Believe you me, I didn't intend to spend three days answering the simple question of "what's so great about ________?" but something happened right after I posted yesterday's column. Here's the story:
Each week, Torr posts lists of albums and singles coming out in the US and the UK. Sometimes he adds a brief little comment to an item (sometimes positive, sometimes negative, sometimes in-between). Knowing that he doesn't often rave about stuff (at least from what I've seen), when he does rave about something, I'm likely to check it out. He recently posted about a single by a band called Boy Kill Boy, declaring their single "Suzie," "Perhaps the single of the year." When he posted a link that had four tracks from Civilian, the band's forthcoming album (including "Suzie"), I downloaded the track. Immediately upon listening to it, I loved it. But why?
Shortly after a guitar fade-in, drums and guitar kick in with an upbeat feel and an ascending guitar riff. Reminding me of the Upper Room (another band Torr has raved about) in parts of the instrumental department and Maximo Park in the vocals and instrumental departments, I was really taken by its super-catchy chorus of "Countdown/Countdown/Countdown to the disappointment." I'm a sucker for songs that grab me right away and don't get stale after repeated listens. I'm not sure if I would call "Suzie" the single of the year, but it's definitely one of the best new songs I've heard all year.
Another song I've really been enjoying since the first listen is Secret Machines' "Lightning Blue Eyes." Yes, I have spoken at length about these guys' new record (Ten Silver Drops) because I really like this record. Another upbeat tune, I love the roomy-sounding drums, the tight/muted keyboards, bass and guitar lines in the verses and then the building pre-chorus leading to a big chorus. However, the song doesn't blow its load when they reach the chorus. Holding the instruments back to let the vocals sing the chorus melody is a wonderful tease of what's to come. When the chorus' melody is next played on a guitar lead and then played with vocals and the guitar, keyboards and bass, this all creates a great payoff. Then there are the simple vocal harmonies courtesy of Ben and Brandon that augment a later run around the chorus. What you have here are different variations of a great melody under a solid, straight-ahead beat.
When I listen to music that I like, I tend to act in a few different ways. I may tap my fingers along or I may air-drum or air-guitar along. Oftentimes melodies that I like give me a warm feeling (as in, nerves in my body make me feel warm and certain muscles in my neck tighten), but even more often is when I stop and pay close attention to a song. This is the way the experience has always been for me. Because I enjoy that feeling, I want to have this feeling again and again, so that's what moves me to keep finding stuff.
I have no clue if this is how other people respond to music they like, but I often hear about similar feelings (warm feeling all over the body, hair standing on the back of the neck, etc.). Somehow these all play into the intensity of a recommendation one gives when sharing music. I may sound all scientific when I describe what I like while others simply say, "I dunno -- I just like it." I don't fault people that express this, but I appreciate it when someone goes a little further in describing what he/she likes about something. Of course, in the case of Torr's one sentence praise of "Suzie" and kind of knowing what he digs and doesn't dig, that's all I needed to know. He wasn't telling me or any of his other readers that "Suzie" is the best song for everyone. He wasn't going the lame route of saying "If you like the Upper Room and Maximo Park, then you'll LOVE Boy Kill Boy." No, he lets us hear this song that he's really digging and that's that.
Recommending music with a guarantee of pure enjoyment almost always leads to a disappointment. Forcing some band/album/song onto someone is not the route I like to take. I've been let down many times by stuff that I thought was going to rock my world. Since I can't decide for others what's good, bad and everything in between, I just talk about what I like and leave matters at that.