Shuffle Lessons, Vol. 9

You can find the previous Shuffle Lessons posts here.

1. “X&Y” – Coldplay, X&Y

This is one of my lesser-played tunes off of Coldplay’s third album. It just doesn’t have that initial catchiness that encourages repeat listens, yet it’s still a good song. I think I like/not love this song (and this album) because I’m prone to like anything Coldplay does, but this album definitely got a lot of flack when it was released for being kind of cold and emotionless. I can understand those criticisms listening to this song. Again, like/not love, there just isn’t anything in this tune that grabs you and emotionally shakes you by the shoulders like “What If” or “Fix You.” Listening to it closely, I feel like the guys in the band were swinging for the fences with another grandiose anthem but the end product seems a little overblown.

2. “Modern Nature” – Sondre Lerche, Faces Down

I first heard Sondre Lerche on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, when he performed the title track off of his sophomore album Two Way Monologue. I loved it, and I didn’t listen to him much again until he did the soundtrack for the movie Dan In Real Life. This song was the major song he’d already written that was featured in the movie, and it’s a nice one. It’s hard to describe Sondre Lerche’s music, but he’s got a very distinct sound. This song is a great example of it; plunky, a generous use of 7th chords, but not in an overtly cheesy way. It’s got a pleasing mix of acoustic/electric guitars, intriguing rhythm/percussion sections, and for this particular song, he’s accompanied by a female vocalist and their voices play very well against each other. Nice song.

3. “Love That Conquers” – The Swell Season, Strict Joy

This poor duo. They star in the movie Once and everybody freaks out about how great they are, and they can never live up to the hype of that movie or the soundtrack. Which is a shame, because if Strict Joy was a debut album and nobody had heard of them before, I think it would’ve been a bigger critical and commercial success. Remember how much everybody fawned over The Civil Wars when Barton Hollow came out? That album and Strict Joy are kindred spirits. Especially this song; it’s got a very strong Civil Wars vibe musically. Think “I’ve Got This Friend” with a different rhythm. In terms of the album, I gave this tune fewer listens than others, but it’s certainly a pleasant song. It’s got nice interplay between the acoustic riff and whatever acoustic instruments are adding ad-libs throughout the song. And as always, the voices of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová sound like a match made in heaven. Today’s pop culture music scene could stand have more music made by this pair.

4. “London Skies” – Jamie Cullum, Catching Tales

If you’re looking for the trademark sound of Jamie Cullum’s original tunes, look no further than “London Skies.” Oddly enough, this is not a piano-driven tune, but it still fits his sound so well. Fantastic guitar hook here, and it’s always nice to hear that from a piano player by trade. Lyrically, this is a beautifully-written love letter to London. What I love is that the London he’s writing about is not an all sunshine and roses city, but rather a city painted by gray. I read this as a hopeful song, even though it could be read as a depressing picture of the city. For the one day that I was in London, I saw this description come to life, and it was exactly what I had hoped it would be. I didn’t want the city to be sparkly, I wanted a little bit of dinginess with clouds that held back the sun, even though you knew it was there. The musical/lyrical complement in this song is what makes it so well-written; the lyrics on their own can read a bit sad, but when they’re put over the music, it adds that hopeful element that makes this song so great.

5. “Right As Rain” – Adele, 19

This tune is an exercise in scarcity. You’ve got drums, Adele, three or four back-up voices, and a bass and organ. Talk about simple. When you’ve got arguably the best pipes of our generation, you don’t need flowery arrangements. This song is built to highlight Adele. And she coasts through this thing. What’s crazy about listening to Adele is that it always seems effortless, she could sing anything thrown at her without breaking a sweat. This tune is just a simple ditty that was probably fun for her to sing. I also need to point out the insanely subtle back-up singers that show up in the second verse, providing a nice backdrop of “oooh’s” that complement Adele’s voice so well without overpowering it.

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