Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Great moments in vocal harmonies, vol. 1

Great vocal harmonies have existed almost since the beginning of music. Here are some random selections:

The Velvet Underground - I Found A Reason (beginning of song): Pedal tone harmonies made with two vocal tracks of opposing rhythms, this trick may be used for the harmonies on the last verse of "Tonight."

Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories - Stay (I Missed You) (1:07): Lisa Loeb gives us hope because she was the first unsigned artist to have a number one single with this song. She also went to Brown and majored in comp lit. Beginning at 1:07, the harmonies, which at times sound more like an extension of her lead vocal, help build the song to a powerful climax. There's also tambourine on the song, if you listen closely.

Radiohead - Sit down. Stand up. (1:48): Radiohead aren't exactly known for their barbershop harmonies, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. At 1:48, the harmonies start creating these weird chords that only create more tension, and make the song creepier as it builds up to the raindrops.

The Beach Boys - Wouldn't It Be Nice: Notice how the harmonies alternate smoothly between "oohs/ahs" and actual words. And while we're on this song... everyone should experience the joy of discovering what the guitar is playing during the bridge (1:06).

Martha & the Vandellas - Heatwave: Motown produced an amazing string of pop songs during the 60s, another reason to reclaim the oldies station from your parents instead of rebelling against it. Remember, John Lennon's favorite singer is mary wells ("you beat me to the punch", "my guy") of Motown fame. "Heatwave" is a great example of call-response, doubling, and "ooh" harmonies, all wrapped in one high-energy pop song that rocks harder than most indie rockers today.

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