A Town with no Pity

July 31, 2011 1:34 PM

Epic 60s janglepop meets Northern Soul, final version of the tune I've been evolving here and on The Music Incubator. All based on a little piano riff, and therefore my August challenge entry too.

Like I say, this started life as a simple little piano riff. That led to a vocal melody, but I had no words. snsranch and koeselitz kind of gave me the idea for the lyric.

The final version was something of an epic undertaking. Eleven tracks of vocals, four horns, four guitars and an orchestral harp. Rhythm guitars are a Jazzmaster, lead is a 335, all through Guitar Rig. Piano is a sped up Mellotron sample from Kontakt. Horns are the Chris Hein samples. Drums are Native Instruments Abbey Road 60s drums.

Phew. Obviously there's a nod to Daydream Believer and Happy Together in there, but I sort of imagine Chuck Jackson or singing this for some reason.

posted by unSane (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Lyrics fwiw. One thing that's kind of interesting to me is that even in something which is clearly a piece of pop like this, little personal things make all the difference. I can remember my girlfriend when I was about 19 going off to work in Europe, and watching her recede as the bus drove away, and wondering what would happen. Then the whole anti-city thing is very much my feeling when we recently quit our place in the city and built a place in the country. So it's totally made up, but on the other hand I lived it in a way.

Snow is falling on a dirty city street
Endless faces passing by but we never meet
I wish that I could be somewhere that isn’t here
Been too long in the city
In a town with no pity
I wish that I could be where summer never ends
I wish that I could be with you

Where the sun comes up in the morning time
And I turn my face to the bright sunshine
Until the sun goes down in the evening time
And life is easy, it’s easy

I left you standing on a bright midsummer’s day
Watched the tears fall as the wheels rolled you away
I should have changed my mind while I still had the chance
Turned my back on the city
On a town with no pity
You said you’d wait for me but I’ve been gone so long
I’ve got to find out if you still feel like you did back when...


I close my eyes and I try to see your face but it won’t come
Is it over now, or has it only just begun?


I’m on my way somewhere that summer never ends
I’m on my way back home to you

words/music © 2010-2011 J Brownlow, all rights reserved


posted by unSane at 6:46 PM on July 31, 2011

Splendidiferously triffic! Good number, like the production, light and shade, dynamics etc.

I think I commented before about perhaps tracking the lead vocals? These 60's-style poptastic anthems can stand what would in other circs be something a bit too artificial-sounding. Also, and I am being constructive here (you know I generally like your material), the intonation on the lead vocals sometimes is a wee bit suspect. You have a tendency to going a touch flat at the tail-end when you're holding a note. You could autocorrect that easily - if you don't want to rerecord - or the tracking I'm suggesting would help smooth that out. I admit that I have hypercritical ears, so feel free to disregard what I'm saying on that point. Nice breadth of guitar sounds too.

and I could have done such a number on the guitar solos on this if only he'd asked, if only........onl..........sniff
posted by MajorDundee at 10:14 AM on August 2, 2011

Yeah, well, I'm a rank beginner at the singing thing, Major, and it's a constant battle with intonation for me. Most of the time I hit the front of the note more-or-less OK and then it's a struggle to keep it in pitch. I can do it if I sing quietly but as soon as I open up I seem to get all wobbly.

I think it was particularly evident at the beginning of this track. I sort of committed myself to no auto tuning this one so I guess I'll try to retrack the vocals. I probably had the headphones too loud as usual.

I did double track the vocal in the choruses but it didn't feel right on the verses for some reason. I don't mind it in some things but it sounds odd to me on others. Like Sinead O'Connor on Nothing Compares 2 U -- I really wish she hadn't double tracked that even though it was done almost perfectly.
posted by unSane at 12:32 PM on August 2, 2011

Like Sinead O'Connor on Nothing Compares 2 U -- I really wish she hadn't double tracked that even though it was done almost perfectly.

I know what you mean and I'm also not a fan of double tracking. But there are certain types of track that seem almost to require it - the kind of "big" production numbers a la Phil Spector. I also think that Sinead O'Connor isn't a particularly good singer technically - she has a lot of emotional punch but doesn't possess a great vehicle for delivery of it. I'd have liked to have heard Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday (particularly Billie Holiday) tackling "Nothing" - christ, what an intriguing thought that is......

Interesting that you can keep in tune when singing quietly. Leads me to speculate whether you have a bit of a confidence problem i.e. as soon as you feel that you can be overheard you feel exposed, become self-conscious and then lose it. Maybe you should try tracking vocals when there's no-one around and you can really let it all hang out, and see how that sounds. I do wonder whether confidence problems can manifest themselves in this way - wobbliness is perhaps a direct physical manifestation of the uncertainty you feel about singing? Or it might be that you just need to strengthen your vocal chords by practising singing at full volume?
posted by MajorDundee at 1:50 PM on August 2, 2011

I only track vocals when there's no-one else around!

I think it's a breath control problem, plus a listening problem. It's hard to really sing loud without some volume in the cans but I find that high SPLs throw my intonation off. I tried that recording-with-speakers thing but I didn't warm to it. Maybe I'll try it again. It's probably mostly a matter of practice and feedback. I should try singing directly into Autotune and watch it track my pitch, might be an interesting exercise.

I don't really like my voice when it gets shouty, at least in the midrange.
posted by unSane at 2:11 PM on August 2, 2011

This is so damned good. Great tune. Needs to be pouring out of a transistor radio on a sunny windowsill in the late 1970s.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on August 6, 2011



I bow to you.
posted by roboton666 at 7:43 PM on August 27, 2011

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