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The Little Things

By 13

Just like great books, movies and art,  you can keep re-visiting some songs to find new nuances you didn’t noticed before. Whether it’s a sigh between chords, a scratch on the strings or even a cough before the chorus, these small human elements can add an endearing quality to music, reminding us that songs are not magical, mechanical products but hand-crafted pieces of raw human creation.

Pink Floyd's "Mother"

Albums that also serve as movie soundtracks (e.g. Pink Floyd’s The Wall) can be expected to have more “human” elements to them, as they’re based on human stories. Some of the non-musical sounds from The Wall movie are left in the accompanying album for a more multi-dimensional sound: From cash registers “cha-chinging” and hearts thumping to school teachers screaming about meat and pudding. I recently noticed a more subtle sound – a deep sigh at the beginning of “Mother.” It’s a fitting auditory relief after the schoolyard chaos in "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" and a welcoming beacon to the initially soothing musings in “Mother.” While not entirely musical, the sigh fits perfectly within the song.

Fleetwood Mac's "I Don't Want to Know"

Another charmingly human moment in music is the squeak Lindsey Buckingham’s fingers make when they slide down the strings of his acoustic guitar five seconds into Fleetwood Mac’s “I Don’t Want to Know.” Author Chuck Klosterman pointed out this detail in Killing Yourself to Live, calling it “the definitive illustration of what we both loved about music; we loved hearing the inside of a song.” He told this to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in an interview. Tweedy agreed, adding that he always thought of Buckingham as someone who wants to control every element of his music, so this little “crack he couldn’t sparkle over” was indicative of the greater truth that “nobody can control anything, really.” It’s amazing what a just a little scratch can do.

The White Stripes – “White Moon”

While The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan earned them a Grammy Award and other accolades, it almost didn’t make it to the mixing room. Recorded in Jack White's semi-haunted Detroit home studio, the album seemed to be cursed with failing equipment, leaky ceilings and other misfortunes. Some of these “hauntings” are audible on songs like "White Moon" (a song that even references an ex-girlfriend “ghost”), where drummer Meg White’s bell set falls over with a crash near the end. Giving listeners a hint to the recording location, Jack White's house phone can be heard ringing about 2:50 minutes into "Take Take Take." Looking at more White Stripes songs like Elephant’s "I Wanna Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart," the band has a history of leaving in these little sounds that others might take out – and by keeping them in, The White Stripes distinguish themselves as charmingly true to the authentic, imperfect process of creating music from bare hands.

Check out Vitamin String Quartet tributes to all of these artists!

More Bricks: The String Quartet Tribute to Pink Floyd

Available at iTunes and Amazon

The String Quartet Tribute to Fleetwood Mac

Available at iTunes and Amazon

The String Quartet Tribute to The White Stripes

Available at iTunes and Amazon

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Songs for the End of the World

By 18

You guys, we did it! We made it to the year 2012, and you know what that means, right? The factual, commonly accepted end of all things. As we've all known for a while now, the world is not long for this world, and our last year as human civilization is going to be an exciting one. But when the Earth's magnetic poles reverse causing widespread spontaneous volcanism, what do you want to be playing on your stereo? Below are my suggestions. 1. R.E.M. - It´s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) Let's just get this out of the way. 2. Daniel Powter – Bad Day Just imagine it. You're standing outside, looking up at the night sky and all radio and television signals have cut off into static as they've just given their final newscast. You can see the meteor approaching as a bright light in the sky. Suddenly, the song's piano intro kicks in from inside the house, and just before the atmosphere sets on fire... “'Cause you had a bad day!” 3. Sarah McLachlan – I Will Remember You A sentimental song about past loves, this will fit just as easily when reminiscing about all life on earth. When she sings, “Don't let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories,” you'll be able to enjoy its brand new unintended perspective. 4. Jackson Five – ABC Okay, things are getting a little dour. Why not take a moment to lighten up the mood a little? The sweet, unfiltered joy of little Michael Jackson just might take your mind away off the dread. You may be waiting out the solar flares in your underground bunker, and in the event that you get to rise out of the ruins into the post-apocalyptic landscape, you'll be ready to party. Related: String Quartet Tribute To R.E.M., Strung Out Volume 6: The String Quartet Tribute to Music´s Biggest Hits, VSQ Performs the Hits of Michael Jackson

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One-Man Bands

By 9

I recently read a quote (from the early 1900s) in which the speaker theorized that the rapid growth of technology would lead to a world in which people would only have to work two or three hours a day.  While it is safe to say that prediction should be filed away in the “wishful thinking” folder (alongside teleportation, flying cars and hoverboards), it did get me thinking about the positive ways technology has impacted our lives.  For a music fan, such as myself, the innovations in music technology over the last twenty years have been nothing short of amazing.  Not only is music more readily available, the ability to create and record music is only one cheap laptop away.  As a result, there has been an explosion of “bedroom” artists (musicians that write, record and produce music in their own bedrooms) that have taken the music scene by storm.  Many of these “one-man bands” are responsible for some from the best albums of the last few years.  Below are a few of my favorite “one-man bands” and what you can expect if you decide to check them out.
  1. Bon Iver – Justin Vernon, the man behind the name Bon Iver, is probably the most well-known and critically praised one-man band. While Vernon's most recent release (the Grammy nominated, self titled album Bon Iver) is a more fleshed out, full band affair, Vernon first came to national attention with the release of his debut album For Emma, Forever Ago.  Recorded alone in a cabin in Wisconsin, Vernon crafted a modern indie folk masterpiece of lost love and regret that is not to be missed.
  2. M83 – While most “one-man bands” tend to be more laid back affairs, French producer/songwriter Anthony Gonzalez proves that arena-filling, fist pumping anthems aren’t solely the purview of super bands like U2 and Coldplay.  Gonzalez' songs pulse and pound with an unbridled energy that leaps through the speakers.  His most recent release, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, is a double album masterpiece that will likely end up on a number of year end lists.
  3. Washed Out – On the other end of the spectrum from M83, Ernest Greene (aka Washed Out) is known as one of the originators of the chillwave genre.  Greene’s music is an echoing, reverb-filled nostalgia trip.  Full of a wistful sense of longing, Greene’s music is propelled by electronic beats and loops that pair perfectly with the beautiful, wispy melodies that have become his hallmark.  Washed Out’s debut album Within and Without is the perfect album for a rainy, Sunday morning.
  4. Neon Indian – Another artist who is associated with the creation of the chillwave genre, Alan Palomo (aka Neon Indian) takes the same tools used by Washed Out, electronic loops paired with lo-fi vocals, to create a slightly brighter, more up-beat sound.  Palomo’s most recent release, Era Extrana, showcases an artist at his creative peak as he weaves a variety of electronic glitches and bleeping synths in and out of melodies so catchy they will be stuck in your head for days.
  5. Youth Lagoon – A newcomer to the scene, 22-year-old Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) takes the same tropes that tend to define indie bedroom artists (distant vocals, percussive loops, reverb) and uses them to create intimate songs that slowly swell into space-filling, sing-a-longs.  Powers shows a real knack for arranging songs in such a way that even the most jaded of listeners will find themselves getting caught up in the emotional crescendos.  Youth Lagoon’s recently released album, The Year of Hibernation, is an amazingly strong debut that should not be missed by fans of any of the other artists listed above.

Be sure to check out: Vitamin String Quartet Performs Bon Iver Available at iTunes

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VSQ Evanescence & Aerosmith Sheet Music Coming JUNE 2010

By 23

We know you've been waiting patiently (well, some of you) for Vitamin String Quartet sheet music to become available. Well your wait is almost over. This summer will mark the arrival of our first two sheet music releases. Drumroll popular demand, we will be releasing Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” and Aerosmith's “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” We hope you are all as excited as we are about this new development. Please feel free to keep posting requests in the comments. We love to get your feedback!

Recommended Listening:

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Vitamin String Quartet Performs Paramore's Brand New Eyes

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Description: The Vitamin String Quartet’s tribute to Paramore’s Brand New Eyes reinterprets the band’s punk-pop choruses with exhilarating string arrangements that echo the pent-up emotions after their brush with non-existence. With anthems like “Ignorance” and “Brick By Boring Brick,” mighty cello harmonies complement the cries of tonic violins in this wild instrumental tribute.

Click here to download

Tracklist: 1. Careful 2. Ignorance 3. Playing God 4. Brick By Boring Brick 5. Turn It Off 6. The Only Exception 7. Feeling Sorry 8. Looking Up 9. Where the Lines Overlap 10.Misguided Ghosts 11.All I Wanted 12.Decode 13.I Caught Myself

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