Nick is a good friend and sometime collaborator of mine. He’s also a fantastic songwriter and a killer singer. “Evaporate” one of my favorite of his songs, off his latest album Ampersand. It’s a great example of how to fuse acoustic instrumentation with electronic elements/effects to achieve a super-contemporary feeling. “Evaporate” is also a great reminder that pop songs don’t have to take the traditional one-vibe-the-whole-way-through approach. Nick uses abrupt and unexpected changes of tonality, texture and instrumentation throughout the song to great effect. There’s a fulfilling moment when the beat first drops at 0:44. And then, at 1:54, the tune takes a surprising and deeply awesome turn—only to finally return to the slinking, stuttering R&B groove that started it all.
Candi Staton has one of my favorite voices in the history of music (besides Lauren’s, that is!). She sings with such honesty and rawness on this song about an ill-fated love affair. The emotion comes through strong, even when accompanied by a cheesy late-60s-mode “rock flute” and slightly overwrought horn lines. The lyrics—which don’t even make an effort to rhyme—have a straightforward, searching power to them. The fact there are no rhymes somehow makes the song feel all that much more honest. I particularly love the first two lines: “I can’t ignore the way your yearning eyes look at me / Oh darling, I know what we feel is wrong.”
After recording the debut album that included this song, Candi Staton went on to record mostly disco tracks. In my humble opinion, none of those songs hold a candle to the Motown-inflected balladic greatness that is “Another Man’s Woman.”
What I love most about this song is the story behind it. David Bazan was raised Pentecostal, and rose to fame as the lead singer/songwriter of the Christian indie band “Pedro the Lion.” Then he had a crisis of faith. He stopped playing churches, he left his Christian label, and he publicly declared himself agnostic. After that he recorded a solo record, featuring stunningly personal confessionals about his loss of faith. It’s basically a breakup album about breaking up with God. This is one of its best songs. I find it fascinating to hear someone sing so nakedly and honestly about doubt, with a such a palpable weariness in his voice. Feels like you can hear Bazan struggling as he sings.
This is one of my favorite songs in the world. There’s something about Nick Cave’s rough rock n’ roll voice, paired with a tender string-soaked arrangement, that I find deeply moving. I particularly love how the piano is recorded; it sounds so warm and full of life. The suspensions in the string lines create a harmonic tension that seldom resolves until at least beat two of each measure. The resulting feeling, for me, is a bittersweet yearning that beautifully matches the content of lyrics. And then there’s the moment where the drums come in at 2:55… I get shivers every time. Just the perfect moment of release.
One of the reasons I love the neo-folk duo Shovels & Rope is that it’s a husband-wife collaboration – like Sky-Pony. “Bridge on Fire” is one of my favorites of their catalogue. I find it to be a study in how effective simplicity can be. The guitar and drum parts could hardly be more rudimentary, yet I find them surprising effective. They lay an evocative foundation for the raw, reaching vocal lines. These two singers’ voices sound great together. You can tell they have years of experience harmonizing.
This is also the only song I know that rhymes a word with itself and somehow makes it work:
“Our backs were weary / And I had enough / You said ‘I want you to know what you’re walking away from’ / But it was not enough”
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