New Music To You: Bart Crow, Manchester Orchestra, and The Japanese House

With the Hummingbird Rotation, we hope to give folks a closer look at the songs that get the most play at Hummingbird HQ. This installment, hear about Bart Crow, Manchester Orchestra, and The Japanese House.

Wear My Ring // Bart Crow

If you’re going through a rough spot and need to be a negative Nancy from time to time, country music can help. Sometimes,  the lyrics of a song tell your own story it seems Wear My Ring by Bart Crow does just that in a rockin’ country jam. The song is filled with awesome guitar solos as well as an interesting, nuanced bassline uncommon in most country music

Plus, its hard not to belt this chorus at the top of your lungs:

“Said little angel with the bottle

I don’t love you anymore

Yeah I spent some time out with the devil

Oh but you don’t hurt me anymore

Yeah I waste my time

And I waste my money

On a broken dream

‘Cause you wouldn’t wear my ring

Baby give me back my ring”

The Sunshine // Manchester Orchestra

I do not make Beatles comparisons lightly. But when I heard Manchester Orchestra’s “The Sunshine,” my immediate reaction was “Man, this sounds like the Beatles if they got to record with today’s tech.” I’m well-aware of what a bold comparison this is, and how downright blasphemous it may feel to some people, but I stand by it. No one’s saying Manchester Orchestra is as good a band, but look — just listen for yourself before you bring out the pitchforks.

The song, structured into a verse, chorus, second verse, longer chorus, and an outro, has a bread-and-butter simplicity. There is a distinction between verse and chorus, but in a way, the whole song sounds — or feels — like the chorus. The energy level, instrumentation, and melodic ideas are consistent throughout the song. “The Sunshine” doesn’t traverse great distances, it immediately establishes and settles into its comfort zone and doesn’t ask you to leave it.

A mandolin/banjo-like instrument plucks a bright melody, evoking the iconic “Here Comes The Sun.” Also like those of the Beatles, Manchester Orchestra’s vocals are generously layered, sounding like one man singing in ten voices and giving them a sweet, velvety feel. But whereas the Beatles sang with a cheerful gusto, Manchester Orchestra’s vocals are softer, with a dash of tenderness and a hint of melancholy.

The Beatles comparison applies past mere instrumentation. “The Sunshine” has the same upbeat, breezy, sunny (ha ha!) je ne sais quois that Here Comes The Sun is practically a dictionary definition for now. Maybe what’s most Beatles-y about this song, then, is just the feeling. It’s simply-constructed classic rock with an upbeat inflection and an easy, breezy, laid-back groove. It just makes me want to stroll down a sunny street and wave jovially at everyone I pass. That’s a very Beatles-y emotion to me, and a hard one to pin down, but Manchester Orchestra nails it here.

Count to Nine // The Japanese House

I’m all about weird music. The zanier, bolder, and more unpredictable a song can be (while still sounding good), the more I’m probably going to dig it. The Japanese House was introduced to me through Spotify recommendations based on Bon Iver, but “Count To Nine” is, uh… well, it’s not folk music. I can say that confidently. What kind of music it IS, however, I don’t know how to express. Alternative, electronic, indie, and pop all leave their footprints on the song, but “Count To Nine” is almost genre-transcendent — not because it has no genre, but rather it has so many. The Japanese House splices genre elements together like a mad scientist, with an utterly singular, novel, and captivating result.

What “Count To Nine” is able to express by melding and mangling so many styles far exceeds what could be done with any one style. Experimentation is thrilling just for its own sake, but The Japanese House is neither gratuitous nor indulgent with the pieces it chooses: each element is placed with intention and care, forming the most jagged jigsaw puzzle pieces that fit together effortlessly.

In a clever, almost mischievous feat of composition, “Count To Nine”’s runtime is — you guessed it — exactly nine minutes. It should be noted that any song that can last nine minutes and not feel like a nine-minute song is a feat all of its own. “Count To Nine” features many different sections, sounds, and energies, so it continues to evolve over the runtime. The Japanese House doesn’t just use up fresh ideas and toss them in the trash like tissues in an effort to reach that nine minute mark. Themes, sounds, and ideas are repeated throughout the song, giving it the cohesion and consistency that a nine-minute conveyor belt of unrelated, unrevisited musical ideas would lack. It’s nine minutes, and that’s cool, but what’s cooler is how fun those nine minutes are.

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