Daily Song Study

Tom Waits – 2:19

In songs on November 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

Earlier we looked at Tom Waits’ opening period during the 1970s, one which was primarily defined by a mix of blues, jazz, and beatnik sensibility. As his career progressed through the ’80s and ’90s, he began to incorporate other elements as well, including a peculiar kind of trashcan groove exemplified in this tune, released in 2006 as part of his Orphans album, which collected assorted songs that he hadn’t released on any previous albums for whatever reason.

I’m particularly intrigued by the random bits of percussion which make appearances on odd beats, keeping you listening for where they might pop up next. It’s something difficult to pull off, especially in an era when most percussion is done electronically via loops. The unpredictability present here is a good way to keep things sounding human, although Waits himself may secretly be a troll.

Another element employed often in his tunes, and in the title here, is some sort of grounding element, like a specific time or place. It anchors the action somewhere, and keeps us on earth, even while the rest of the arrangement seems to drift into the netherworld.

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  1. There’s nothing i can say without sounding like a gushing fanboy.

  2. When my friend was being called as a witness in the big Frito Lay lawsuit, he got to the hotel and was handed a note with Waits’ phone number. Nearly died on the spot.

  3. […] is nominally celtic (a form which often struggles to innovate), but possesses a grit more akin to Tom Waits, owing in no small part to Reyne’s hard-edged voice. The found-sound aesthetic is […]

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