibly foreign–yet with the melancholy of the first track, and the isolation of the second–this song provides an interpretation of the sounds preceding it. Say when you join any group, let’s say you’re a goth and you join a goth group, or you’re an alcoholic and you join AA, or you’re in a music scene. Everybody who is on the outside is always called a “normie.” It’s often used dismissively to those who are outsiders, who are able to live “normal” lives, who are able to do “normal” activities, while you can’t. Why is it that you can’t? Well you and your friends can write whole entire books on that, but what you can’t do is reason how “normies” are so normal. They are so far removed from your own existence that it is as though you are in a foreign country. So when Zadock Strawberry introduces this track with it’s Indian sounds, female vocal samples, electronic beat–something foreign–he provides an insight on the outsider looking in. That, or I could be over-analyzing it all, and it was just a fun track he made and wanted to include on the album. Regardless, I’m sticking to the dive bar set piece, because I have fun writing it like that.

So on to the next song Believe, the guitar still maintains that beautiful tone (which seriously makes me want to figure out whatever setup he has) and it plucks these sad strings, that sounds both reflective and mournful. The vocals while before sounded sad, these vocals deliver a sound that is more of a wounded resignation. The acceptance that, yes the relationship is over, and yes it was never meant to happen, but it doesn’t mean that you’re not torn up over it. While the ambience in the background sounds like a saw, severing all ties to the other person, or a head-splitting hangover from the night before. Anybody who has ever been in a breakup has been guilty of those drunk late night phone calls, where you cry and try so desperately to get back together–then when it’s morning–you feel so much shame of the night before, and try to call one more time. If there was any music for that very specific feeling, this would be the soundtrack to it.

The next song, Song for Joe, is another radical departure from anything before it. The only thing tying it together is the Indian conga drums from Tamorudo (India Girl) [feat. Shisha McKee & Meiko Vocaloid3], that and the fact it’s electronically based. As well as also not having any vocals in it as well. This is a very high spirited song, one that is a lot more cheerful as the string synths flurry around, and the congas and high hats add to the enthusiasm. While the song before it was a reluctant sad resignation, this song is almost too enthusiastic, like someone lying to themselves believing that now the relationship is over they can go meet new girls. It’s the type of short lived enthusiasm that makes you hit up the gym, go on tinder, go clubbing, start volunteering, try to branch out, and meet new people. Yet as the final song of the album proves it’s hard to break old habits.

We Sailed You Here is really uses Zadok Strawberry’s great raspy voice to a different effect. Rather than sadness, it first conveys an aloof coolness, like that of a late night Jazz DJ. Yet as the frantic guitars which desperately try to hold on to a melody, it soon loses it’s control, like the guy who goes to a church social gathering and sneaks in a flask and takes one too many shots. The guitars either erratically play a melody, or attempts to solo, as the phased out ambient noise swirls around. Even the drumbeat seems a little out of control. It’s sad when a barfly tells you his life story, it’s tragic when somebody loses all control when they appear to be getting better.

Regardless of what interpretation, impressions, or biases you have. This album is definitely something worth listening to, Zadok Strawberry’s vocal performance is well worth the listen, and it’s just carries an ambience that’s worth checking out.

With that, if you’re tired of the same old sound, and want something new. Zadok Strawberry is your man. With that I give this album my recc.