nightmares and marigolds

I ran into the song “Soft Pedals” by Modern Skirts a few months ago – can’t quite remember where – but I’ve become moderately obsessed with it. My first impression was a slightly less postmodern take on a tack similar to that taken by The Aluminum Group – there’s definitely a ’70s “soft rock” thing going on here, subverted ever so slightly by the occasional, slightly jazzy chord or melodic line…which, of course, led me to think there’s also a bit of Steely Dan in the mix.

No wait – come back. It’s a good song, honest. First, those too-smooth chords are occasionally jarred from complacency by a lurch from an established tonal center…and then there’s the way that descending countermelody on the electric piano drifts off into dissonance land for a note or two before slipping unobtrusively by means of some chromatic motion back into an appropriate scale. And the lyrics are every so slightly dreamy and unsettling (and a bit saucy in parts, like the line about “she got on top and we both got off again”).

And then I realized that this song might well be a direct descendant of, unexpectedly, “See Saw” by Pink Floyd. Written by Richard Wright, this lemon-meringue-pie of a dreamsong shares several features in common with the Modern Skirts song: childhood play, the word “marigolds,” and some similar harmonic strategies (lots of major-seventh chords, unexpected harmonic movement).

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