Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different songs as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday, we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Cranberry” by The Ruby Suns from their 2010 album Fight Softly on Sub Pop.
This week begins with the soft harmony from New Zealand band The Ruby Suns. On their third album, Fight Softly, Ryan McPhun, the band’s principal songwriter and performer, chose to take the Ruby Suns’ pop sound to a unique level through a mixture of dynamic vocals, digital effects and synthesizers. Whereas his earlier albums, like the previous Sub Pop release, Sea Lion, tended to focus on influences from McPhun’s past (he grew up in California, traveled through Africa, and wound up in New Zealand), the new release steps further from the African grooves, Beach Boys-esque melodies, and indigenous Kiwi odes for a more experimental, completely electronic experience. Gone are the guitars, ukeles, djembe drums and pots and pans, only to be replaced by keyboards and drum machines. Yet, despite these significant changes, the psychedelic tropical sound of The Ruby Suns remains.
“Cranberry,” the album’s first single, leads us on a tropical and imaginative journey, beginning at first like an outtake from Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, and winding through the previous album’s African and Calypso rhythms. It showcases McPhun’s attempt to “use organic sounds” that do not “sound organic” (via Pitchfork). Yet there are also snippets of live drums and other percussion mixed in with the electronics. The song was written while McPhun was holed up in the Pacific Northwest and took a day trip to Cranberry Lake on Fidalgo Island. Though the song starts about an irrational fear of water (“when I can’t see the bottom”), it’s actually an optimistic display of the happiness and excitement he feels traveling the world, gaining new experiences and meeting new people.
Here they are playing Sea Lion‘s “Tane Mahuta” for La Blogotheque: