“Someone Great / All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem
(Words/music: James Murphy / James Murphy, Patrick Mahoney, Tyler Pope, available on Sound of Silver, DFA / Capitol 2007)
I wasn’t there when James Murphy put out the “Losing My Edge / Beat Connection” single, but by the time that LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut / compilation came out, I caught up. It soundtracked a lot of moments in my apartment during my final semester of college, and I swear at least once I nailed the exact tone and timbre of Murphy’s yelp in “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House.” Long story short, I liked the band more than enough to eagerly anticipate their follow up. I was prepared to like it, but felt ambushed when I loved it. Part was Murphy’s expanded range and chops – the “dance punk” label faded away by 2007, and Murphy went from being a guy who wrote and produced good tracks to someone who performed them just as well (see “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down”).
Most notably, I had a gut reaction to the album in particular the combination of “Someone Great” and “All My Friends” at the middle of the record. A few years later when I bought Sound of Silver on vinyl, I was disappointed to find these two songs not only on different sides but entirely different records (“Someone Great” ends side B, “All My Friends” begins Side C), meaning that listening to the record meant taking a break to swap records between these two. Between the record swaps and listening to the songs independent of the album, it had been a long time since I listened to these two in immediate succession.
So tonight I did what I should have done a long time ago – I made a single MP3 out of these tracks and hit play. The version uploaded is a lower bitrate to fit Tumblr’s 10 MB upload limit, but it still gives you the opportunity to listen to these two songs, the emotional core of Sound of Silver, in immediate succession. If you own the album (and if not, you should), go put it on and listen along. If not, click play as I share my listening notes from earlier tonight.
1:37 – This is the moment where both James Murphy’s vocals and the glockenspiel enter. Even though I know it’s coming, the melody still catches me off guard. Perhaps it’s the way the bright bells highlight the notes Murphy sings, but the repetition of these notes sound so sweet set against the darker backing track. It’s also worth noting that James Murphy plays all of the instruments on both of these tracks.
3:54 – This is the first shift in melody, however slight, where Murphy repeats “and it keeps coming” a few times before immediately shifting back into the verse melody. The repetition, both of the melody and of the specific words, stirs up the sense of dismay.
5:35 – Right after the repetition of “when someone great is gone” line, this is the shift to the “we’re safe (saved?) / for the moment” lyric. The synthesizer starts to sound a bit more like a siren, and this juxtaposition always feels like a punch to the gut even when I know it’s coming.
7:29 – Murphy enters “All My Friends” with the line “that’s how it starts.” Maybe this is why I’ve linked these two songs together, but this opening line always makes me feel like Murphy begins the song in the middle of the story. Of course, the popular interpretation of the song (in a thumbnail sketch: coping with getting older) relies on this feeling of looking back, so it makes perfect sense.
Somewhere between 7:29 and 10:00 – the thing I focused on the first few times listening to this song was the same piano chord repeated for nearly five minutes. Now, I focus on the sounds Murphy gradually includes in the mix – the bright synthesizer in particular. I never notice their individual entrances; rather, I’m caught off guard every time in this range when I noticed they all entered yet can’t place my finger on when it exactly happened.
12:38 – Murphy strains slightly as he sings higher, and it’s these type of moments on Sound of Silver that I wasn’t ready for based on the first record. It’s a rough edge, but by design, and while it might not have fit on some of the early singles, it gives these songs an unexpected emotional edge. It still catches me off guard.
13:30 – Murphy’s already well into the home stretch at this point, and from the part where he holds the last syllable in “tonight” for a few seconds through the song’s conclusion roughly twenty seconds later, I am entranced. If “Someone Great” gets me about halfway through, “All My Friends” usually strikes after it’s already gone.
Anyway, this is the best I can do to try to put the emotional response these songs trigger into some kind of framework. The true art here lies in the fact that I’m not the only one who responds in this way to these songs.