As off-kilter as you might imagine a song entitled “My Grandfather Could Make the World Dance” would be. Also, bold and captivating.
The 2015 indie music scene is full of creative types who come from all sorts of idiosyncratic backgrounds. Even among his heterogeneous cohorts, however, Spencer Berger stands out for his unusual back story: from the ages of nine through 12, he was an opera singer, performing at the Metropolitan Opera with the likes of Luciano Pavarotti. And while you might not immediately guess “child opera singer” when “My Grandfather Could Make the World Dance” starts up, I’m pretty sure you can see that something muscular and expansive is going on here vocally, both in terms of Berger’s singular tone and his penchant for dramatic layering.
And so it turns out that this is as off-kilter as you might imagine a song entitled “My Grandfather Could Make the World Dance” would be; likewise is it bold and captivating. Berger’s penchant for stagy vocalizing is all the more convincing for its being matched, against expectation, with the simplest of accompaniments—acoustic guitars, a touch of piano, and a small helping of percussion is all that’s going on here, instrumentally. Musically, the song is dominated by descending melody lines, punctuated by intermittent yelping leaps; the overall effect is a kind of optimistic melancholy that helps give the whole thing the feel of a lonely suburban afternoon in 1972. I can’t pinpoint why but to me this seems quite clear.
Based in Los Angeles, Spencer Berger has been recording music as Auditorium since 2011, when his debut album, Be Brave, was released. (You can check that one out via Bandcamp.) “My Grandfather Could Make the World Dance” is a single released earlier this month. Thanks to Insomnia Radio for the link.
Reverb-drenched, girl-groupy goodness from a woman previously known, in her role as bassist for the Vivian Girls, as Kickball Katy.
Reverb-drenched, girl-groupy goodness from a woman previously known, in her role as bassist for the trio Vivian Girls, as Kickball Katy. But while the Vivian Girls play a muddy kind of DIY pop that doesn’t sound exactly like my thing, “Never Come Around”—equally DIY—pushes my happy buttons with its retro melody and dreamy, layered harmonies.
And that’s it, there’s not much more to this little song than its retro melody and layered harmonies. And Katy Goodman, doing musical business as La Sera, knows it too, which is why she has the unusually good sense to end the song in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it two minutes flat. There’s not even a chorus—just a fun little wordless vocal run in between a couple of the breezy verses, although she does manage to make time for a quick instrumental go-round of the foundational melody. It’s good-spirited, nicely put together fun—which is more than I, personally, can say about visually dissonant video, in which Katy G. sings her lovely ditty while graphically eviscerating some guy in the kitchen, with a kitchen knife. It continues from there. For the one or two of you out there who don’t find graphic violence entertaining, consider this a good reminder that music is for listening. (Everyone else: enjoy!)
“Never Come Around” is the lead track on a 7-inch to be released later this month on Seattle-based Hardly Art Records, in advance of a full-length expected early in 2011. MP3 from Pitchfork; thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.