Pippin Sparks Song Reviews
Pippin Sparks: Out and About (2009)
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Never Mind A-
She says this is a homage to Nirvana's, and I suppose there's quite a lot of “Smells like Teen Spirit” in its riff, and I suppose it's *spirit*. Would it be safe to call this full-fledged grunge? She doesn't exactly have a pretty voice, but you don't have to if you're going to sing grunge music. Her inventive, almost playful use of overdubs makes up for that in a big way. Everybody in the world who loved Nirvana knew that. It's an excellent song, too. The riff is catchy. The instrumentation is unkempt but well-textured and appealing. There are no drums (that I can make out), but she uses a nicely strummed acoustic guitar to keep a beat, and an electric guitar to provide a little bit of melody, which provides nice contrast to her simplistic (but not bad) vocal melody. Even though it's a monstrous eight minutes (for a song that repeats one riff over and over), she comes up with enough inventive things to keep it generally lively. I never get bored with it.
White Lion B-
A tribute to the heavy metal band? (Nope, she says it's about Kimba! It's that Japanese cartoon Disney stole to make Hamlet.) ...There seems to be an awful lot of tributes in this album, and I guess this is the obvious answer. Like the previous song, this is a rather overextended and repeats the same riff over and over again. This riff is quicker and more complicated, but I get pretty quickly tired of hearing it played over and over again. ...Her singing style is interesting—she mutters the lyrics in a completely incomprehensible manner up until the very end when she starts to scream “I might do something I'll regret!” Could she have been singing that all along? That's kind of cool. ...Compared to the previous song, what this is most sorely missing is that electric guitar (or something) that plays its own separate melody from the simple vocal melody. Without it, this is little more than a nice groove.
Just Because (Song For the Cellophane People) B+
The vocals were a bit underdone in the previous song, but they're so overdone here that I can hardly make out the instrumentals! ...Well, that's not true. They're sort of a jumbled cataclysm of electric guitars. But if they're playing a riff, I can't make it out! ...And amazingly, that doesn't bug me. She overdubbed herself a number of times, in a very undisciplined fashion, giving a rather crazy effect. This is a relatively shorter composition, at a little over two-and-a-half minutes. Like the other songs I've already mentioned, it's very rough around the edges, but that's a lot of its charm. Also, the vocal melody is actually interesting.
Oh here we go. Pippin turning into a spaced-out '60s psychedelia freak. The funny thing is, this song actually works in that way. I happen to have been listening to a lot of freaked-out albums from the '60s recently, and no joke, I thought for awhile I though that I was listening to one of them. Parts of this really reminds me of Syd-Barret-era Pink Floyd, which might actually be referenced-to in that song title! Anyway, it's a pretty great tribute, if that's what it is. This is much more convincing in that respect than Roger Waters was ever able to be. (Does this mean that Pippin is insane?) Particularly that spine-curdling acid explosion around the four-minute mark, and the nutty organ solo in the aftermath. Holy CRAP!!! I really like how this one starts out. Those deep guitar notes and the ominous atmosphere. Pippin's voice comes in like some sort of coked-up space cadet, and that's just the way I like them. The guitar texture, of course, is very unkempt, but it's more dark and menacing compared to the previous songs, which were “flashy” and “grungy,” I guess. My only complaint is that it's more than nine minutes long, and it doesn't seem to do much in the final third. I hear it unraveling a bit, which is clever, but I'll have to admit I get a tad bored. There are already enough freaked-out acid trips in this song already (one intense one was enough!), but ... I dunno ... some sort of freaked-out, unraveling solo might have been good. All in all, this is my favorite song, but I might only be saying that because psychedelia hits a particular sweet-spot of mine. Everybody reading this should take a listen. This is proof that you don't need to take acid to take acid.
Zeppelin Overdose B
Yeah, this pretty much sums up what happens to me if I spend all day listening to Led Zeppelin. I get this weird avant-garde thing! Pippin is clearly playing around in the studio with tapes. Most of the *music* sounds like she played it backwards, and in the background I hear some sort of recorded argument. If you like avant-garde music, then you should take a listen. It's interesting! And, thankfully, she kept it at three minutes, which means it never has a chance to grow boring. (I dunno... there are too many long-drawn-out avant garde pieces in existence. I'm glad this one at least didn't fall into the trap of being 10 minutes long.)
Wow! Irish jig music! According to the artist on YouTube, this is a tribute to The Pogues... I like all of these insane shifts of genres... She does just whatever the heck she feels like, and it always sounds like she's enjoying herself. Like everything else on here, much of its charm is the unkempt though upbeat homemade instrumentation. Her uncouth singing style might sound terribly unpolished, but it's just as unpolished as the instrumentation and thus wins me over on its charm. Perhaps it sounds like a dozen Pippins are getting it on in a pub. (I'm not sure how to say this, but the lyrics start to sound a little bit like The Swedish Chef!) Plus, it's actually a good, fun melody. She seems to have quite a knack for hooks. This is probably the most important talent.
Rainbow Spectrum (2009)
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20 Years Back A
So, it took me about a trillion years to actually get around to reviewing this album (or three months, more precisely), and even though it's terrible that I've been putting it off for so long, I found it interesting that I could still remember how this song went even though it's been quite awhile since I've heard it. I guess that goes to show that not only are these songs catchy, they have the power to stick with you. The riff, I believe, is a fairly common blues riff although it's used well. It's kept bouncy and energetic... of course in that sloppy homemade way. Lest we forget, she records these songs on her laptop, and honestly they're probably better for it.
Summer Sunday A
This sounds like a weird '60s sunshine pop song (and then she gives it away by throwing out the term 'psychedelic' in the lyrics). The melody is interesting and the way she layers on those vocals for the 'chorus' manages to find a weird balance between warm and creepy. It's funny how that was accomplished... I can't immediately think of any parallels. Even how those ill-kempt guitars sounds on one another are like a strange drug trip. ...But definitely the highlight of this song is the melody. Believe me, anyone who consistently writes memorable melodies like this deserves to be noticed.
Four Years A+
Still out of the psychedelic '60s! I'm not sure, but it sounds like she's putting on a fake British accent in the lyrics, I'm guessing as a Syd Barrett tribute. It's also charming how she put on all that reverb for this, which makes this about as authentic '60s as it gets (except of course, this isn't the '60s). You might think I'm over exaggerating, but you should listen to it yourself! That's why I embedded this video here! For my money, this song is just as good as early Pink Floyd. Of course the production is very fuzzy, but if you listen to it, I don't think you'll care. The lines those back up singers sing are brilliant! (Of course the back up singers are also Pippin!) So... take up thy stethoscope and listen to this song! (Oh, that wasn't funny... what's wrong with me?)
Well this two minute guitar instrumental starts out like it's going to be boring and repetitive, but then she ups the tempo and makes it all crazy. It actually makes me laugh, which is good.
Peppermint Stripes B+
I don't know if the great vibe I got off of “Four Years” is doing this to me, but I can't quite seem to get into this one as much. Definitely the melody has its fair share of hooks in it, but they're not quite as potent as the others. The low-tech quality of this continues to be charming... It sounds a little bit like she was singing a bit too closely to the microphone. I'm not sure I've heard that before in music...
Dark Circle A-
I've been getting really into folk music lately, and so it's nice to hear a straight-up folk song from Pippin. The melody is catchy and the vocals are well delivered (in that of course anti American Idol way). She gets out of her range, but that's the whole point. IT'S ABOUT THE MUSIC AND NOT ABOUT THE STUPID POLISH! ...... That mentality completely goes against my still monstrous ABBA infatuation, but that's beside the point. ...ABBA...... I listened to The Visitors for the 10,000,000th time on my way to Seattle. It still rules.
The Day We Burned the Tavern Down A
Sloppy, wild and magnificent. How else can you describe this? It's not pretty to listen to, but it has a catchy hook and instrumentation that doesn't seem planned at all, but it all seems to work somehow. (Here, I've finally pinpointed the essense of Pippin Sparks' appeal.) Like a lot of her songs, this starts crazy, and seems to end crazier, and I'm intoxicated by its weirdness.
And I Said No (The Joys of Being Loud) B+
She writes on the YouTube video “Because every album needs a good drum solo,” which immediately made me recall every single Neil Peart drum solo I've sat through and I almost downgraded this song in spite. Although, fortunately, these drum solos are kept pretty short, and they involve a lot of hi-hat and an unsteady rhythm. So they're not like the usual drum solo, and thank God for that! The main feature of this song is a common blues riff that seems like it's holding together by a thread and yet it never falls apart.
In a Closet B
For my taste, this one's a little too long and sluggish, although I find the texture she came up with her ill-kempt guitars mesmerizing enough to keep it going for the entire eight minutes. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that the texture grows on you the longer it goes. The melody is nice, but her sleepy vocals seem to drag a bit. (She sounds exactly like Nico, so that may or may not be a drawback to you!) She writes that this is a shoegazer song, which is a sort of music that I don't have as much experience with as I do '60s psychedelia. ...But, really, this sounds a lot like Velvet Underground to me!
She Likes My Songs A-
This is an R&B number that sounds like something from The Rolling Stones' Out of Our Head except of course it's Pippin! No, I don't mean that it's lesser than The Rolling Stones, I mean that it's different! The riff is an extremely common one (and played with an clean, deep electric guitar, which is why it reminds me so much of The Stones), but the singing and the somewhat strange guitar texture keeps it sounding unusual. It also sort of dissolves at the end seemingly by layering on more instruments. The effect is strange... I quite like it! It's a new take on a very old type of music, which is always refreshing to hear.
Forever Every Day A
I really hope that Pippin isn't mentally insane or doing acid, because she's so capable of writing convincing Syd-Barrett-esque music with memorable melodies. It's one thing that Syd Barrett was able to do this, but here's this perfectly sane teenager doing a similar thing! The wandering melody is captivating and the vocal delivery is unpolished though friendly.
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