Wednesday, November 7, 2012

8th Grade Playlist: #3. West Coast by Coconut Records

When you think of great sing along songs, you think about songs of joy and hope. These are upbeat songs like “Sweet Caroline,” and “More Than A Feeling.” So when I heard Jason Schwartzman (yes, the actor) of Coconut Records urge us to sing-along to “West Coast” I wasn’t quite sure it made sense.

This is a song about a man missing someone in his life. We’re not sure whether it’s a girlfriend, friend or family member. The circumstances of the distance between them isn’t made clear. It could be a break-up or someone making a career move.  It’s not clear who is to blame for the situation.

Does this sound like the kind of a song that works as a sing along? I wasn’t quite sure until I saw this video of Coconut Records performing live:

“West Coast” is a beautiful and intriguing song. It reminds me of “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire. Coconut Records has an indie rock flair mixed with a sense of story telling. “West Coast” is a song that takes us on a journey and brings us to a place we don't quite expect.

The song begins simple enough with a keyboard line, and then immediately draws us in with hints of a larger story told through fragments of thoughts. The verse is in 7/4, with the beat organized in a group of three and then a group of four. This metric pattern creates a subtle feeling of being unsettled as the melody doesn’t quite play out like you expect. The meter doesn’t bring attention to itself, rather it enforces the emotions of loss and longing in the lyrics.

After the second chorus, Jason calls to everybody to sing a soaring line that is sung over the verse music. There is a feeling of unity and freedom, almost a sense of flying as the words of the verse enter layering underneath. This section continues to build and then suddenly pulls back with the words “I miss you."

Music is about feeling comforted by knowing that there are other people in the world who share our emotions. When we sing along with a song we connect our own emotions with that song in an immediate and very real way. Sometimes those emotions are happy but other times they are not. “West Coast,” is a sad song but it reminds us that the feeling of missing someone is bittersweet. The only reason you miss someone is because of how great that person makes you feel and that is exactly what that soaring melody line is all about.

If you feel like singing along, than just sing along. It’s not about whether the song is happy or sad, it’s about the connection you feel with the artist.  In that moment you are sharing an emotional world that transcends time and space that only music can create.

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