“The Pins” – Sara Radle
When Sara Radle sings, here, repeatedly, “I’ll do this without you,” she means it. She plays all the instruments on all the songs on her new album, Same Sun Shines, and she likewise engineered and mixed the record herself. She says she did it basically as an incentive to learn Pro Tools, the powerful but challenging digital recording software program. Apparently she picked it up just fine.
And of course software skills may be necessary in 2012 but they are not sufficient. You need a good song, and “The Pins,” both winsome and involving, is very good indeed. Listen to how much Radle keeps things moving here, with a deft series of melodic twists, chord changes, tempo shifts, and, for the heck of it, wacky guitar effects (see the instrumental break, 2:42 onward). A sense of humor remains an underrated tool in the songwriter’s arsenal.
One particular way Radle surreptitiously generates movement is through a sort of “sub-sectioning” of the song—there’s not just a verse and a chorus, but both the verse and the chorus have two distinct melodic sections. Each interrelated segment is never much more than 15 seconds long throughout the first half of the song. (The second half of the chorus expands to 30 seconds the last two times we hear it.) This really grabs the ear and gives the sense of continual development. The melodies have a clean Brill-Building-y esprit, and the entire thing feels so effortless that one would never suspect the very real effort that Radle exerted—mastering the software, playing all the parts, mixing it all together; the breeziness of the end result is indeed a noteworthy aural illusion. And can I open the year with another mini-rant about those people who must always complain about nothing being “new” in music any more? What a constricted idea of “new” such folks have. “The Pins” is surely something new, something that could not have existed 10 years ago.
It is one of 10 tracks forthcoming on Same Sun Shines, which will be self-released next month. The Texas-born Radle has been based in Los Angeles since 2005, when she joined Matt Sharp’s band The Rentals for a few years. This is her fifth solo album.
(photo credit: Benjamin Hoste)