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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
The last time we heard Dan Auerbach as a solo artist was 2009’s Keep it Hid. With the boogie swamp shuffle of “I Want Some More” and the lush harmonies of “Trouble Weighs a Ton” this was first time we hear Dan Auerbach stretching his legs towards their grammy winning “Brothers.” I love the Black Keys but I always eagerly anticipate any solo work of Dan Auerbach.
Now we have a followup 8 years since Keep it Hid, “Waiting on a Song” and Dan has certainly shifted sonically. Moving to the home of country music, Nashville, has certainly influenced his sound but this isn’t modern pop country that you’re thinking of (Thank God he hasn’t teamed up with Rascal Flatts or Florida Georgia Line). Instead we hear a more traditional style of country in the vein of Gram Parsons and John Prine, focusing on lyrical story telling, lush orchestration and skilled session musicians. It may seem like quite a jolt from fans of the traditional Black Keys album but I really enjoyed this album front to end. Stand outs like “Malibu Man” and “King of a One Horse Town” have the groove and guitar chops you would come to love from Dan & The Black Keys but with hints at his transplanted country home. One song I could do without is “Cherrybomb.” It has potential with its beginning groove but never really finds an intriguing second part to the song, leaving it easily skipped after the first minute.
All in all, this album makes me look forward the continued direction of Dan’s career as a producer, musician and songwriter. True longevity in music these days requires dexterity to fluidly move from one genre to another, keeping fans interested. I think Dan continues show us the diversity of his growing skills as a musician.
I am very excited to have this artist’s music out in the world! I had the honor of mixing and mastering this release with Aldraz Qob’s mastermind Jake Rasbornik. What an amazing talent to work with!
This release has an eclectic sound, a mix of 808 drum beats, Prince-esque scorching guitar solos and the layered vocals of Bon Iver. It’s unlike anything in the Milwaukee scene right! A truly unique artist!