Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Case File #20: "Hide and Seek"

Imogen  Heap
"Hide and Seek"
Speak For Yourself

The need to know: When the trailer for Zach Braff's 2004 film Garden State hit theaters, audiences became almost more excited for the soundtrack than for the film itself. This was in part due to Frou Frou's grab-life-by-the-horns anthem "Let Go". Sure, in the film Natalie Portman told us that The Shins would change your life, but the reaction to "Let Go" was frenetic.  By then, however, Frou Frou had parted ways (the song was lifted from their 2002 release Details) and singer/songwriter/producer Imogen Heap had resumed her solo career. But the exposure helped to boost anticipation for her 2005 album Speak For Yourself, a great little gem of a pop record, and the equally good Ellipse, which followed in 2009. 

Why it's worthy: Imogen Heap's voice is unmistakable and unconventional, and nowhere does she use it better than on "Hide and Seek". A modern exercise in a cappella, layered digital harmonies create a haunting, beautiful soundscape that is inescapable. Every time I hear this song, it gives me chills. Every. Time.

Quotable lyric: "Spin me around again and rub my eyes/ This can't be happening"

Where you've heard it: Besides being featured on one of the soundtracks to The OC, the climax to "Hide and Seek" was prominently sampled in Jason DeRulo's No. 1 smash "Whatcha Say". Trust me. Imogen's original is way better. 

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Case File #19: "Game of Pricks"

Guided By Voices
"Game of Pricks"
The Best of Guided By Voices: Human Amusements at Hourly Rates

The need to know: One of indie rocks longest standing holdouts, Guided By Voices are practically an institution. No, they are one. Led by Robert Pollard, the band released over 17 albums, not counting live releases, EPs and compilations (which at least double that number), during a 20 year career that earned the band a sold fan base without ever requiring them to sign a major label contract. Known for Pollard's quirky, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and often lo-fi recordings, especially in their early days, GBV walked the line of accessibility without ever crossing over it. And oh how we love them for it. 

Why it's worthy: A short, punchy pop song in a catalog of short, punchy pop songs, "Game of Pricks" still somehow feels like something special. Originally recorded for 1995's Alien Lanes, this version is clearly crisper (the original exemplifies lo-fi) but the slick production fits the song like a glove. It's a testament to the song, and Pollard's songcraft, that it works so well both ways.

Quotable lyric: "I'll never ask for the truth, but you owe that to me"

Where you've heard it: An extreme Guided By Voices fan, Jim Adkins and his band, Jimmy Eat World, covered "Game of Pricks" for the BBC while promoting 2001's Bleed American. The recording ended up on the Japanese-only Good To Go EP.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Case File #18: "Where the Lines Overlap"

"Where the Lines Overlap"
Brand New Eyes

The need to know: Mainstream emo rock heroes Paramore made a splash in 2007 for their super catchy tunes and Hayley Williams' fiery voice. But added focus on the red headed dynamo spawned rumors of band tension and the possibility of a breakup which never materialized. In 2009, the band reemerged with Brand New Eyes their third and most mature album yet.

Why it's worthy: File this one under semi-guilty pleasure. Seriously, though, it's hard to not perk up after a listen to this song. "Where the Lines Overlap" (like much of Brand New Eyes) is Hayley Williams' love letter to her life. Yeah. Gag me. But can you blame her? If I was fronting an uber successful rock band just shy of my 21st birthday I'd be singing "No one is as lucky as us" too.

Quotable lyric: "I'm not used to it but I can learn/ Nothing to it/ I've never been happier"

Where you've heard it: Hayley Williams is an unlockable character in Guitar Hero World Tour, which is just cool. 

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