Proof Is in the Pudding
and other adventures in City Pop
Maybe The Proof Is in the Eating
I've recently started kicking around this idea of sharing more of my songs. I've written a lot about songwriting over 7 months but have yet to use this platform to share any existing ideas or songs I'm working on.
I want to change that, so I'm developing a system.
Because sharing more of my songs with y'all is essential for credibility.
I want to be very upfront about the fact that I have never written a single hit song. I've never charted. I have no credentials from institutions. I'm just a guy who writes songs, puts them on the internet, and I've probably made $100 with my music over 20 years.
But if you are the type of person who wants to be able to write and finish songs that you enjoy, I've cracked that nut.
I enjoy writing songs. I don't fear the blank page. And best of all, I love sharing what I learn if I know it will make someone else's life easier.
Keeping this Songwriting Commonplace book has inspired me to take a new approach to songwriting. I want to show you that I do, in fact, write songs and that they often stink!
I"m going to give myself 30 days to focus solely on having ideas. They can be sections or nearly complete songs, but I will only put as much work into them as I can muster as I write them.
After that initial period, I'll share those ideas with trusted friends and loved ones, and then I will further develop the ideas that get the most positive feedback.
Feedback is one of the things I miss most about being in a band. When you play a song live, you find out very quickly whether anyone really likes it. Getting this same type of feedback as a solo artist is hard, so I'd like to find a way to build it in.
I'm excited to see how this pans out and keep going from there.
The Commonplace Book Update
That brings us to the musical commonplace book. This week I started to develop more of a system for tying the commonplace book to demo recordings.
A few days ago, I came up with an idea I wrote on staff paper and then pasted it into the commonplace book. That was cool, but I also wanted to develop some way to account for voice memo's that I record.
I realized I could keep my voice memos in a folder for summer song ideas. Using the commonplace book, I can keep them in order by creating reference numbers that link back to each voice memo.
This should be easier, but I have difficulty returning to voice memos. Paul McCartney also has a similar issue. In an interview, Paul once remarked that stuff he captures on tape just usually isn't it.. His general approach was that it's probably not very memorable if he and John had to use a record to remember it. I resonate with that idea because I feel like songs do best with a sense of urgency.
But it's good to try new things.
So I hope that by adopting this practice, I'll be inclined to consult my voice memos more often.
This week I also wrote down this Depeche Mode Lyric:
Just goes to show never write a lyric off (pun intended).
Once You City Pop, The Fun Don't Stop!
Do you know what City Pop is?
If you don't, you're in for a treat!
The term City Pop generally refers to Japanese pop music between the late '70s and '80s. The genre broadly describes Japanese music influenced by funk, disco, soft rock, and jazz fusion.
Over the last decade, I've fallen hard for City Pop and its broader musical counterparts. The music's production quality, melody, and harmonic richness are par excellence, and today I wanted to share a couple of tracks that I've been really excited about this week.
Plastic Love - Mariya Takeuchi
This song is one of the standards. My buddy Theo recently sent me a fun meme that was a play on its artwork. The track is built around a catchy ii-V7-iii-vi chord progression in F. The song's key can also be read in D minor; the chord degrees are slightly awkward. Regardless of the theoretical specifics, this song grooves hard.
Plastic Love has become a meme for a reason. The song perfectly captures the feeling of being young, slightly jaded, and out on the town. Takeuchi's voice has a perfect longing quality to compliment the melancholy melody.
Every aspect of this song is tight, and the work holds up after multiple listens. I always love a song you can dance or mope to.
夏のDU・BI DA・BA (Summer Day) - Jadoes
No moping here; Jadoes is all about feeling good!
I wish more people knew about this band. From a production perspective, Jadoes are the more forward-thinking group I've encountered. The editing on some of these tracks evokes the glitchy territory that acts like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin would make a career of.
Production aside, this band will hit you in the feels with their soaring melodies. The programmed drums and bass on this track slap, and I'm a sucker for all the arpeggios flying around in the background of this track. Jadoes' arrangements are second to none. They find small but clever ways to ensure you never hear the same part in the same way twice.
2度目のファーストラブ (2nd First Love) - Pas De Chat
This is definitely late for City Pop, but Discogs says it counts. Whatever you want to consider, Pas De Chat, they're gonna make you feel optimistic.
Let's talk about the synth stabs at the beginning of this song.
They make my freakin' day.
I love how this song has just enough Bernie Worrell stank to let you know. It complements the beautiful strings and glass synth patch in the upper voices incredibly well.
I'm a big fan of New Jack Swing, and this song has it in spades. I could listen to the drums on this track all day. As someone who programs many drum patterns, I'm always impressed by how producers put subtle care into how they program beats. In this song, listen for the tambourine sound, you'll be glad you did.