Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #41: "Always Gold" -- Radical Face

It's a truly strange concept to grasp that Jacksonville singer-songwriter Ben Cooper, here going by Radical Face, is not bigger than he currently is. In fact, Cooper (who also appears as part of Electric President) is still a fairly well-kept secret among indie folk listeners.

"Welcome Home" was, and still is, Radical Face's greatest triumph. It's also the song for which he's most known. If you can actually find someone who knows of Radical Face, "Welcome Home" is the song mentioned. And that's not necessarily a bad thing -- it's catchy as all get out, and has perhaps one of the most uplifting, anthemic choruses ever put to the folk genre.

But finally, Cooper has written a song that comes close to meeting "Welcome Home" on its level. Enter "Always Gold."

Coming off the The Family Tree trio of concept albums (this from the first installment, The Roots), "Always Gold" utilizes many of the features that made "Welcome Home" so damn popular in the first place.

First, "Always Gold" is a proponent of hummed or sans-words vocals. Oftentimes Cooper will stick some of the most melodic parts of the song here. But it's only the tip of the earworm, so to speak.

Cooper magnifies his voice by a few times to create a feeling of a much bigger band. He also employs the use of handclaps, which drive the song along at a formidable pace.

Later adding in accordion, Cooper creates a warm, folky soundscape. In the end, "Always Gold" (and many other Radical Face songs, for that matter) sound as though Sufjan Stevens toned down the theatrics and the instrumentation, opting instead for a more minimal sound. This suits me a bit more, and if you're like me, perhaps it will for you, too.

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