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unSanity

The Ballad of Aaron and Julie

February 17, 2013 3:31 PM

This started out as a quirky little Spoon riff ripoff, then it turned into a moody acoustic number, but when I tried to record it, it took a left turn into mutant son muntano. It ended up somewhere between Squeeze and Gloria Estefan, I think.

posted by unSane (8 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

This has got loads of potential unS. I was slightly underwhelmed with the intro arpeggio stuff which reminded me of Michael Chapman a bit - maybe just a tad predictable, but then we got the "ordinary" chorus and....we're off to the races.

Knee-jerk suggestions: you need to try to restrain the sort of "wall of sound" entry when the chorus kicks in. It's too much of a whathefuck contrast to my ears, and it's not that sort of track (again to my ears). I was hearing something just a bit more airy and lush - a sort of fist in a velvet glove. Some subtle strings perhaps? Also.....I think you sometimes tend to have everything at the same volume or fighting for the same space and it can get a bit constricted in there. Needs some separation.

I'd like to take a shot at a remix of this sometime when you're done with it. Mainly just to try to illustrate what I'm droning on about. Well done though - a return to form!
posted by Hoops McCann at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2013


I hear you on the mix... it took me forever to track this and my ears were a bit blown.

I haven't nailed the intro yet... I'm not in love with the guitar part but it's fucking difficult to find something that works equally well on both the Dm descending riff and the Em version of it. Was tempted to record it in two separate sections, one with a capo.

There is a sweet Zombies 'A Rose for Emily' style piano thing that kind of works, might try that. The oddest thing is that it goes from straight time in the intro to a fairly heavy swing in the rest of the song, and you'd think you could just swing the intro, but no it's got to be dead straight for some reason.

I had the same thought as you about strings, but no, it sounded awful.

It is a bit of a cliched progression but the shift from Em to Dm perks it up a bit I think.
posted by unSane at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2013


PS I think I'm done with it for the moment so I can shoot some stems over to you if you want to have a hack at it!
posted by unSane at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2013


A few further thoughts... I really don't like my vocal on this. It's really pitchy. I think I was tracking with the phones too loud (and also the melody is super chromatic, lots of little passing sharps and flats which are REALLY hard to hit). Also, I think the piano part earlier on is fighting with the rhythm of the strummed acoustic and the kit.

The whole song really should build towards that big ensemble in the last chorus so I could probably do much less in the first chorus, although it needs to solidly establish the swung feel.

One of my friends said it was 'magnificently weird', which I will take as a compliment I think.

I think songs like this expose both the weaknesses and strengths of doing stuff on your own. On the one hand, you can spend ridiculous amounts of time trying out what seem like stupid ideas and seeing where they go. On the other hand, there's no-one to say 'that vocal is really pitchy, turn the cue down'.
posted by unSane at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2013


Hey - don't be too hard on yourself. This just needs a little revision and it'll be a boaby dazzler (as they'd say in my native city).

Try this: strummed acoustic guitar, click track. Get a guide vocal down + any key vocal harmonies. Get a take that's potentially a keeper - even if you have to autotune it a bit. Then get rid of the click and acoustic, and start to build the track around the vocal from the ground up. Anything gets in the way - EQ/comp/reverb it till it's in its own space or bin it.

See what sort of mix you wind up with that approach. I'd bet you'll be a lot happier with the vocal because it's not having to fight through a dense mix and you'll probably be able to keep in tune much more easily. I also think this'll allow the song to breathe - it needs a little tender handling to coax the best out of it.
posted by Hoops McCann at 11:50 AM on February 19, 2013


I did a few tests today -- I'd not been having pitch problems until I recabled my studio. I always used to sing flat in phones until I learned to take the bass out. But when I checked these tracks I was singing consistently sharp, up to a quarter tone, sometimes even more, so I decided to figure it out.

I thought it might be that I was tracking too loud, but I pulled the volume right back and it made no difference.

My new cabling setup makes it MUCH easier to set up a cue mix and get zero-latency monitoring in the headphones (which was the point). I'd been putting much more of the vocal into the phones, since the latency wasn't tripping me up. So next I tried cutting out the vocal from the cue mix completely.

Zing. Bang on pitch. (Or as close as I ever get, anyway).

I was also using closed phones instead of my usual half-open ones. I'll investigate that next I guess.
posted by unSane at 7:03 PM on February 19, 2013


I did a few tests today -- I'd not been having pitch problems until I recabled my studio.

I'm glad you resolved the issue, but because you set it up like this, I thought for a moment you were going to blame your difficulty singing on the cabling in your studio! That way lies madness...
posted by grog at 5:25 AM on February 22, 2013


Well, I did think I'd gone mad until I thought it through....
posted by unSane at 6:33 AM on February 22, 2013


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