Real Music Criticism #2 – Seahven’s Save Me

Bandcamp is great. I’ve discovered several great new bands just by browsing the site

I work in Rhode Island – on the 2-3 days per week that I’m “at the office”. One week last summer I had a crazy late-afternoon meeting schedule, and an early morning meeting the next day. This happens 2-3 times a year. I usually get permission from the wife to stay the night in a local hotel, to avoid the 1+ hour commute back home to the South Shore of Massachusetts, only to turn around and go back early the next morning.

This one night last summer I was was stuck in a nasty extended-stay hotel in Warwick, RI (a $40 steal on priceline), pecking away at the computer, drawing my 50,000th large-scale system diagram for a technical meeting the next day with my client, my limp dick probably poking out the pee hole in my boxers, and listening to different punk bands on Bandcamp

Seahaven is a discovery from that night.

Here’s my favorite song off their latest album Winter Forever:

To continue my first stab at real music criticism, here are some tangible reasons why its a great song:

1. Great production

Hate to begin every musical critique with “production”, but its important. Every top dance pop song on the charts has ‘great production’ – its frequently the only thing standing between a shitty, forgettable song (which most of these pop songs are) and a ditty catchy enough to get stuck in your head for a few weeks one summer.

Save Me – like the rest of the songs on the album – have that thick, solid guitar spread you get in good pop punk like Green Day or Paramore. Full-spectrum stereo guitars, compressed vocals up in front of the sound, and a clacking kick drum that sounds across between Lars Ulrich’s plywood sound and Nicko McBrain’s thump.

2. Extended harmonies

Though it gets just a tad monotonous if you listen to the entire album, this one song on its own has an interesting use of “extended” 5ths – i.e. 9th chords. A “5th” is every rock guitar chord you’ve ever heard: Metalica’s “chug chug”, the Sonic Youth’s “dink dink”, Arcade Fire’s “wank wank” are all based on that stupid 2-note guitar chord consisting of 1st finger and 3rd finger on the low end of the fretboard. The trick Seahaven’s guitarists apply is to tack on a third note above this chord in the same interval. It results in two “stacked 5ths” which, if part of a more harmonically rich context, can almost sound jazzish. But if repeatedly used throughout a song as a consistent replacement for the conventional 5th-only chord, produces aninteresting and compelling harmony. Thickly distorted guitars only add to the effect, since the overtones produced by distortion ring in the same space as these added 5ths.

3. Medody + Harmony

That’s what its all about, right? Rhythm helps. But in rock, the rhythm is pretty much a given. The melody in both the verse and bridge/chorus is just lovely, unconventional in just the right amount, and syncopated (off-beat) in just the right amount too. The way that melody hits the sweet and sour notes in each chord make the two a treat to hear.