Friday, May 3, 2013

Music To Write By: Fol Chen's "In Ruins"

Why Listen? For quirky instrumentation buffered by pop-pretty vocals; an apocalypse cut with a love story; a lesson on how to make the obscure accessible.

By all rights, Fol Chen's "In Ruins" shouldn't be accessible to a casual listener. The experimental music collective kicks off the track with oddly syncopated bass beats and distorted whispers underpinning spunky riffs from what sounds like a deliberately out-of-tune ukulele. Not exactly radio-friendly. But then vocalist Sinosa Loa's vocals kick in with a bridge that sounds stolen from Top-40 pop. It's a disarming way to sweeten the experimental pot for listeners more accustomed to Pink and Demi Lovato than Portishead. Ditto with the lyrics, which blend an ambiguous post-apocalyptic scenario with super-cute romance:
There's a monument that they say they'll build
To the way things were, but we can't return.
We can slip through the holes in the stories they told,
Take a walk through the ash and the acid rain.
I don't care if the germs eat our books and our brains.
All I want is to see your face again.
Occasionally you'll catch writers in more niche genres -- horror, noir, hard SF, take your pick -- decry a general lack of interest in their chosen field. While I too wish people would take an oh-so-short break from legal thrillers and military thrillers (and thrillers as a whole), Fol Chen teaches us something important: When working outside the mainstream, you have to make the obscure accessible.

(Hat Tip: The Wall Street Journal)

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