Strong Songs

By Kirk Hamilton

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Kellie
 Jan 4, 2019
amazing. if you're a music fan this is for you!

Description

Music: it's good. On each episode of Strong Songs, host Kirk Hamilton takes listeners inside a piece of music, breaking it down and figuring out what makes it work.

Episode Date
"Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra
35:07

Today's forecast calls for blue skies, and today's Strong Songs calls for an in-depth analysis of Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky."

It's time to welcome all our pretty faces to the human race, thanks to ELO's most enduring concert-rock classic. Kirk goes for a sunny stroll on a beautiful musical day full of layered vocals, fire extinguisher drumming, time-tested chords, Les Paul solos, vocoders, and... unexpected saxophone interludes?

Band/Artist: Electric Light Orchestra

Album: Out Of The Blue, 1977

Composed by: Jeff Lynne

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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ALSO FEATURED:

"Yesterday" by Paul McCartney from Help!, 1965

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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"Confirmation" by Charlie Parker, 1946, included on In Person

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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NEWSLETTER/MAILING LIST

Sign up for Kirk's mailing list to start getting monthly-ish newsletters with music recommendations, links, news, and extra thoughts on new Strong Songs episodes: https://tinyletter.com/KirkHamilton

Apr 17, 2019
"Moanin'" by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
42:46

Dust off your head charts and brush up your best licks, cause it's time to wade into the warm, welcoming waters of jazz.

This episode's Strong Song is Bobby Timmons' gospel-tinged "Moanin'," from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' 1959 album of the same name. Kirk zooms out a bit more than usual to talk about jazz small-group arranging, how a great solo is constructed, how jazz song-form works, and how (hopefully) to have a better appreciation for what's going on on a given jazz recording, even if you don't play. He also talks about anime.

Band/Artist: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

Album: Moanin', 1959 (recorded in 1958)

Composed by: Bobby Timmons

Personnel: Lee Morgan, trumpet; Benny Golson, tenor sax; Bobby Timmons, piano; Jymie Merritt, bass; Art Blakey, drums

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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ALSO FEATURED:

"Freddie Freeloader" by Miles Davis from Kind of Blue, 1959

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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"Giant Steps" by John Coltrane from Giant Steps, 1960

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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"I Wish" by Stevie Wonder from Songs in the Key of Life, 1976

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

("I Wish" was also featured on a 2018 episode of Strong Songs)

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"Jordu" by Duke Jordan from Clifford Brown and Max Roach, 1954

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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"Cherokee" by Ray Noble as performed by Clifford Brown on Study in Brown, 1955

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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"Tank!" by Yoko Kanno from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack

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The wonderful anime Kids on the Slope, streamable on Hulu and Crunchyroll.

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NEWSLETTER/MAILING LIST!

Sign up for Kirk's mailing list to start getting monthly-ish newsletters with music recommendations, links, news, and extra thoughts on new Strong Songs episodes: https://tinyletter.com/KirkHamilton

Apr 03, 2019
Listener Questions: Syncopation, Subdivision, and Crying Babies
44:35

The Strong Songs mailbag is overflowing, so it's time to dive in and answer some listener questions. Kirk digs into creative subdivision, syncopated melodies, major 9th chords, famous drum fills, chiptunes, "bad" singing that's actually good, jazz chords, Indian drum languages, and how to be a better music listener.

SHOW NOTES/LINKS

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"The Four Chords" as performed by The Axis of Awesome on YouTube

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A cool breakdown of the "Amen Break" drum fill

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"Puttin' on the Ritz" by Irving Berlin, performed by Ella Fitzgerald

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"First Tube" by Phish from Farmhouse, 2000

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"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" by Anne Bredon, recorded by Led Zeppelin on their self-titled debut, 1969

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"Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd from their amazingly titled album (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd), 1974

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"Just a Friend" by Biz Markie from The Biz Never Sleeps, 1989

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"Liquid Dance" by AR Rahman, Palakkad Sriram and Madhumitha from the Slumdog Millionare soundtrack, 2008

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A cool demonstration of Konnakol performed live by Umamahesh, Umashankar, and Selvaganesh

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"Prom Night" by Anamanaguchi, 2014

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"Spectra" by Chipzel from Spectra, 2013

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"Strike the Earth!" by Jake Kaufman from the Shovel Knight soundtrack, 1989

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"Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michael's Mount" by Aphex Twin from Drukqs, 2001

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"Well You Needn't" by Thelonious Monk from Misterioso (Live), 1965

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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NEWSLETTER/MAILING LIST!

Sign up for Kirk's mailing list to start getting monthly-ish newsletters with music recommendations, links, news, and extra thoughts on new Strong Songs episodes: https://tinyletter.com/KirkHamilton

Mar 21, 2019
"Let It Go" from Frozen
51:11

What happens when you put a straight-up power ballad in the middle of a Disney movie? "Let it Go" happens, that's what.

On this episode, Kirk climbs to the top of a snowy peak and summons all his magical powers to figure out why Elsa of Arendelle's self-coronation song rocks as hard as it does, and what it says about the evolution of Disney musical numbers over the past 30 years.

Band/Artist: Idina Menzel

Album: Frozen Original Soundtrack, 2013

Composed by: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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ALSO FEATURED:

"Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey from Escape, 1981

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"Part of Your World" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from The Little Mermaid, 1989

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"A Whole New World" by Alan Menken and Tim Rice from Aladdin, 1992

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"When Will My Life Begin?" by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater from Tangled, 2010

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"Defying Gravity" by Stephen Schwartz from Wicked, 2003

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"How Far I'll Go" by Lin-Manuel Miranda from Moana, 2016

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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NEWSLETTER/MAILING LIST

Sign up for Kirk's mailing list to start getting monthly-ish newsletters with music recommendations, links, news, and extra thoughts on new Strong Songs episodes: https://tinyletter.com/KirkHamilton

 

Mar 06, 2019
"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
49:50

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Well, either way, this is definitely an episode of Strong Songs about Queen's genre-blending rock saga "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Kirk dives into Freddie Mercury's operatic opus and learns a lot about vocal technique, piano motifs, harmonic easter eggs, studio production, Strategic Brian May Deployment™, and all the ways doubling a track can make your voice sound cool in the studio.

Band/Artist: Queen

Album: A Night At The Opera, 1975

Composed by: Freddie Mercury

Produced by: Roy Thomas Baker

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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ALSO FEATURED:

"Don't Stop Me Now" by Freddie Mercury from Jazz, 1978

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"We Will Rock You" by Brian May from News of the World, 1977

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"Somebody to Love" by Freddie Mercury from A Day at the Races, 1976

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"Bohemian Rhapsody" a cappella cover by Pentatonix from PTX Vol. IV: Classics

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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NEWSLETTER/MAILING LIST!

Sign up for Kirk's new mailing list to start getting monthly-ish newsletters with music recommendations, links, news, and extra thoughts on new Strong Songs episodes: https://tinyletter.com/KirkHamilton

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SPOTIFY PLAYLIST!

You can now follow a Spotify playlist with all the songs from this show, as well as everything featured as one of Kirk's music picks on his other podcast, Kotaku Splitscreen.

 

 

Feb 20, 2019
"Dancing Queen" by ABBA
38:08

It's time to get lost in the bittersweet beats of ABBA's 1976 hit "Dancing Queen." On this longer-than-usual episode, Kirk tries to tease out some of the things that make this song so iconic and enduring, from its lush arrangement to its clever harmonies, repeating melodic motifs, and maximalist audio production.

Band/Artist: ABBA

Album: Arrival, 1976

Composed by: Benny Anderson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson

Produced by: Stig Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

 

 

Feb 06, 2019
Listener Questions: The Beatles, Brubeck, Bond and Beyond
48:46

It's time for an extra-long episode as Kirk answers your questions about Phil Collins drum solos, musical Wilhelm screams, odd time signatures, Beatles instrumentation, drop-tuned guitars, Bond music, and much more.

SHOW NOTES/LINKS

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"In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins from Face Value, 1981

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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Jennifer Hudson sings "The Star Spangled Banner" by Frances Scott Key and John Stafford Smith at Super Bowl XLIII, 2009

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A YouTube compilation of the Wilhelm Scream

An excellent Vox video on the history of the "Orchestra Hit" sample

"When I Think of You" by Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis from Control, 1986

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"In My Life" by Lennon–McCartney from Rubber Soul, 1965

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"I Will Follow You Into The Dark" by Ben Gibbard from Plans, 2006

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A cool NPR article about Paul Tanner's Tannerin, developed as a more playable derivation of Leon Theremin's original Theremin. 

"Good Vibrations" by Brian Wilson and Mike Love from a 1966 Beach Boys LP Single

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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"Blue Rondo a la Turk" by Dave Brubeck from Time Out, 1959

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"Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" by Lennon-McCartney from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967

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"Money" by Roger Waters from The Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973

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"The Wayby Tony Scalzo from All The Pain Money Can Buy, 1998

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"You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire" by Josh Homme and Mario Lalli from Songs for the Deaf, 2002

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"Mind Games" by John Lennon from Mind Games, 1973

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A nifty "Doctor Mix" YouTube video demonstrating the Mellotron 

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"Theme from Dr. No" by Monty Norman, arranged by John Barry from Dr. No, 1962

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"Skyfall" by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth from Skyfall, 2012

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"Manners Maketh Man" by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson (I failed to co-credit Margeson on the show) from Kingsman: The Secret Service, 2015

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify 

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"Permission to Come Aboard" by Rupert Gregson-Williams from Aquaman, 2018

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"Wonder Woman Theme" by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL performed by Tina Guo, released as a single in 2017

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify 

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"Gimme Shelter" by Jagger/Richards from Let It Bleed, 1969

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

 

Jan 23, 2019
"Thriller" by Michael Jackson
29:34

Darkness falls across the land, and it's the right time for Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Kirk picks apart Rod Temperton's dance floor classic in all its groovy, corny, sound effect-y glory.

Band/Artist: Michael Jackson

Album: Thriller, 1982

Composed by: Rod Temperton, produced by Quincy Jones

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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A NOTE FROM KIRK:

It’s been a couple months since I produced this episode, and just a few days since I watched the first part of “Leaving Neverland,” a devastating new HBO documentary in which two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, detail their alleged childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Michael Jackson. It’s an intense and difficult documentary to watch, but I recommend that everyone listening to this episode do so. Jackson’s estate denies it all, but watching people on camera relaying such painful memories, in such excruciating detail, is both wrenching and convincing.

It’s impossible to separate an amazing song like “Thriller” from the man who sang it. I still think Thriller is a great song and admire the many people involved in making it, but hearing Robson and Safechuck’s accounts, on top of the similar stories I and the culture at large brushed aside or shrugged our shoulders at when they first surfaced many years ago, has certainly changed the way I hear Jackson’s voice. I’m leaving this episode as is, but I wanted to add this note, as well as to link to this New York Times editorial on Jackson’s legacy by Wesley Morris, which says so much, so well.

~KH
3/6/2019

Jan 09, 2019
"I Wish" by Stevie Wonder
27:29

Kirk breaks out the bass and digs into what makes Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" swing like it does, then looks back to some earlier Wonder tunes to guess at why his funkiest stuff tended to be in E-flat.

Band/Artist: Stevie Wonder

Album: Songs in the Key of Life, 1976

Composed by: Stevie Wonder

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

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ALSO FEATURED:

"Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, from Talking Book, 1972

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder, from Innervisions, 1973

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

"Wild Wild West" by Will Smith, Moe Dewese, Rob Fusari, and Stevie Wonder, from Willennium, 1999

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

Classic Albums: Songs in the Key of Life: Amazon

Dec 26, 2018
"Single Ladies" by Beyoncé
26:22

On this episode, Kirk dives into one of the greatest pop songs of all time.

Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" is arguably the defining song of the last decade, but it's far from your average pop tune. With its unusual tensions and unstoppable groove, it defies safe harmony and resolution, and its composers were more than happy to flip the beat and leave their audience searching for the downbeat.

Band/Artist: Beyoncé

Album: I Am... Sasha Fierce, 2008

Composed by: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Christopher Stewart, Terius Nash, Thaddis Harrell 

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

 

Dec 12, 2018
"You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon
17:51

This week, Kirk breaks down one of his favorite songs from one of his favorite albums.

Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" was a single from his incredible 1986 album Graceland, and its music video introduced a generation to the wonders of goofy lip-synching and fretless bass solos. It's a harmonically simple tune with a cleverly dense arrangement, and brilliantly uses musical layering.

Band/Artist:  Paul Simon

Album: Graceland, 1986

Composed by: Paul Simon

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

Nov 28, 2018
"Africa" by Toto
21:55

On the first episode of Strong Songs, Kirk breaks down Toto's hit song "Africa," a single so good that it still lights up the Internet today.

Band/Artist: Toto

Album: Toto IV, 1982

Composed by: David Paich and Jeff Porcaro

Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify

Nov 18, 2018