Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #19: "(Not So) Sad and Lonely" -- DJ Shadow

We can chalk DJ Shadow up to another one of those artists still looking to recapture the glory of his or her critically-acclaimed debut album. In Shadow's case, Endtroducing hit big at a time when using just samples to create entire albums was a new concept. He revolutionized the art form with the album, and paved the way for many like-minded artists to do the same.

Alas, creating another release on par with Endtroducing has proved difficult for Shadow. In 2011, 15 years after his debut release, he released The Less You Know, The Better, his first album of new material since 2006. Compared against other records of the genre, it's a solid effort. Compared to Endtroducing or The Avalanches' landmark Since I Left You? It left much to be desired.

Still, the good DJ gave us reason to be excited. He showed that he still has the ability to produce great singular songs, even if they're separated by less-satisfying material. In particular, the album features a two-song combo, one of which appears toward the album's beginning; the other, toward its end. "Sad and Lonely," featuring a sample of Susan Reed's "I'm Sad and I'm Lonely," begins this cycle, with Reed's voice seemingly distant against piano and violin.

Later in the album comes "(Not So) Sad and Lonely," a rebuttal to its predecessor. This song also features Reed's vocals, but to a lesser extent. Here is where the record ends, and on an incredibly poignant note.

The majority of Reed's vocal that is utilized comes from a particular point in the usual song in which she sings, quite simply, "I'm troubled."

The violin present in "Sad and Lonely" returns here, but there's much more atmosphere to be found on the latter song. Most notably, slowly-rising guitar thunders beneath Reed and the strings.

(Not So) Sad And Lonely by DJ Shadow on Grooveshark

DJ Shadow has always been able to create a lush, atmospheric soundscape, sometimes ambient and sometimes a little more jarring or melodic. Here, he combines the two into a song that should please both folks interested in pleasant background music and connoisseurs of a beautiful vocal from the late Reed, who passed away last year.

If there's any part of The Less You Know... that anyone actually listens to, it should be these two songs. Both tunes are soothing and altogether beautiful.

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