Sunday, February 17, 2008

Musical Nuance, Part I: Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Walk On The Ocean"

Long before iPod earbuds were chic, while trying to cram a portable CD player into jacket pockets barely capable of holding a wallet, I marveled at how Radiohead's use of the violin in the choruses of "(Nice Dream)" would raise goosebumps beneath my flannel shirt. A decade earlier, I'd rewind cassettes on an oversized gray boom box, trying to decipher what the heck that that flourish was in the introduction to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer." (For your information, it's a synthesized version of a Japanese flute called a Shakuhachi. You're welcome.)

In short, I've always appreciated the little things in music that have made good songs great, or at least mediocre songs worth another listen. And with this bloggable world in which we now live, Varsity Basketweaving is as good a medium as any for such self-indulgent rants.

I'll post these at an irregular rate, although hopefully not nearly as irregular as my "Obscure SNL Skit of the Week" series (total installments: 1).

For a band whose sole representation in my CD collection is the 1991 album "Fear," Toad the Wet Sprocket hooks me in almost every time with "Walk on the Ocean." It's such an eclectic track. It's not often I find myself listening to a glorified sea shanty that doesn't just give in and sing "Yarrr" at any point.

Anyway, at the 1-minute, 51-second mark of this video (ignore the visual adaptation), the bridge kicks in. And tucked behind the accordion and mandolin is a single vocal, quietly soaring over everything else in the mix, singing only the word "Oh."

The first two times it's heard (1:55 and 2:04), it's the same pattern, with the vocalist holding the "Oh" on a high F#, then the G# above that and and the F below both. But I like that the third time (at 2:11), the "Oh" only moves from the F# to the G#, adding emphasis to the phrase. And I love that the last time (at 2:20), the "Oh" only falls from the F# to the F, allowing for a satisfying resolution.

2 comments:

Jimmy OI said...

Dude...been trying to catch up with the basketweaving. Definately agree with the bridge part, it's my favorite part in one of my favorite songs. You should check out their greatest hits, its pretty decent

sometimeslisa said...

I freaking love that song, that album, that band.