As I sit and stare outside my bedroom window, the world outside swallows me whole. I stare blankly at the mouth of a world too vast and too complicated for my small mind space to take in, to accept. Who am I? What am I doing? Where am I going? Why must I exist in a world so fucked? These questions haunt me into insomnia every night. Their pressure on my chest and shoulders I carry through my days until I can numb myself with my various vices. That is until I came across one artist, one album that reminded me of who I was and who I wanted to be. That artist is Gotye, and his album is “Making Mirrors”.

making mirrors

One of my closest friends, Alex, once introduced me to Gotye by showing me two short documentaries on the making of “Making Mirrors”. I was blown away by the shear artistry that went into this record! I was amazed that one man, with the help of just a few friends, can create such a beautiful piece of art. I found my inspiration once more, and remembered the thing that drives me to get out of bed each morning, the thing that turns the light on in this dark world for me: Music. Can one record really have that kind of power? I really believe it can. I want to recommend this record to you, my dear readers, not because I expect it to have the same impact on you, but simply because I feel it’s a great album, and I want you to give it a shot!

I won’t go too much into how the record was made, I’ll let these short documentaries speak for themselves. If you have 20 minutes, I really encourage you to check these out, before or after you listen to the record. Some of you suggested I try to write these recommendations a little shorter, therefore I won’t dig into every track on the record, I’ll simply discuss what I think are some of the highlights.

Here are links to the documentaries! Click here and here!

Gotye hails from Melbourne, Australia. He released “Making Mirrors” in 2011. He released two other records previous to “Making Mirrors”, but I don’t enjoy them quite as much because I don’t think they were recorded with the same originality as “Making Mirrors”. I do really enjoy the single off of his sophomore record, however. It’s called “Hearts A Mess”, if you’re interested.

“Making Mirrors” opens with the title track, which serves as an introduction to the album more than a song. It opens with what sound like some type of woodwind instrument, then a bass is introduced into the mix. The bass drones deep in the mix in contrast with the floating woodwinds. Gotye sings two stanzas of abstract imagery, and it sets the tone for what the album has in store. This intro is beautiful and sounds as if it’s coming down the heavens.

gotye tat
This is how much I love this record!

“Easy Way Out” is the second track, and it’s one of my favorites on the record. It’s short and sweet, and has an exploding power to it. The prominent sounds are a fuzzy bass and guitar during the intro and choruses. The contrasting verses are softer, but Gotye packs on layers of sampled sounds, synthesizer sequences, and a ton of various percussive instruments. It’s disorienting to try and pick each sound apart from the other as the layers meld together so elegantly into a beautifully edgy and powerful song. Gotye gives us a taste of his vocal abilities in this song as well; he sings the verses in a low, soft voice, and he sings the chorus in falsetto (a whispery head-voice). The lyrics are interesting and very relatable (especially for me) as they are a poetic take on procrastination. He sings about the voice in his head that rationalizes his lack of effort during mundane yet necessary activities, and just how easy it is to give in to that voice and give up. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but his back up vocals during the pre-chorus seem like they might represent that voice in his head. This description really only scratches the surface, you really just have to go and listen to it!

 

I mentioned that “Easy Way Out” gives us a taste of Gotye’s vocal skills. It’s like an appetizer before the main course that is “Somebody That I Used To Know”. Now, I know most people by now (myself included) consider this song overplayed thanks to mainstream and local radio stations. But how many of you have really “listened” to the song? I urge to try it just once, to listen to this song with an attentive ear, and listen to the layers upon layers of instrumentation and harmonies. Listen to how odd the sounds are, but how when mixed with the other sounds they create one of the most unique and catchy songs ever recorded (in my opinion). Listen to how the instruments have a call and response relationship with Kimbra (the featured singer from New Zealand). And listen to how during Kimbra’s verse, the music builds up before the nuclear bomb that is the final chorus! When I listen to this song, I often feel as though Gotye calculated and discovered a scientific formula for the most memorable music.

somebody i used to know

The fourth track on the record happens to be my favorite on the entire record. “Eyes Wide Open” is to me a refreshing take on a topic often explored: The negative impact of the capitalist system on the world (climate change, poverty, hunger, etc.). Gotye expresses the way in which we are consciously heading down the path of destruction through his poetic verses; “We walk the plank with our eyes wide open.” The song features a fairly simple bass line, and a driving, galloping drum beat. The song also has a haunting pedal steel guitar, which I think is a great touch of creativity. The part about this song that I love the most is not just the content, but also the method by which it was created. See the short documentary to learn more!

The last highlight I want to mention is the song “State of the Art”. One of the documentaries also explains the making of this song; therefore I’m not going to delve too deeply into how it was made. What I want to emphasize is just how creative this song is! It’s so jam-packed with layers of samples, synthesizer melodies, and it was mostly all done on an old court organ from way back in the day; an instrument that most people have either never seen, or simply believe it to be obsolete at this point in time. The song progresses as Gotye packs on more and more layers, until at the very end, the song detonates with every single layer playing at once. I can see how someone might be put off by the vocals in this track because they are so synthetic, but check out the documentary in which he explains his intent and method, and you’ll surely have a better appreciation for it (as I evidently have).

It’s so hard for me to stop here and not pick apart every song on this album. I love them all with the deepest appreciation, and I hope “Making Mirrors” can inspire you in some way, shape, or form, as it has me. So in conclusion, I want to once more urge you to check out “Making Mirrors”, and let me know how you feel about it! Shoot me a message on Facebook, or let me know the next time you bump into me! Also, I’m still working out the style in which I want to write these recommendations, so any feedback will be much appreciated!

Thanks for reading.

Peace!

Justin

 

Welcome to my first official album recommendation. I have so much great music I want to share with you, and I decided to start with my favorites. Once I work through my all time faves, I’ll be working through my personal record collection, and then through my Spotify library (which will never end). I’m listening to new albums everyday and always discovering fantastic music that deserves recognition.

Records(this isn’t even half…)

Jack Tatum formed his indie rock/dream pop band, Wild Nothing, in late 2009 in Blacksburg, Virginia. He has since released 2 full-length records, “Gemini” (2010) and Nocturne (2012), and two EPs, “Golden Haze” (2010) and “Empty Estate” (2013).[i] All of which have been deservingly critically acclaimed. Now, I recommend giving all of these projects a listen, but if you can only choose one, start with “Nocturne”.

The genre in which this record is best categorized in my opinion is dream pop. Dream pop is often described as lush, dreamy, smooth, icy, washed out, etc. The reason being that the genre characteristically uses a lot of reverb in the mix to create a wet and vast sound.

The following is my description of each track. I don’t plan on making all of my recommendations this long, but this album is so special to me that I just had to give you a short description of every song in the hopes of enticing you to give this record a chance.

Nocturne

Shadow:

Strings fade in and the song explodes with a driving hook. The strings sink lower into the mix and the guitar lead just holds onto me in such a gentle caress, like everything is going to be okay. The bass dances joyfully with the drums, and the strings come and go from the centre of attention to the back smoothly without fight.  Tatum’s voice is whispery and lush, soaked in reverb. His words sing of forbidden love. “I’d go with you if you asked me to, but we wouldn’t get too far. Two strangers in the dark.”

Midnight Song:

The guitar lead is icy and wet with delay and reverb. Tatum has a real skill for writing catchy guitar parts. The drums pound away in a simple beat, the kick is deep and the snare is punchy. The reverb makes them sound like they were recorded in a big hall. The lyrics are as cold and dark as the music with expressions of sorrow and longing. “In my head you dance like the wind. You’re my burden.”

Nocturne:

My favourite song on the record, and it’s also the single. The guitar lead just hooks me right in and I drift with it into a blissful abyss. The drum beat and bass are simple and nostalgic, and the synthesizer bring us back to 1986. The parts layer so smoothly with elegant subtlety. Tatum sings beautiful poetry about surrendering to love. He displays a little more range in his vocal capabilities as he fluctuates between a soft high voice and a deeper chest voice.

Through the Grass:

This song is gentle and ghostly. Every line he sings during the verse is repeated by his voice sounding further away as its heavily drenched in reverb. An acoustic guitar is featured in this song and it brings a nice contrast to the cavernous sound of the rest of the arrangement.

Only Heather:

The song’s introduction builds from what sounds like a recording of an orchestra tuning played backwards (I have no idea if that’s what it really is, but that’s what it makes me think of). This song is faster paced that the songs before. The drums and bass are driving, and the guitar is picked quickly and elegantly. Behind this arrangement is a beautiful lush sounding synthesizer pad. It’s subtle but it really holds the song together in my opinion, as it fills up any potential silence.  Tatum sings a rather straightforward love song here, and the chorus is quite catchy: “Only Heather… Can make me feel this way.” I’d love to meet her.

(artwork that came with my vinyl copy of “Nocturne”)

This Chain Won’t Break:

The song opens with a loud, hard-hitting drum pattern and a gong breaks in on the 4th beat of every second bar. This song is rather heavy on the synthesizers as there is many different synthesized textures layered one on top of the other. This is especially the case during the bridge. I really lose myself in these sounds as Tatum sings, “All these faces. All these faces. Well they look the same.”

Disappear Always:

The guitar lead in the beginning of this track is fantastic. It seems to come out of nowhere at first listen, but then I realize there’s nowhere else this melody can belong but right where Tatum placed it. It’s short and sweet, and it’s the reason I always revisit this song. The song also has a killer guitar solo near the end. I can really relate to Tatum’s words in this song as someone who deals with depression and anxiety, I’ve felt the loneliness and seclusion he expresses in this song. “This house is now a grave. I’ve been sleeping here for days. I’m too hidden to awake. So I disappear always.” I fucking love that lyric!

Paradise:

Now, when this song opens, I swear this is an 80s ballad. The synth pads just make me float, and then the guitar comes in, and that tone… I wish I could replicate it on my guitar. The drums and bass keep a rock solid rhythm going throughout much of the song and soften out during the interlude. The interlude features an oscillating synth texture that sounds like wind recorded under water. “Tell me once or twice that love is paradise. Love is paradise”

Counting Days:

I love the synths in this song. There are so many different layers. The most ear-grabbing one for me is very percussive and staccado (you’ll recognize it when you hear it). This song has a very melancholy tone: “It’s cold in your bed and those flowers have long been dead.” It’s as though Tatum is a ghost speaking to his grieving lover.

The Blue Dress:

The bass runs and drives the song as the leads come and go as they please. Tatum adds many pieces of sweet ear candy throughout the song. The words long for a love too good to be true: “And then I dreamt of you so sweet. In the garden of my touch. Drowning into sheets. Imaginary love.”

Rheya:

The album comes to a close with this track. The synth echoes and weeps, as the guitar condoles. The bass and drums keep a steady rhythm and support the many layers above them. Bongos are featured on the closing of the song, which adds a pleasant and tasteful touch. The lyrics a little more abstract, dark and cold: “Touch me one last time. I don’t want to remember this life.”

Now, click here to listen! 

So that’s my (very detailed) recommendation. Please, please, PLEASE! Give this album a shot! Let me know what you think. And let me know what you think of this article. If you have any recommendations for me and want to hear my thoughts of something, don’t be shy!

Thanks for reading.

Peace!

[i] Taken from Wikipedia