Sometimes, the right song hits you at the right time in the right place, and doesn’t leave your speakers for weeks. So when a much-loved band (Delta Spirit) releases a sun-soaked new album (History From Below) on the eve of my own summer wanderings (here)–and provides an instant drivetime classic–guess what’s on infinite repeat?
Delta Spirit, “Golden State“
Everyone has their soft spots–little musical tricks or songwriting devices that connect with them. For example, my brother is partial to rock songs with prominent organ. My friend Jeff loves piano ballads. I’ve got many soft spots, of course, but one of them is harmonica. For me, a little harp melody goes a long way.
But from my list of 30,000 soft spots, “Golden State” uses about 29,000. Let’s list some:
1) Songs that start with a simple, but emphatic, drum pronouncement. Example: Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone”
2) Any songs about driving, highways, or support drivetime/highway listens. Example: Pearl Jam, “MFC”
3) A-suspended (music geek alert!). You know the chord change that happens at the 29-second mark of this song? That’s an A to an A-suspended. “Sus” chords are the easiest progressions on the planet, and the foundation for countless rock/R&B/soul classics. Example: Ryan Adams, “Gonna Make You Love Me,” the entire Rolling Stones catalog, etc.
4) Jangly, vintage, reverb-ed electric guitar sounds. The second guitar (the one that arrives to play the A-sus at the 29-second mark) has a phenomenal sound. When I first heard the combo of that sound with that chord progression I nearly drove off the road. Example: Counting Crows, “Hard Candy”
5) High harmonies. Example: Every Beach Boys song.
6) Songs about California. Example: Every Beach Boys song.
7) Melodies that start in a restrained, tuneful place and build into scarcely-controlled screams (and singers that can do this consistently). Example, Pearl Jam, “Grievance”
8) Any song that employs–and earns–“sha-la-la’s” or “na-na-nah’s” or “doo-wops” or similar nonsense lyrics (at the 1:41 mark here). Because sometimes the feeling is so evident, and the sound is so beautiful, that real words would get in the way. Example: Cory Branan, “Miss Ferguson”
9) When a big-band arrangement briefly drops to spotlight vocals and guitar (keys are also acceptable). This happens at the 1:57 mark. Example: Tom Petty, “Higher Place” (1:37 mark)
10) Songs with nostalgia, but not sentimentality. Example: R.E.M., “Nightswimming”
11) Songs that choose to celebrate the good in life, especially when it’s not easy. Example: My Morning Jacket, “Anytime”
12) Songs that get in, get off, and get out. A general rule: if a song ends and you find yourself saying, “I wish it was longer,” it’s the right length. Example: Beatles, “And Your Bird Can Sing”
With that, I’ll take my own advice and stop before this list reaches 29,000.
Have any of you heard History From Below yet? First impressions? What are your musical “soft spots”? Hit up the comments!