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Big Thief – Mother

Over the last two years that has been a growing critical acclaim for this Brooklyn based band. With their talented lead singer / guitarist Adrianne Lenker and their unique approach to song arrangement, it’s easy to see why. If you haven’t already, I strongly you suggest you check out Big Thief.

This song can almost be heard as two versions of the same song. Starting with a cleanly picked acoustic guitar and Adrianne’s present vocals, the song feels almost unaccompanied. Under the surface are droning stereo organ tracks along with tack piano. I spent a lot of time trying to get the tack piano to fit in the mix with the acoustic and I ended up almost completely removing it from the mix. To my ears, it just didn’t work in the song. The acoustic guitar had two tracks; one with a mic near on the acoustic and another on an amplifier in the room. I took this chance to treat the amplified acoustic track with the Waves J37 Tape Emulation and used the wow / flutter to create some vibe on the track.

After two verses of this the song crossfades to a full band version pulsing with anticipation. Two guitars, bass and drums are brought in with upright piano and additional organ accompaniment. I ended up doing some side chain compression on the piano and organ parts, ducking down when the kick and snare hit. This allowed some room in a pretty dense mix towards the end of the song. I have been recently loving the new Little Plate from Soundtoys and used this heavily on the piano here. This songs unique arrangement allowed for some creative license in the mix and I am happy with the result.

 

Steady Hands – Magazines

This was a fun mix! I loved the blend of Irish folk with Rock elements. The drums were really rocking, so I did some moderate parallel compression on the snare and kick. I also used the new Little Plate reverb from Soundtoys. This does a great job of giving the snare space and body.

The acoustic guitar and piano were two other instruments I really wanted to make pop through the mix because they added a certain musical depth to the song over the brute force of the electric guitars and drums. I used the ELI Arousor to perform some gentle compression on these instruments. I think the piano in particular really pops through a great times in the mix.

Lastly, I created a parallel mix bus chain without drums that had heavy compression applied. This is similar to Andrew Scheps’ rear bus technique and allows the quiter elements of the mix to be brought forward without the transients of the drums hitting the compressor.

The Kominas – We Got Time

It’s been awhile since I posted a mix but that’s because I have been super busy. I just started a new job, and finished wrapping up two mixing/production projects. So, anyways back into it.

This song was pretty straightforward from an arrangement standup but what it lacked in that department it made up in lead and background vocals. I think it was around 8 tracks in total for all the parts. I split the vocals into two separate busses, one for lead and one for background vocals. To add some movement and distinction to the background vocals I used the Soundtoys MicroShift and PanMan to do some Leslie style treatments. I left the lead vocals alone because they were already double tracked, maybe just a little bit of reverb.

One other area that I also seem to agonize over is the balance of kick drum and bass guitar. I have found that it’s best to mix at a middle to lower volume with my main monitors and when it’s time to balance the low end, switch to my trusty Audio Technica ATH-50x headphones. These do a great job of revealing the sub low end (20hz-50hz range) but not over powering like other headphones.

Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

Zyla

This year, I had the honor of working on project for my dear friend Eric Zyla. Eric is a talented singer songwriting from Milwaukee and my band has played many shows with him in the past. He had heard I was starting to do more mixing, producing and mastering, and asked that my brother Jon and I work with him on this project.

We started in the spring of 2017 doing pre-production for each of the songs he had started out and we found this to be a helpful phase in the project. We were able to get acquainted with each others creative styles and started to organize each songs arrangement. As with many creative projects, we were under a time crunch but this one was unique. Eric and his wife Anna, were moving to Thailand at the end of September (Check out their travel blog here). So we really started to focus in the months of August and September to wrap up all the production. I decided to write a little about each song and share my experiences.

Alive & Well

As with all these songs, vocals were provided by Eric and drums were played by Jacob E. Miller. One of my favorite instruments is pedal steel guitar, popular in country music. I don’t play or own a pedal steel guitar, so I was able to simulate this with my slide guitar and lots of reverb. We used this to effect throughout the song but it never felt like it got in the way, just supplementing the bittersweet vibe of this tune. Eric from the start, had this great melody for the ending of the song that we decided would be great to use as a bridge solo on guitar. Of all the songs on this project, I feel like this one carries the vibe and feeling to the lyrical content of the song.

Size Me Up

This was a song we had heard Eric play over the last few years and we were shocked to find out that he never had recorded it. On this song, Eric really brought his vocal performance to the forefront. In particular, I love his vocals on the end of this song by projecting his voice to bring the last chorus alive. I recently started to get into Moog synthesizers and thought this would be a great opportunity to add this element into this song. A very heavy low note fades in during the bridge of the song, and really explodes during the last chorus. I used the amazing Arturia Mini V3 emulation for this synth sound and I was very happy with the results.

 

Ten More Stories

This song is about Eric’s  desire to travel and explore the world and was a great chance to use some additional instrumentation. Each song used brushes on the drums but I think they really shine on this song. The drums have great snap and body to fit well with the layered acoustic guitars of the song. I also overdubbed piano and organ for the chorus and bridge sections. Again using the Arturia V series collection, Piano V and B-3 V, respectively. I think the vibrato of the B-3 propels the chorus forward in a great way.

Album Review: Everything Now – Arcade Fire

It has been four years since the last Arcade Fire album “Reflektor” and I’ve become surprised how many people did not like this album. Certainly, it would be difficult to followup their Grammy winner, “The Suburbs” but I felt “Reflektor” had some great lyrical ideas and the grooves were dripping with James Murphy’s polyrhymic mayhem. Is it as good as “The Suburbs?” Definately not, there are some holes but overall it had a great string of songs halfway through the first side:

“Here Comes The Night Time” -> “Normal Person” -> “You Already Know” -> “Joan of Arc”

Sure, the second half of “Reflektor” is a pretty forgetful experience but I think the musical direction and lyrical focus was going to exciting places that I wanted them to continue to explore.

So, how will “Everything Now” hope to improve upon previous albums? First, we experienced a one off single with Mavis Staples at the beginning of this year (Yeah you forgot it already didn’t you!), a disjointed marketing campaign, and intriguing collaborations with Thomas Bangalter of the electronic-house duo Daft Punk and Pulp bassist Steve Mackey. It’s almost as though this album were destined to flop with this much hype and sadly I have to say I feel it did. Even the current single “Everything Now” feels forced and artificial, making its five minute track time unbearable.

Lyrically the focus continues where the last album left off, centering on our reliance on technology, our diminishing human interactions, and personal daily struggles but the lyrics fall short on providing clarity and solutions to these challenges of modern life. Creature Comfort’s lyrics standout as a example of this aimless wondering they seem stuck in throughout the album. It’s one thing to point out the flaws in our modern Internet culture but how do we move forward without sounding like the old man asking the millennials to “get off my lawn.” It’s not contributing to the discussion in any productive way.

Sure, I am disappointed with “Everything Now” but continually producing new & superior material as a band is always challenging, especially after the success they saw with “The Suburbs.” I think the best thing for Arcade Fire to focus on next is a back to basics, simple album devoid of a concept. Release it quickly, without much fanfare and let the music be the conversation not a convoluted marketing campaign about the shortcomings of Internet culture and mobile phones.

J Pope And The Hear Now – How Long

Here is a new mix demo I did last week. This one I really focused on a wide dynamic range in this song and it shows. The Integrated LUFS hovers around -13 for you mastering nerds out there. I have been focusing more on making mixes that work best on streaming services.

As you may know, almost all streaming services now have built in loudness control so that all songs playback at a consistent volume. This can vary by streaming service but it seems that around -13 LUFS is the current sweet spot for most of these services. More info on this click here: Streaming Loudness

 

Pavo Pavo – Check the Weather

This is a mix I had been sitting on for awhile after a busy June working on some recording sessions. This was a very dense mix with about six electric guitar tracks and about five 12 string guitar tracks alone. I focused on panning these guitars wide, as to spread the mix out more.

The bass guitar in this song was pretty woofy in the lower mid range so I adjusted that to make room for the synths and guitars. I have been trying to get back into Pro Tools more after a long hiatus (I have been preferring Logic more recently) and this is one of my first mixes back. Enjoy!