A is for “Arrangement”

Arrangement: N. — a particular version of a tune and its harmony

As much as I like good strong songwriting, it’s often the arrangement that Does It for me. Yeah, I know that’s a little shallow, putting the glossy production cart before the horse, but I love ear candy a whole bunch, and I’m willing to forgive crappy lyrics or a banal chord progression if somebody has sweetened the song with horns, lush vocal harmonies, a modulation or two, or other sonic goodies. Sadly, a lot of indie bands do a lot of the former and none of the latter, which leaves this reviewer cold.

Try, for an example, Click Five’s “Time Machine” — man, this band is a total guilty pleasure for me. They’re borderline boy-band material (though they’re Berklee-educated, so I guess the joke’s on me), and their lyrics are full of “let’s run away together when we’re just a bit older” schmaltz (flimsy shades of Brian Wilson’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice“?). But, yow—they can deliver in terms of polish and crunch with a gorgeous sheen on top.

I want a return to ’70s sensibilities—over-the-top production, oohs out the wazoo, and a philharmonic’s worth of pizazz—is that too much to ask for?

If you had to list some bands of the last 10 years that really took arrangement as seriously as songwriting (Muse, Jellyfish, etc.), who would they be?

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