March 26, 2009

Greg Laswell - Three Flights From Alto Nido
Verdict: Like () +

Like with a few other artists recently, I was initially suspicious of Greg Laswell's sound. It was, at first, a little too on the pop side of the spectrum. As diverse as I like to think my taste is, I'm not much of a Top 40 kind of guy. It all sounds too methodical and soulless. Greg's music, at first, kind of had some similar qualities ... but by the third track I knew that there was so much more to this album than a few pop singles and a bunch of bullshit in between.

(tangent starts here)
My problem with "pop" is that it sounds like it's just going by a formula that has been well established as something that works with the human mind, and when you have a formula, all you have to do is plug yourself in the right way and you're a hit-maker. This is not how the world works, it's hella more complicated than that, but this is what the product sounds like to me, and when that's the case, something has gone terribly wrong. The formulaic songs don't have the life of an innovative song, and, thus, don't interest me. In art, there are a few respectable ways to go about things: traditional and innovative. There are those who like the music they listen to to sound like all the other songs they listen to. Fans of contemporary blues artists, that fit into this category, will probably not look too far back for music, and won't accept things too experimental. For them, the best era of blues is the contemporary stuff. This doesn't just go for blues. The other side of that, the innovative, searches for the songs that do something no one has done, or songs that have experimented in some way. The innovative fan doesn't always get music they like, but every once in a while they discover something that is pure gold, which makes it all the worth while.

I'm on the innovative side, for the most part. Like most continuum's, you can be anywhere on it at any given time. I admit it, sometimes I get in a Metal mood, but mostly I like to skip around. So when I hear something that sounds like it's trying to be like something else that has all ready been established as a working combination (ex: lets say I recognize that The Arcade Fire is just about the biggest band around these days, so I form a 7 piece orchestral indie rock group and write profound songs [okay, they're not Socrates, but just go with me on this one]. If I sounded like the Arcade fire, I would either be a rip off, a tribute, or I would be doing the music in the traditional style, adding no innovation.) I don't like it. Music shouldn't just be that easy. It's like building a plastic statue and calling it gold.
(tangent ends here)

Okay, all that said Greg Laswell's music seems to me to be what pop music a few years from now will look to in order to get it's tips. A few aspects of his music seems a little formulaic (vocal flow, production, song content, instruments, song structure), and, to my ear, whether or not he's using very awkward scales, that doesn't matter when it comes off like a pop song. A few of the tracks, because of this, kind of just bore me. The man has a wonderful voice, and can clearly write a song, but when I'm reminded of 1990's alt. rock, this doesn't speak of innovation.

Now that that's been said, I did, over all, enjoy the album. There are some undeniably beautiful songs, innovative and poppy all at the same time. It really is no surprise to find out that this is not his first album, because it sounds like it's fairly methodically composed, or, if anything, pretty well thought out. One song that stands out above all is I'd Be Lying. Anyone who can write a song in 5/4 and make it an unquestionable pop song is clearly a talented musician. It took me a minute to realize that it was, in fact, in 5/4. Seriously, well done Mr. Laswell. Other songs, such as The One I Love and And Then You have conventional/traditional qualities, but for some reason the damn things are just freaking awesome. I think it's that his voice really is carrying the album, and that, without them, they songs really could just be forgettable incidental music. That seems to be another pop quality that, right now, I'm going to forget about, because, despite my lust for innovation, sometimes it's nice to hear a good, fun song that sooths your spirit, and, for that, Greg Laswell can really deliver.

Greg Laswell - I'd Be Lying
Greg Laswell - The One I Love
Greg Laswell - Days Go On

Greg Laswell will be at the Larimer Lounge tomorrow night with Rachael Yamagata. I'll see you there. I couldn't think of a better tour mate for Greg. gonna be a hellovashow.

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