"AND A LITTLE BIT SOFTER NOW. AND A LITTLE BIT SOFTER NOW..."
Jacob Silj is one of the best "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update guests of all time. I'm talking of course about the character played by Will Farrell who can't control the volume and pitch of his voice as a sufferer of Voice Immodulation.
"MY VOICE? HOW DARE YOU!"
That's what I'm first reminded of when I fire up Ed Sheeran's latest record, "Divide," because the intro to the first song, "Eraser," illustrates well the point I started to make last week.
Ed's voice over the guitars in the intro is clear as a bell, but there's something just a bit unnatural about it.
What's unnatural is that the vocal on the intro is incredibly maxed out, and every word has nearly the exact same volume. From beginning to end of each word.
Think about whether or not you ever hear that in real conversations. Or whether you can do that yourself without sounding like Mr. Silj.
Why is this done? Well, fire up that Ed Sheeran track and bring the volume down slowly. Keep going. Keep going. ...
You can hear everything he says very clearly even if you have the volume so low that the music starts to fade into the background.
That's why they do it. I heard a recording engineer once say he tries to make a song sound good even if it's played over a boombox that's been kicked over into the sand.
There's nothing really wrong with making music this way, but it does rob the listener of "dynamics," which last week I described as the difference between the quiet and loud moments in the song. When you take away the quiet, can you say that the music — or Ed's vocals — ever get loud?
Interestingly, other instruments within the mix of "Eraser" sounded more open and natural, which intentionally brings some balance back to the sound.
Big ups to this 17-year-old
If you think I talk too much about Boulder's Jaden Carlson, you're wrong.
I'm sorry; do you know another person who produced six full albums and eight more tracks across three pseudonyms and four separate genres before age 17?
Boulder's musical kid wizard turned 17 this week, and she is just about to drop two very different albums. In one, Jaden Carlson Band will feature the outfit's trademark guitar- and synth-led funk/jazz sound.
The other is a new effort I just learned about called Synthlordz, which features Jaden and her band's keyboardist Chris Beck both adding synth, bass and drum parts to what Jaden calls "synthwave/house/electronic." I call it awesome because she sent me a track and it's unsurprisingly amazing.
JCB (as the band is known) has a Pledge Music campaign right now to help with the costs of finishing and distributing the album. Hop over to the Internets and search for the campaign and join in if you want to hear what this crazy girl is working on. You can find the new Synthlordz at Bandcamp, iTunes et al in a month or two. More on that and its famous guest artists when it drops.