Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 12/1 – A French Ryan Adams Edition

david chapel With so much music in the world, it’s often hard to describe an artist in a vacuum.  Even simply calling someone a Singer/Songwriter has connotations tied to previous artists that have donned that mantle.  David Chapel is one of those artists.

He sounds like a French Ryan Adams at times.  What can I say?  His guitar shifts back and forth effortlessly from electric to acoustic.  He sometimes rides on a subtle country feel.  But there is something distinctly French about his vocal delivery.  You certainly won’t mistake that for Ryan Adams.

He also prefers to go by david (perhaps to distance himself from the crazy-successful-and-also-just-crazy Dave Chappelle), but I’ve capitalized the D throughout this piece for ease of reading, which you can continue doing by hitting the jump.

Recommendations

If you remember your European history, you may recall that Louis XIV called himself Le Roi Soleil – or The Sun King.  And if you’ve sung along to the racial stereotype that is “That’s Amore,” you may have gleaned that Amoureux means lovers.  Put it together and you’ll see that “Amoureux du Soleil” translates to “Lovers of the Sun” or “Sun Lovers.”  Forgive me for not taking the time to translate the rest of the song.  If I had, I might be able to tell you why it’s called “Sun Lovers” (though I assume the song is not about sun-bathing).  What I can tell you is that it’s a perfectly lovely little record in the style of Ryan Adams.  Medium twang, humble vocals, plenty of guitar.  I’m impressed by the way the electric guitar melds with the acoustic rhythm guitar.  When the electric kicks in, it doesn’t feel like a “Get Out of the Way, Here Comes the Real Guitar” moment.  It feels like a natural progression of the song’s mood.  A bouncy harmonica lick rounds out the poppy bluegrass sound.  You won’t find anything super challenging or shocking about the ride, but the Steep tag keeps this from being a purely percussive affair.

I really enjoyed the vocal harmonies here.  They’re tight.  They’re warm.  And they’re highlighted by some excellent red tunnels.  As I rode the other tracks, I kept waiting for David to actually sustain a note.  Just to hear what it would sound like.  On “J’y suis, j’y rest,” he does, while maintaining a level of vocal restraint that strips away a lot of emotion from the lyrics, allowing them and the notes to just kind of wash over you.  This isn’t surprising given the relative lack of stresses in French speech when compared to American English, but it’s certainly refreshing in a musical context.  Contrast this with the monotone delivery of your average American indie record, which often makes the singer sound pretentious and boring.  I will say, however, that all the language sometimes clutters up the verses.  I want David to relax in his words more often.  He’s just got too much to say, I suppose.  It may not be The Beatles, but his harmonies are smooth enough that you should play this song.

Other Selections

“Délirante Planète” is a little too cutesy for me.  Even at his most hopeful, his most major, Ryan Adams manages to squeeze some melancholy into every note, as if he were sad to let go of each song as he writes them.  David’s content to cross the line into full-on happy.  Consider all this while knowing that the song’s title means “Delirious Planet,” so perhaps he’s not too happy after all.  The song gives me a glassy-eyed-smile kind of feeling.  Upbeat though not infectious.  Not elated, just pleasantly sedated.  It ends with boppy vocals on a neutral syllable, something that, if dragged out for eight minutes, might unify a slowly-baking crowd at a Phish or Grateful Dead concert. 

“Le Petit Guignol” appears to be about French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  Every chorus ends or begins with him singing the man’s name, so I feel comfortable assuming.  I’m sure there’s a political message here, one that I’d care more about if I understood the language more and/or had strong feelings about French heads of state.  The title, which translates to “The Little Puppet,” may be a dig at Sarkozy’s Napoleon complex, which is the best way to make fun of him without having to know anything about his policies (NPR does it all the time).  It may also be an oblique reference to Grand Guignol – an early twentieth-century French theatre movement that specialized in horror entertainment.  See?  You can learn things while playing Audiosurf.  All this talk of titles and I’ve yet to even discuss the song.  It’s not dissimilar to David’s other work.  There’s an accordion (how French) and the harmonica reappears.  All of this week’s music has a sort of benign pleasantness.  Nothing that really grabs you by the collar, but nothing you’d ask to skip if your friend put it on in the car.

Author’s Note

All songs were played at least twice on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I don’t know how I missed this, but Eraser received a substantial update a few weeks ago.  Now, after clearing a particular color of blocks, you can elect to drop it back onto the board with a right-click.  It only works for the most recently erased color, but it’s a mighty weapon, nonetheless.