Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Low Voice

A couple of years ago, during a socially turbulent time, I was extremely reluctant to go out alone. Really, I was pretty much reluctant to go out at all. One night in April of 2008, there was a Guns n Roses cover band playing at The Majestic and I'd won tickets. I was feeling really down and like I had no friends, and I really didn't want to go to the show. However, a call from my mother changed all that. "Reemie," she said, "Go to that show. Go see a band you love (never mind that it wasn't the real band - I loved them anyhow) and have fun. Put on some lipstick and comb your hair, and go have a good time." And I did. And this happened.

I often hear my mother's words of wisdom ringing faintly in my brain when I'm having that feeling of social anxiety or apathy. I am extremely thankful for those words because, although I usually substitute lip gloss for lipstick, the motivation that comes from those words usually ends up in me having a fantastic night, and often, seeing amazing bands. As was the case tonight...

About a year ago, a few friends and I were in a Record Club. It was just like a book club, only we listened to albums instead of reading boring books. Sorry, it's true. It really didn't last long, but the first album we had in our club was Boxer by The National. I thought it was a beautiful album and fell in love with the singer's voice and the drummer's skills. So when I found out The National was playing here in Madison, I bought a ticket right away. And thanks to me mudder's words (my Mom, guys, my Mom), I actually went to the show tonight! Lip gloss and uncombed hair and all.

The show was beautiful. It was at The Orpheum, an old theater on State St. in downtown Madison. I love seeing shows there because you can climb all the way to the top and literally sit in the back row and still see and hear the band really well. There's also something peaceful about being up there, maybe by yourself or with a couple of other people, watching not only the band, but the giant crowd dancing and yelling and listening right in front of you. It was really the perfect venue for this band who filled the space with their huge but gentle sound. Musically, this band is tight as hell, and they get extra points from me because there are two sets of brothers in the band. Family band!

The singer of The National, Matt Berninger (a non-brother) has one of the most distinct, memorable, smooth, lovely voices I've ever heard. There's just something about a low voice. Have you noticed? I was trying to put my finger on it during the show, attempting to recall other low-voiced vocalists that affected me as much as this singer but I struggled. All I came up with was the guy from Modern English and the guy from The Smoking Popes. Both bands are somewhat unremarkable to me. Fine. Inoffensive. So what is it, then, about that low voice? Want to have a listen and help me figure it out?

I guess it's just that you don't hear voices like that very often. Sure, there's the occasional Guy Who Can Sing "Old Man River" Very Well, but that guy doesn't really do to me what Berninger's voice does. He is romantic and passionate, and when he grasps the microphone with two hands, I take him more seriously than, say, one of his higher-voiced cohorts. Could it be that I see the baritone voice as that of a "Real Man?" Am I completely stuck in gender stereotypes despite my years of screaming about "breaking boundaries" and "defying dichotomies" and all that other college talk? I mean, maybe we should take a hint from this:

A man shouldn't sound like chimes when he walks! He should sound like bass drums and pelvises shaking back and forth, right? That's a man, man. Like Matt Berninger.

And so maybe this whole blog entry wore the mask of seriousness and sincerity, all just to reel you in and have you sit attentively just so I could once again force upon you the genius of "Petite Feet." Maybe I just can't stop talking about and singing "Petite Feet." So what? Or maybe I'm just tired. I don't know. I mean, I did just think that baby on the commercial was wearing a kimono when it was actually a regular boring t-shirt. Either way, it's my blog and I do what I want. But, to be sincere, The National was just lovely. I'm so glad I went and wore lip gloss.

My favorite song:

And a lovely review from The AV Club here.


SophisticatedBrew said...

I love this blog entry so much, I had to make a list of things to comment about.
First of all, your mothers advice to comb your hair and wear lipstick. BRILLIANT. I'm glad she helps you with social anxiety/awkwardness. YOUR words have often helped me with MY social anxiety/awkwardness. But now maybe your mom's words will help me.
Secondly, thank you for translating "mudder" for us Americans.
Thirdly, the whole appealing low voice thing is interesting. Yes, gender and masculinity. Petite Feet, duh. And yes, pretty - I like these guys.
Fourthly, I thought you were gonna talk about your bro "practicing his low voice." Which is also something my dad likes to do. Maybe that's a story for another day.
Comment. Ever. <3

Reem Tara said...

You know me so well! I WAS going to tell the story of Emil and the Low Voice, but I just didn't think written words would do it justice. That's an "in-person" story, if you ask me. But yes, it was hard to skip over. I love that story.

Tara said...

I'm usually not into the low voice, I've really had to try to listen to those bands- like Magnetic Fields. I don't know why, but I don't really like the low voice much, I've given Magnetic Fields more of a chance and like it alright, but I still don't listen to it much. I DO like Freddie's low voice though :) because as you know, he can sing high and low (but how does he make it sound good!?! he just knows!) :)

Lynn Vollbrecht said...

agh, The National, like the Walkmen, are such good fall music. "Fake Empire" was the lead song on the mix I made for fall 2009.

Anna said...

I just love passionate male voices. Steve Perry. Tony Hadley. David Coverdale. High, low, whatever.

But I see what you're saying about Matt Berninger. He sounds almost Leonard Cohen-ish in his range, but while Cohen sounds like he is singing from a cavern in the lower levels of hell, Berninger sounds like he is someplace much less depressing and less echoing. Perhaps a young steer compared to Cohen's old tired bull. Or maybe not. Cohen's voice is pretty deep.

And I love petite feet. Thank you so much for posting it here, in your awesome blog.

Feminine step.

Cody said...

Lovely blog post. I saw the like the the National whilst I was eating my noodles at Sarah's Noodles. Then, I went to Wicked! I didn't know you were right across the street from me. Eric is good at the low voice and also pretty good at the high voice. I am not a huge fan of the low voice. I have to be in the right mood.

Lauren said...

Boo. I'm not in America so I can't watch the video. Love the deep voice though. Johnny Cash does it for me too.

Bea said...

Ahh record club. Ahh the national. So glad you went to thie Reem!

And another incredible low voice, stephen merritt of the magnetic fields! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVEhNHIzJec