Oversleep Excuse: Slowly Better

Tokyo-based indie quartet Oversleep Excuse might sound a bit familiar to regular readers of this blog, and if so, you can probably chalk that down to the presence of vocalist Matthew Guay, whose other band Glow and the Forest have graced these pages in the past, and who has over the years developed both a vocal style and a set of songwriting habits that mark his influence in quite a distinctive way. You get the sense that in its own purely melodic (and melancholic) terms, Slowly Better would serve perfectly well as a Glow in the Forest song, but at the same time, Oversleep Excuse are a band with four members, who each exert an influence over the group’s sound. The most obvious and distinctive characteristics that set the Oversleeps apart are the way the piano sits at the fore and the appearance of steel drum interludes. More subtly, but in a way perhaps more importantly, Adam Gyenes’ drumming lends a completely different texture to the song, not simply driving the song forward but rather stroking it, like waves lapping against the shore with the song riding their ebb and flow. The song is a taster from the band’s new album of the same title, which looks well worth checking out.

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5 Comments

Filed under Reviews, Track

5 responses to “Oversleep Excuse: Slowly Better

  1. This is what I hear: The three-chord cycle that underlies the entire song stands perfectly balanced between the Major it starts with and the minor it finishes with. And the of-two-minds feel in that tension extends to the complex chords they’re using to get to what is basically a I – V – vi (if you’re talking to the bassist anyway, these are complex chords with suspensions). The persistent 9th and flat 7th scale degree in the piano extends across ALL the chord changes–sometimes that D# is the Maj7 in a Maj7 chord, sometimes it’s a 9th added in a min9/7 chord. These ostinati throughout the first two minutes perfectly set up the chord-changes break from 2:02-2:28. The first-time-in-the-song arrival of the subdominant chord at 2:02 is a real event (maybe this girl *could* find a way to change her life).
    Lots of thoughtful musical structure going on in this song, impressive composing (from the pianist?).
    When I first heard the steel drum, immediately what came to mind was about a dozen ways I could program a patch for something like that with a synthesizer. The steel drum I hear as emerging from around the long circle of technology. The acoustic instruments gradually give way to electronic means for the sake of new sounds, and now we have a musical part well-suited for the synthesist in the band, for which they close the technological loop, substituting the acoustic instrument for what could have been electronic.

    • They all contribute to the songwriting, so I don’t know who is responsible for each individual part. Like I said, there are enough similarities between the Oversleeps and Glow and the Forest to notice that the singer seems to favour certain note clusters, but beyond that, I couldn’t say.

      With the steel drum, I think some of it comes down to live performances. A steel drum there in a small room with you feels very different to a steel drum synth patch coming out of a keyboard. Bands like these guys will go years without getting a chance to record anything, so the way they set themselves up tends to be entirely based around live performances. The other reason, and probably the main one if you ask me, is just that steel drums are cool and they wanted a new toy. Sometimes it’s as simple as that and everything else follows.

  2. I especially appreciate that their use of the steel drum has almost *nothing* to do with the sorts of folk music that steel drum was originally spawned by. For this band, it’s a perfect choice for the pure sound they wanted, and that’s it. …and so now this opens up new possibilities for steel drum in every context, outside the particular niche it used to occupy.

    • Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I get the impression that they built the sound around the steel drum rather than the other way round, but they seem to have a pretty organic process for doing everything.

  3. Pingback: Oversleep Excuse: Slowly Better (album) | Clear And Refreshing

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