By Rachel Courtney
First of all, thanks very much to the Song Bar regulars for welcoming me to your midst! It's an honour to pick out songs for you! I've read many a comment section looking for ideas for my radio show Uneasy Listening, and it's very cool to finally be able to participate in this amazing community.
Anyway, on to the playlist! I've been tasked with choosing songs that go from loud to soft, soft to loud, loud to soft then loud again, and so forth. There's not really any value judgment to A or B list here; with so many songs to choose from every one that made a list is top notch. Also I have a strong distaste for ranking things because I don't want to hurt the songs' feelings. So instead, very broadly, the A-list is more atmospheric and the B-list is more rockin'. Some of my favourites are actually on the B-list.
One would be remiss to make a dynamic volume playlist without including some classical music. That stuff is all about the pianissimo fortissimo and whatnot. So we start off with Estonian minimalist Arvo Pärt's slow-building choral interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes.
Next up is a very zeitgeist-y tune from Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, Waking the Witch. The contrasts in volume overlap here, with sound effects, voices and musical instruments of varying levels and intensities constructing an atmosphere of paranoia and dread, the perfect illustration of a literal or metaphorical witch trial.
And what's this? Why it's a lovely strummy Bert Jansch-y folk singer! But just as he's singing about silence, things suddenly get very un-silent and when did this turn into a Sir Lord Baltimore song? Oh it's just Dandelion Records artist Trevor Midgley aka Beau telling us that Silence Returns. Eventually.
The next song, the Beach Boys' Time to Get Alone, features another unconventional use of volume changes. Certainly there's a bit of a jump in gain when the chorus goes into the verse, but listen for one phrase in the bridge that is given emphasis with a huge surge of voices and decibels. It is pretty neato!
Otis Redding provides a classic example of a slow burn on I've Been Loving You Too Long as the horn section gradually creeps up behind him.
Ride is exactly the kind of song I first came to the Marconium and Song Bar to find. Some Britpop band I've heard of but never really heard and surprise surprise, they are great. Plus I heard that they've never made an A-list and that felt a bit like a dare. Leave Them All Behind is a lovely swooping and fuzzy journey from quiet to loud to quite a bit louder and back to quiet then loud and finally WOW REALLY VERY LOUD.
Reader Uncleben recommended The Fall and really I am never not going to play The Fall. But mentioned that live, the volume differences on Hip Priest were much more pronounced live than on the album version, so I found a Peel Session that sounds a bit more dynamic.
To follow the Manchester bandl, we have a nice sequential build from acoustic guitar to drums to voice to viola to AAAAAAA with the one everybody knows – Heroin by the Velvet Underground.
The next song … People talk a lot about Rumours. They talk a bit about the Peter Green era. But I don't think we hear enough about Tusk. The title track has whispering, it has screaming, it has a marching band. Everything you could possibly need in a Fleetwood Mac song.
There were a lot of recommendations for songs by the Wedding Present. Like Little Anthony and the Imperials (who made the B-list) – they used the quiet-loud thing a lot. I don't have a lot to say about this band except they're always consistent and it's always good and here we have Bewitched, some nice plaintive vocals and acoustic guitar and then some great big loud shimmery guitars and back and forth we go.
As we near the end, there's another sequential build from Ten Years After, doing 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain. Things start out mellow with a few hints of distorted guitar, then things rapidly crank up (no addition or of instruments or voices here, just a volume knob twist) and get faster at the same time. There are also some surprise volume changes at the end so don't tune out too soon!
And finally, if there's one genre besides classical where volume changes are de rigeur, it's prog. So you can see yourself out to a very short (for prog) Faust song, the lovely Jennifer. This has it all - loud and quiet elements together, a progressive (ha!) build, and random bits of loudness for emphasis.
A? Can't Hear You, Sonny A-list Playlist:
Arvo Pärt - The Beatitudes
Kate Bush - Waking the Witch
Beau - Silence Returns
The Beach Boys - Time to Get Alone
Otis Redding - I've Been Loving You Too Long
Ride - Leave Them All Behind
The Fall - Hip Priest
The Velvet Underground - Heroin
Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
The Wedding Present - Bewitched
Ten Years After - 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain
Faust - Jennifer
B LOUDER quieter LOUDER again B-list Playlist
The Undertones - Get Over You
Little Anthony and the Imperials - Yesterday Has Gone
Einstürzende Neubauten - Sehnsucht
The Psychedelic Furs - India
Smashing Pumpkins - Siva
Hüsker Dü - Celebrated Summer
Bauhaus - Crowds
NoMeansNo - Two Lips, Two Lungs and One Tongue
Deep Purple - Child In Time
Ike and Tina Turner - River Deep, Mountain High
The Feelies - Slipping Into Something
Hawkwind - Master of the Universe
Guru's Wildcard Pick:
The Mamas and the Papas getting surprisingly loud, and heavy! Then even louder still - Gemini Childe:
Rachel Courtney runs the Philadelphia-based radio show Uneasy Listening.
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: A whisper to a scream: songs with dynamic volume changes. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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