Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #59: "The Insomniac's Song" -- The Ridges

Yes, I know I'm going a bit obscure here, but work with me. Isn't that the point of these lists anyway -- to turn folks on to new music they might not have heard this year? OK, maybe there's more to it than that. Again, work with me.

The Ridges hail from my college town of Athens, Ohio, taking their name from a former lunatic asylum that overlooks the campus. The building itself is haunting, an adjective that describes the band as well. The band features just three full-time members -- a guitarist/frontman, cellist and percussionist. A rotating cast of auxiliary musicians fill out the rest of the band's live and recorded act.

"The Insomniac's Song" is the lead track off the band's self-titled debut EP. To me, it highlights everything The Ridges do best. The song begins with what sounds to be the band's string section effectively warming up (get it?! On the first song! Clever!) before a drum hit launches the song into its mid-tempo rhythm.

The strings are what stand out here. Throughout the entirety of the song, we're hit with a few different melodies from cellist Talor Smith and company. In this case, think of the strings as the lead instrument part -- as in, what the guitar would be in a normal, straightforward rock song. That's the role that's played here. Rather than using more conventional instruments at the forefront of the music, The Ridges utilize more orchestral elements instead. This is a welcome respite from the usual.

As we near the song's end, the percussion gets heavier and singer Victor Rasgaitis' vocal gets pushed to its breaking point, jumping from his normal register at the song's beginning to its upper reaches.

Orchestral folk rock isn't really a widely known or followed genre, but it seems The Ridges are out to change that. If you're a music aficionado interested in the pleasing pairing of acoustic rock instruments and strings, this is some of the best you'll find in 2011.

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