“Mood Music” quenches human soul through subtle complexity

Photo by Jon B, via flickr

Roberto Lopez-Trigo/Contributing Writer 

In the album “Mood Music” by the band “Upside Drown”, a dynamic duo takes over your ears and hearts with their stop and go rhythms, ethereal yet powerful instrumental licks, and thought-provoking lyrics. The band came to fruition in 2009 in Oakland, California and came into being when Rosemary Steffy (Vocalist/Drummer) and Colleen Johnson (Vocalist/Guitarist) briefly collaborated with each other, but the brief collaboration turned into a permanent one when they saw the power of their sonorous partnership. Their debut album came out in September of 2012 and features several guest artists.

My two favorite tracks on this album are arguably “Still the Arrow” and “Rock in the yard”. In the song “Still the Arrow” the harmonies are so tight that the two voices at times feel like they could be mistaken for one full and powerful voice, and if nifty vocal harmony doesn’t get your juices flowing, then the complicated, yet subtle rhythmic variations will definitely do the job. In this song the meter changes seamlessly between three and four that adds a different, but jazzy flavor to their sound.

The song “Rock in the Yard” is one of the more harmonically interesting songs on the album and hits me straight in the gut every time I listen to it. The song overall is very tense using dissonance and chromaticism to communicate the poetic genius of the lyrics. The lyrics tell a story about a woman that fell in love with a man that she shared love with that is no longer in her life. But as time goes by, so does life, and the memories of their love and time together leaves her memory, which ultimately satisfies the hole left in her soul.

However, the most annoying aspect of this album is probably the lack of good diction in some of the songs. It really grinds my gears when a musician’s beautiful song is shadowed by slurred pronunciation and lack of sound balance between the vocals and instruments. It’s like giving the listener only pieces of a movie, sure you might be able to make out what’s going on, but the overall power of the message is lessened or completely lost. This happens throughout the album in small sections, but frequently occurs in the song “Sheltering Sky”. Additionally, the song “Go” can be a bit boring and is instrumentally second rate to the rest of the album, but lyrically and vocally is moving to the point of tears when analyzed poetically.

Overall, this duo creates a sympathetic resonance that rings through the listener gut, amplifying their hunger for more of their music. The music of Upside Drown quenches the human soul through their subtle complexity and in my personal opinion deserve a nine out of ten.


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