Sunday, October 4, 2009

#88. 'It's coming, it's coming in hard'

Broken Social Scene "7/4 (Shoreline)"

I already went through the importance of You Forgot It In People to my musical development and my love of Leslie Feist's every move so there's meager pickings as far as introductory discourse here. The only other thing to introduce "Shoreline" would be a talk about how hard it is to pull off odd time signatures all that well, but that's a bit boring isn't it. Needless to say though, name a single written in 7/4 that doesn't sound the least bit awkward. Hell, name any other single that's wholly in 7/4. I'm sure they exist, but the only time I can recall it working with any degree of awesomeness is here. It's not just the odd bar of 7/4 thrown in to throw the beat off center, it's a whole song constructed around a grooving, 7/4 pattern that the whole band pulls off with the sort of aplomb you'd expect fro ma highly trained jazz ensemble more so than a ragtag bunch of indie rockers.

But it wouldn't be enough to just pull it off, would it? In order to be a truly great example of odd time-signature pop they'd need to marry it to a damned good hook and engaging vocal melody, which to be fair they do with the same level of grace that the instrumentalists do. The duet of Leslie Feist and Kevin Drew waft over the verses before the chorus is handed over to Feist solo and she rocks it the way you'd expect her to. Her shift from ethereal croon to some of her strongest vocals is incredible to witness - I've already given her her due elsewhere in this list but her work on "Shoreline" might be her best overall vocal performance, demonstrating both her range and the facility with which she can utilize that range to best serve a song. Under all that the band is laying down a heavily layered groove, with excellent melodic bass work from co-founder Brendan Canning and an overall shambolic air that makes it sound like the song could fall apart at any moment but the band knows enough to keep it on track. It's pretty indicative of the more slapdash yet more focussed air that made the bands' self-titled CD such a divisive one, but the more involved arrangements pat off beautifully the more I listen to them.

The payoff here is that absolutely glorious horn-led coda. I've always seen this song as the description of being on a beach as the tide comes in, both lyrically and musically it seems to implay the combined joy an fear of watching a particularly heavy tidal wave crash down on you, and the rise and swell of the horns in that last part is the perfect culmination of that atmosphere. Combine that with the mantraic repetition of 'It's coming, it's coming in hard' that Drew and Feist layer underneath it as it happens and it gets to the point of actually feeling as though you are on a beach letting the tide wash over you. Any time a song has that sort of feel, where the music and words are combining to replicate an experience or setting, it automatically gains my interest simply because though that level of ambition often falls short of suceeding the results are at least interesting even when they fall short. In this case that doesn't happen, everything melds together perfectly to provide something that's about as close as a purely aural experience can do to mimic that sort of situation. The initial groove is summery enough to eveoke the beach, the horns are powerful enough to mimic the approaching waves and the vocals are the guide through the experience that clarifies what's happening without being too on the nose. It's exhilarating even without the the use of drugs.

Coming up tomorrow: Manic post punk of the highest order.

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