Current Album Placing: 4th
Heyooo! This is my second blog post. Today I'm going to be talking about an album that I'm doubtful that I'm not the biggest fan of in the world. I say that because it's pretty unknown, especially for mainstream audiences-- I have never seen Piano Magic mentioned anywhere online unless I was specifically searching for it-- and obviously because I have an extreme affection for it. In fact, I don't even remember exactly how I found this album. It was probably from some random list of albums on some website.
Piano Magic, according to Wikipedia, was a "musical collective". I had never heard that term before looking at their article, but it basically means it's a group of a few core individuals and they make music with whoever wants to participate at the time. Sure, bands have members come and go frequently, but this is even less definitive than that. This means that each album by the collective will probably be much different from the others, because there will be different people participating each time, bringing new influences and flairs. In fact, I've only listened to one other record by Piano Magic. Maybe a post for another day.
Low Birth Weight's musical genre (again, according to Wikipedia) is "indie rock". Personally, I think this is not the most fitting description of the album. Of course, we can argue all day about genres and such, but the fact of the matter is we all have different ideas of what defines certain genres. But this is my blog, so it's my rules, bitch!!!
I would personally define this album's genre as post-rock. What the fuck is that? I will admit, even though I call post-rock my favorite genre, my idea of what it constitutes is very hazy. From Wikipedia: "Post-rock is a form of experimental rock characterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbre over traditional rock song structures, chords, or riffs. Post-rock artists are often instrumental, typically combining rock instrumentation with electronics."
All I can say is most of my favorite albums have that label attached to them. Its main focus is on experimentation. My favorite post-rock albums are generally ones that have a focus on atmosphere and mood. This is in contrast to most rock and pop music that instead focuses on hooking you right off the bat with a melody, or a rhythm, or a riff. Of course, I enjoy lots of rock and pop music that successfully create catchy hooks. But we're here to focus on the music that really makes me feel some deep emotions.
1. Instruments/Song Structure
Low Birth Weight is not concerned with hooking you in with something catchy to get you moving. I won't lie to you, it moves fairly slowly. The only track under four minutes long is an interlude, and four of the songs are over five minutes long. That isn't super long, yes, but honestly, usually not a whole lot changes throughout the course of each song. Many people would understandably call it repetitive, and I wouldn't blame them for that. This music asks that you be patient with it and take the time to listen and feel it. Generally, the songs start off with a very low energy level, then ramp up slightly in energy, and stay that way until the song ends, sometimes waning back down to silence.
In terms of instruments, the main instrument would be the guitar. There is oftentimes more than one guitar being played at a time. I would say most songs have one or two main guitar melodies that it sticks to and builds off of. There are also vocals. Just from listening, I believe there are two vocalists, one male and one female. They are never both in the same song. The woman's voice is very soothing and dreamy, while the man's voice is . . . sort of solemn, and defeated.
Not every song has drums. Some do, and some have sort of electronic beats. None are drums you can really jam to, though. They are usually pretty simple. And I think that goes for a lot of this album. It is very minimal. It is not necessarily the most experimental. It doesn't use very many crazy instruments or song structures or chord structures or anything. It is focused on creating a certain atmosphere.
2. Atmosphere :D
Low Birth Weight is quiet, melancholy, and dreary. I think dreary is the best way to describe it. I wouldn't call it lifeless, though. It has a lot less life than a normal landscape, but there is still life here. And it's calm. It's relaxed. This album does sound sad, but not sad in a "crying your eyes out" way. It's not the sound of murder, or jealousy, or sickness. I find that it's more like the sound of someone quietly withering away. Perhaps the whole of the human race.
And they're not scared. Well, maybe they are, deep down. But they were also scared a long time ago. They knew this time would come all the way back then. Maybe there was a time of absolute panic and terror. But it has long since passed, and now there can only be a quiet acceptance. Now all they can do is try to enjoy the basic, simple things in life as much as they can. Watering the plants, eating bread, taking walks. Waking up in the morning and bathing. They don't laugh anymore, but they can still smile. A bleak, knowing smile.
Of course, my description here doesn't quite match up with the lyrical content of the album. I'm not going to go into that section, mostly because I haven't looked up the lyrics for myself at this point.
3. Some of my rambly thoughts
My favorite song on this album is Snowfall Soon. It's one of my favorite songs, and probably a lot of the reason why I kept coming back to this album in the first place. It sets the mood for the whole album perfectly, with its fading in guitar. The chord structure in this song is just so fucking beautiful. There is something so bittersweet about the mix of the guitars, along with her voice. And something about "handle with care if only you dare/I'm sensitive, touch sensitive" really makes me feel. Not because of the words themselves, but because of the way she sings them. They really blended the notes so well together.
But my favorite part of the album is easily towards the end of Snowfall Soon. The main guitar section is dropped, and the chord structure shifts to something slightly more optimistic. The singer repeats "Write or I'll die", but on the fourth time, there is a hesitation before the word "die". And then there is this earth-shattering gasp and cry, along with three booming hits of a drum. Not only are the singer's noises here shocking, but the drums are also, perhaps even more so, because that is the first time drums have been introduced in the song (and album), and it is the loudest part of it at that point. Then it is immediately followed up with a cymbal crash and it goes on repeating the same refrain from before, this time with drums and low guitar creating a booming, dark rhythm. I think it's brilliant.
And then there's the interlude, Birdymachine, which pretty much lives up to its name, I think. It sounds like a machine trying to sound like a bird. It's a very strange interlude, and I would love to know what they were thinking when they decided to make it and put it on an album.
Straight after, the song Not Fair starts with a sample, which I believe adds a lot to the album's theme. "I've never had a long period of being happy . . . do you think anybody has? . . . I think- I think you can be peaceful for quite a long time. But to be happy, it's different." Maybe this is one of the main reasons I said what I did earlier: this album doesn't sound happy, but it does sound content, in a way. Not Fair is definitely the most positive-sounding song and the most high-energy song on the album.
Dark Secrets Look For Light is easily the most outright depressing song here, at least for me. There is so little instrumentation in this one that is much easier to hear all the lyrics clearly. It is about a man so desperate for a woman that he settles for one that he thinks is ugly, enters a relationship with her, and dreams of another one that he truly wants. But then he realizes the error in that, and truly falls in love with the woman. The woman finds out afterward that the man only wanted her as a way to imagine being with someone else, and in her sorrow, commits suicide.
The man comes home to find her dead and decides to do the same. And that's really it. It's honestly a joy to hear. We don't always need a bright side or a happy ending. Sometimes shit is just awful.
Waking Up is the last song on the album. It's actually a cover of a song by a band called Disco Inferno. I'm usually not a fan of covers. I prefer to listen to music played by the people who created it. But for a while, I didn't even realize this song was a cover. That's how well it fits in. And when I found out, I listened to the original song, and I think I like this version better. That may just be because I listened to this version first, but Piano Magic made enough changes to the song that it fits right into Low Birth Weight, and the attention to cohesion is much appreciated.
Low Birth Weight is not the most bold, or outlandish, or striking, or daring album. It's not something to put on in the background, it's not something to dance to. But I think it is really beautiful. No other music gives me the same feeling as this. It paints a world for me, one of broad and vague strokes, that brings me a lot of comfort. I wanted to give this one love especially since I don't know any other fans of it, and it is one of my favorite albums ever.