Listening to “I Am The Walrus” last week, and praising George Martin’s production in particular, reminded me that it’s been a while since I’ve heard a popular musician really commit to the string section beyond a few samples here and there.
Luckily, two of my favorite songs by two of my favorite musicians are full-to-bursting with string arrangements.
I love Neko Case, both for being funny as hell, and for really understanding the appeal of a creepy murder ballad. And of course, for her amazing voice. It’s so powerful that listening to one of her records from start to finish can sometimes leave me like I’ve been physically assaulted. She should do a team-up with Black Bolt. It’s so powerful that it makes you forget how brilliant she can be with the lyrics.
It almost seems like she had to bring in the big guns with “Dirty Knife” because a full orchestra is the only thing that could compete with her voice. You can hear the madness punching its way in, interrupting her wistful and lilting voice with a compulsive repetition that’s actually frightening.
Björk is another artist who could overpower anything other than a full orchestra, and “Isobel,” my favorite song from my favorite of her albums, uses it to full effect. It doesn’t feel like an unnecessary flourish. It’s more like the music that’s been driven by the electronic beat that seems to carry throughout Post is finally allowed to break free and soar. It felt timeless, both familiar and cinematic and still like nothing I’d ever heard before.