In another blog that we highly respect, we recently read that when it comes to emerging bands, songwriting separates the wheat from the chaff. If you don’t spend time becoming familiar with agricultural or Biblical references, the wheat is the useful portion of the plant that quickly falls to the ground when thrown into the air, while the chaff is the less substantial portion that gets carried away by the wind.
Any debate among music fans would not center around whether it’s a combination of factors that propels one band to success, while most other bands get carried away by the musical wind. Instead, the debate would center around which of those factors is most important. While the argument for songwriting is defensible, the wheat/chaff dichotomy applies more readily to vocals. Too often, we have commented after a concert that a band would significantly increase its changes of experiencing an attention “explosion” if it added a lead singer. Moreover, we suspect that if someone browses the list of Top Albums, bands can be identified with suspect songwriting skills, but none with suspect vocal skills. One additional point, it is much easier to have a hit song with dumb-downed songwriting than with dumb-downed vocals (no offense intended - Janis Joplin was able to generate a hit song that we like, despite being completely devoid of complexity – “Mercedes Benz” is embedded at the bottom of this post).
All that said, this blog entry finally gets to the music. These are songs that are not dumb-downed in any manner. To qualify from this blog entry, the vocalization must be so strong that any weaknesses (if they existed) would be camouflaged, or at least more easily ignored.
Nimmo and the Gauntletts are a five-member band from London/Brighton. The vocal skills of Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlett qualify the band’s music for this blog entry. The other members are Joshua Faull (violin, bass), Hannah Rose (saxophone, keys), and Jack Williams (drums). There must be a reason for Gauntlett being pluralized, but we don’t know what it is (we cannot stop ourselves – it’s not a sequel to “Finding Nemo,” since a Gauntlett is missing).
In “Others,” the instruments make important contributions to the song, particularly the piano starting at 2:06 and the guitar that is energized at 2:36. But the vocals dominate.
"Others" by Nimmo and the Gauntletts
Ghost and Gale are local to us. That is, they hail from the San Francisco Bay Area. The dual is Brodie Jenkins and David Luning. Their latest release is “New Love,” which is a passionate longing for those early days of falling in love. The passion, the harmony, the piano and the strings all work so well together. This is not a song that just fell together. It is a song that was carefully planned and executed.
We couldn’t make their show last week, but we aren’t going to let that continue.
"New Love" by Ghost and Gale
The Australian trio Little May was introduced to Indie Obsessive already, but the single “Boardwalks” desires to be added here. The band identifies itself as “three girls making ghost folk.” They are Liz Drummond, Hannah Field, and Annie Hamilton.
"Boardwalks" by Little May - a song that is very good until the 2:26 mark; afterward the appropriate adjective is "great."
At the start of this blog entry, there is a statement that Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” would be included as an example of a song that fits the description of likeable dumbed-down lyrics and vocalization. Friends Jim K. and Justas G. made the argument that the vocalization is not “dumbed down.” Jim asserted that Melanie’s “Brand New Key” is a better example of a likeable song with no aspect approaching complexity. So, here are both.