Thursday, November 4, 2010

Polishing

I recently downloaded The Rescues' first album, Crazy Ever After. I got one of their songs a few months ago, and it was good enough that I decided to see what else they'd done. That song, Break Me Out, is probably the most perfect rock song I've ever heard. I wasn't paying attention when I downloaded the album, however, and now I have three different versions of Break Me Out—the single released through iTunes plus two more from the first album.

The funny thing is that as perfect as the iTunes single is, it took them three tries to get it like that. And that's just counting released versions.

Version one is rather restrained. Break Me Out 2.0 (that's what it's called) hits you with a wall of sound on the first time through the chorus and tries out some different licks in the middle. The final version, which is on their new album, has different mixing for a cleaner sound, a faster tempo, and drives harder. But what makes it stand-out amazing is its story arc.

A lot of songs start out small and add instruments and volume up to a climax of sorts. Most of them don't do it right, though. The chorus is frequently the same, so you get an up-down-up-down feel. A lot of songs use a wall of sound to add impact, but often that's all it is.

Break Me Out 3 starts stronger than the others, with a brighter keyboard line with percussion behind it. It doesn't dump a cacophony on you like 2.0, but incrementally ratchets up the tension, then hits you with a brief payoff right after the chorus and before verse two. The second verse is even stronger, followed by a spell where the instruments almost vanish. The net effect is to add tension, because by that time you have some idea of what's coming. When that big payoff finally comes, the timing is spot-on perfect even though it's not where you'd expect it to be. It's an awesome payoff precisely because of that. Finally, it doesn't fade out on the end like the other versions—it winds down and stops at the end of a measure.

Listen to it courtesy of Rhapsody, if you like:
Break Me Out (new album)
(The others are on eMusic, but I think you need an account. I signed up for a free trial.)

Now, if you're a writer, go back and read this post while imagining that I'm talking about a story instead of a song. Remember that they probably had a fresh set of ears to help with the final production. And realize that good is one thing, and great isn't a whole lot different than good—but it makes all the difference.

I'm off to do some polishing.

1 comment:

  1. That is a really good song. I'm not so sure about it being the most perfect rock song I've ever heard, but... there's definately a case to be made in its favor. Good stuff. I'm gonna go buy it.

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