Music Therapy Thursdays

Music Therapy Thursdays- Whistling Wonder and Dancebeat Dynamo

Twitter has #MusicMondays and Paul Krugman’s New York Times Blog has Friday Night Music, so thus was born Music Therapy Thursdays.

Music can cross borders, gender and ethnicity while simultaneously having the capacity to bind us culturally, nationally and spiritually- the beauty of music to bring together the familiar or diverse is amazing. Music achieves the complex feat of reaching and inspiring us in ways both relatable and inexplicable. Ultimately the music that we love, that attracts us, that drives us, does so by understanding us and allowing us to experience and articulate all those feelings for which words are at a loss…. As such, music has the grand ability to sooth, heal and express like nothing else. So, is in honor of this gift that is music, let’s celebrate and discuss…

Last week, two seemingly diametrically opposed new albums were dropped on the same day, Hands of Glory by Andrew Bird and 18 Months by Calvin Harris. The former has been described as rustic with “an almost academic quality, as though Bird and his cohorts were presenting a musical essay about endtimes imagery in country music.” In the meantime, the latter has been characterized as a compilation of pop anthems by Mr. Harris that highlight well-known artists from Ne-Yo to Florence Welch “to temper his maddeningly manic rhythms.”  Not only did this suffice my eclectic taste in music but it dawned on me- the whole could be greater than the sum of its parts-the music stylings of Andrew Bird + Calvin Harris = perfect man (sensitive side meets fun/energetic side).

Indie darling Andrew Bird is an acquired taste with his distinct sweet voice and his eerily attractive whistling skills. His latest album Hands of Glory is comprised of only 10 songs with a folksy and at times bluegrass-inspired essence on melodies such as those in Railroad Bill. The album has the feel of a longer composition, relying heavily on the fiddle throughout, but each song holds a distinct character that makes it an essential piece of the story. The highlight of the album for me is its conclusion, “Beyond the Valley of Three White Horses,” which is a hauntingly enchanting nearly 10 minute coda to the entire 40 minute exposition. It is almost solely instrumental, shaped by more of a classical sound than the others, with Bird only singing or rather chanting a few words intermittently and a brief whistling interlude in between. The music pulls you into what feels like a fitting ending to the exploration but one that keeps you longing for more, with hopes of remaining in its occasionally swoon-inducing soothing and intriguing musical trance…

In contrast, we have Calvin Harris who has been dominating the dance music scene of late with his dynamic beats and pop mega-star collaborations. This Scottish lad has the skill to appeal to the masses, causing women everywhere to wish they could say “I’m with the DJ, ok…” Many songs on 18 Months have been released previously as singles, in some cases almost a year ago, such as We Found Love featuring Rihanna and his solo hit Feel So Close. The latter is a dance hit favorite of mine that uses the sound of the piano as a lead-in to the lyrics before it amplifies to the more heavily electronic feeling interlude. This gives it a surprisingly sweet feel aided by the endearingly honest lyrics, “I feel so close to you right now, it’s a force field/I wear my heart upon my sleeve like a big deal.” The more recent songs on the album that have already gained traction include Sweet Nothing featuring Florence Welch and “I Need Your Love” featuring Ellie Goulding. While Florence and the Machine are one of my current favorites, the song somehow doesn’t quite do Ms. Welch justice, perhaps because her typical deep and introspective lyrics get drowned out by the later repetition that the nature of the song requires. Of these newer songs, it is the collaborative effort with Ellie Goulding that steals the show for me. Ultimately, something about her voice just seems to fit. The initially more stripped down sound at the start allows for the clarity and purity in her voice to be contrasted yet supported by the increasing intensity of the beat, which makes it so comforting and convincing when she says, “I need your love, I need your time/When everything’s wrong, you make it right.”

And so, with the 2012 Presidential election behind us, I can’t help but lobby for a Harris-Bird musical collaboration for 2013-the Dance Whistler, appealing to the body and the mind.

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