2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


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First Aid Kit……..another Swedish export!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

There are some musicians / groups who are so distinctive that it is almost sacrosanct to try to cover their songs. Amongst this select band I would put the Swedish super group Abba, whose sound was so distinctive, not least because of the composing / songwriting skills of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and the stunning vocals of Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad.

Recently I was listening to a programme on the radio and a couple of young ladies were being interviewed about their latest record, a Swedish duo by the name of First Aid Kit.

The folk duo  consists of the sisters Klara (vocals/guitar) and Johanna Söderberg (vocals/keyboards/autoharp/bass guitar). When performing live, the duo are accompanied by a drummer, a pedal steel guitarist and recently a keyboard player. In 2008, they became internationally known by their YouTube video cover of the Fleet Foxes song “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” that…

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Costa Coffee session in Burnley

2 Shades performed a 2-hour set at Costa Coffee this week. It was a low-key affair with minimal kit – just my Washburn electro-acoustic guitar – but a great opportunity to try out some new songs and some we hadn’t performed for a while. 

It was also a chance to see how well my Fishman Loudbox Mini acoustic guitar amplifier’s vocal channel performed. It was excellent and using the TC Helicon harmony voice processor in stereo mode, an Electro Harmonix B9 Organ pedal, and a Boo Tremolo pedal, there was sufficient variety in sounds to support the eclectic 31 -song programme which included standards, pop songs and a couple of blues-orientated songs.

New to our set was Homeward Bound, When I Fall in Love, Mountains of Mourne, Sixteen Tons, and Here Comes the Rain Again.

An enjoyable afternoon which we shall be repeating.


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Happy songs don’t do well in charts – a sign of the times?

For eleven months last year the charts were dominated by sad songs in minor keys.

Songs in major keys had only short spells in the charts. Some, like songs by Clean Bandit, DJ Khaled, and Harry Styles, lasted only a week at the top.

And it’s not just the minor key. For the first time since 2002 the average bpm of number ones fell below 100.

The research, carried out by Popbitch website and published by the American Psychological Association, concluded that “popular music has, in general, become sadder-sounding over time with an increasing use of minor keys and slower tempo”.

Another study in 2011 found that “lyrics of popular music became more self-focussed and negative over time” with the number of minor songs doubling since the 1960s.

This may be partly due to a change in formats. Vinyl 78s could hold 3 minutes of music which led to a high number of bpm. Streaming (the curse of modern charts) allows an unlimited length of song or album and s reducing the number of songs making it to the top of the charts – only 14 last year.

Popbitch refers to a 2009 study by American researchers which found that “when social and economic times were relatively threatening, songs that were longer in duration, more meaningful in content, more comforting, more romantic, and slower, were most popular”.

This is not the first research lately to identify this shift. I posted last year about this


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2 Shades (plus 2) entertain again at Pendleside Hospice

2 Shades were happy to be invited back to Pendleside Hospice, near Burnley, to entertain the patients. We could have played a set of Xmas songs as it was snowing outside but instead performed a range of standards, pop and country songs including a Tex-Mex medley and a Glen Campbell trilogy.

We were ably assisted by ex-Avalon Roy Shoesmith on percussion (his second gig with us at the hospice) and our friend Tony Cummings who duetted on “Glory of Love” and “Let it Be me“. As usual the audience were invited to sing along.

See earlier post on Hospice


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Duane Eddy – not Douane

I’ve had this EP for over 50 years and only just noticed his mis-spelt name. 

I also found this bizarre recording on youtube of Duane Eddy and the Rebel Rousers performing “live” dressed in confederate army uniforms with confederate flags decorating their moving fork lift truck as they played on a TV show in Miami Beach in 1958.

You wouldn’t get that past health & safety today never mind the PC brigades.

Other Duane Eddy posts here and here

 


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Streaming services make charts meaningless

Streaming services like Spotify are making charts meaningless. No matter how many plays they say equals a bought track it’s not the same.

Music fans skipping through a whole album in 3 minutes is not the same as actually buying a CD or vinyl or even a download.

That’s why songs are staying in the charts so long or why one artist (the ginger busker for example) hogged all the chart places.

Not since the 1950s have songs stayed so long in the charts i.e. when  songs like “I believe” by Frankie Lane stayed at No 1 for 18 weeks or “Secret love” by Doris Day (9 weeks) and “Cara Mia” by David Whitfield (10 weeks).

Last year’s single “Despacito” stayed top for 22 weeks as did songs by the afore-mentioned Ed Sheeran, and Drake.

Of course we’ve had other long stays at No 1 when people actually bought records e.g. “Everything I do for you” by Bryan Adams in 1991, “Love is all around” by Wet, Wet, Wet in 1994, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen in both 1975 and 1991. But it seems that’s not going to happen again.

The chief pop and rock critic of The Times (which ran this story) said “The charts are essentially broken. They are no longer a representation of what people actually listen to“.

The way the system works makes it harder for new artists to break into the mainstream because the playlists offer up only a small sample of songs.

Streaming also has an impact on song-writing.

No more three-minute pop songs as streaming services start paying royalties after 30 seconds. So you don’t even have to play a whole song . Which explains how Ed Sheeran’s album dominated all the top 10 spots last year.

Slow build-ups are out. You have to get the hook or the song title in during the first 30 seconds. Like an executive summary so people know what to expect e.g. in Despacito

And choruses (or pre-choruses) had better get in early or, as Spotify’s head of songwriter relations says “if you’re not loving it you’re skipping it”.

An analysis of hundreds of hits over the past 30 years (published in Musicae Scientiae) found that intros averaged about 20 seconds in the mid 80s but only 5 seconds today.

So great songs from the past that wouldn’t get a look in the charts today include “Hotel California”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, Shine on you Crazy Diamond”, “Money for Nothing” and other Dire Straits songs I might add like “Telegraph Road“.

Is it the listening public’s need for instant gratification (brain-damaged by over-using smartphones) or just a commercial ploy by the streaming services. Whichever I don’t like it!