Wayne Shorter – Witch Hunt

In honor of the upcoming holiday this Monday, I thought I’d highlight something a little peculiar (spooky?). Besides its titular connection to the ubiquitous late October character, “Witch Hunt” has some interestingly eerie musical elements. I know compared some of the other music I’ve written about here, Wayne Shorter’s “Witch Hunt” is fairly “regular” post-bop. It has a straight-ahead arrangement, features traditional jazz timbres, and isn’t overtly dissonant. In 2011, this is not too experimental. However, in 1964, when Wayne Shorter’s quintet recorded Speak No Evil – the album that opens with “Witch Hunt,” – they were known primarily for playing Coltrane-esque modal jazz. Speak No Evil was actually a major stylistic departure for the group; it marks a move towards harmonic hard bop, with more expressive, simpler playing.

Furthermore, while most Western harmony (jazz or otherwise) is based on stacked thirds, “Witch Hunt” emphasizes the traditionally dissonant interval of the fourth in its melody and harmony. The fourths give the melody and Shorter’s solo unexpected angular and otherworldly qualities. Herbie Hancock’s comping expresses the darker qualities of these complex harmonic structures as well. Underneath all that, Elvin Jones and Ron Carter provide a dynamic canvas for the other musicians. And Freddie Hubbard’s solid trumpet lines cannot be ignored.

To get the complete effect, turn your headphones up and your lights down. Enjoy Wayne Shorter’s “Witch Hunt.”

Wayne Shorter – Witch Hunt

Fruit Bats – You’re Too Weird

Fruit Bats

What do you get when you mix the Bee Gees with Flight of the Conchords? Fruit Bats, apparently. Not the Halloweeny kind, but the band from Chicago. With super high-pitched vocals and acoustic guitars, the Fruit Bats really know how to write the catchy throwback-style songs Bret and Jemaine might’ve written while sitting on their twin beds, staring awkwardly into each other’s eyes, channeling the Gibbs brothers. And I mean that as a compliment.

Fruit Bats can also get a little rockin’, and a little folky–a good combination, if you ask me. But my first impression of the band, the song “You’re Too Weird,” was more spot-on than I realized. If you want to take this song seriously, you should maybe just listen to the audio first. Then watch the music video. Brilliant. Because no guy that sings as high as Eric D. Johnson (also of The Shins) should take themselves too seriously, and Johnson most definitely does not.

Yuck – Natsu Nandesu

Yuck - Natsu Nandesu

Here’s one to ease you into the latter half of your week.

Yuck has been getting some well deserved buzz this year, due to their fuzzy, shoegaze-y 90’s alternative sound. Basically, if Dinosaur Jr  and Pavement had a band-baby, it’d be Yuck.

Anyway, in addition to their solid self-titled debut, the band has released a string of standalone singles. This one comes straight off the Japanese edition of their album.

“Natsu Nandesu” is actually a cover; the original is by the Japanese folk-rock band Happy End. The original version is lovely, but I’m in love with Yuck’s rendition. Bassist Mariko Doi’s voice is so sweet, and I love how they really made the song their own, while managing to stay faithful to the earlier version.

Also, the fact that I can’t understand any of the lyrics turns Doi’s voice into another instrument. It adds texture to the overall composition, instead of being the main focus. 

Hopefully you can just ride this breezy track into the weekend.

The Rest – Always on My Mind/The Last Day

The Rest - Always On My Mind

I’m so far behind on music, it’s ridiculous. I’m just talking about the music I want to write about; forget about the submissions to go through to find the music I want to write about, that’s becoming a lost cause.

For example, these two songs from The Rest were sent to me about a month ago. In an ideal world, I would have shared it a month ago. I’m just working on getting the great music like this to your ears. Slowly, I’ll get through the awesome music from September like The Rest’s Always on My Mind/The Last Day EP. It’s available for free at Bandcamp until Halloween.

The Rest’s latest album SEESAW will be released in early 2012. The band resides in Hamilton, Canada. You can like them on Facebook. Enjoy!