Death Cab for Cutie Postal Service meets Ryan Adams:
Or: Owl City MySpace
Read the Owl City story here: Owl City’s success jumps from web to stage, sales
I needed to take a shower.
Some things are immutable. You’ve got to show up for appointments on time. But I couldn’t get up from the computer, I needed to hear “Fireflies” one more time. And then again. And again.
That’s the mark of a hit record.
Not where it is on the chart, how many people have bought it, but whether your mood completely changes when you hear it, and what you desire most in life is to hear it again!
Driving on Pico I caught the tail end of the song on Sirius XM’s “20 on 20”. Reminded me of the old days, driving on the Santa Monica Freeway, pushing radio buttons, desirous of hearing “Sexual Healing” one more time.
One listen is almost enough. To make you want to hear it once more. Then, with each listen you want to hear it one more time. You play it again, getting into a trance. Kind of like Alanis Morissette’s “Hand In Pocket”, getting infected is worse than contracting swine flu. Better than any drug, a hit song will make you feel exuberant and alive, even if the rest of your life positively sucks.
It’s not about the lyrics. Hell, you catch the lyrics last. But I love that he uses “bizarre”, as in “my dreams get real bizarre”. Don’t yours? Happens all the time, you barely remember what happens, but you wake up off-kilter, positively alone except for the characters in your nighttime escapade who are too often fictional, or possess different personalities than the people with the same visages in real life.
Where does the magic start?
Sure, there’s an ethereal intro, but it’s not riveting.
Then there’s that hooky groove, with the big bass beat, without sounding like what’s on Top Forty radio, which is only groove, sans melody. This guy with a thin voice is singing up and down the scale, this is not a Timbaland production.
Then there are the strings! Brian Wilson knew the power of strings, they’re not anathema to pop music, they’re not inherently schmaltzy, they add meaning, and texture.
Then the processed vocals when the song breaks down, kind of like Steve Marriott in “Itchycoo Park”, if Steve Marriott was a wimp.
Then, when the verse begins again, there’s more in the track. The calliope-like sound brings in joy, those strings add counterpoint. The line about the disco ball warms you up, then the whole track comes alive, like a denizen finally awaking from a slumber.
Then, back into that verse groove. You may tire of counting sheep, but now you’re fully enraptured, you’ve left the planet, you’re in music wonderland.
“I’d like to make myself believe”
That this track will be inspirational, that it will cause the business to do a 180, that melody will return, that music will eclipse marketing, that a whole row of infectious tracks will come driving down the pike.
But this guy did cut this wholly alone, in his basement. He didn’t go on “American Idol”, didn’t need Kara DioGuardi to polish it into oblivion. All he needed was tools, to follow his muse.
I’d like to make myself believe that music this good doesn’t need a major label to break through. That just putting it up online is enough to get you started. That appears to be the Owl City story, then again, who knows where truth lies.
But the truth is “Fireflies” is a fucking great track. The best on the Owl City album, but not the only good one.
Check it out . . .