Lately when it comes to music I’ve been digging two things; one of them is demos.
My interest in demos is nothing new. A couple of years ago, I listened to nothing but Elliot Smith demos for a solid two weeks. It wasn’t my happiest period, but I was way mellow.
And about six months ago I was all about rap demo tapes. Listening to what got Nas and Gravediggaz signed reminded me of why I was a fan all those years ago.
But lately I’m more interested in demos from alternative artists. You can’t go wrong with Ryan Adams, who’s got more demos than albums. But he’s sort of too easy. He’s what I fall back on when I hit a wall in my searches.
Just this week I struck gold when I came across some demos that I’d been looking for for awhile. I finally got TV on the Radio’s Ok Calculator and Tegan and Sara’s Red Demo and Yellow Demo. Sadly, I came up short on the Orange Demo.
Right now I’m pretty slayed. It’s always dope to hear an artist before the pressure of moving units is mounted on their backs and they make music for the joy of it.
Ok Calculator isn’t for everyone. It’s a lo-fi pastiche of one-off recordings that sound like friends goofing off. It’s all over the place sonically, but it’s clearly a TVOTR affair. And while hearing the rapping is kind of nutty, it’s still inspiring to hear the seeds of Young Liars being planted throughout the demo.
And while Ok Calculator is strictly for fans, the Red and Yellow demos are a much easier sell. They’re very much the bare-bones arrangements of songs—some songs that made it onto actual albums. I’m a fan of basic tracks featuring vocals and guitars, so these demos are a treat, especially since I felt that some of Tegan and Sara’s early work was a tad overproduced.
Hearing a stripped down version of “Superstar” on the Red Demo had me actually enjoying the song for the first time, because I found the album version kind of annoying. It’s like hearing a familiar song with new ears and without all the stuff you hated.
And that’s what I like about demos; whether it’s an altered arrangement, a slower tempo or an acoustic version, you’re hearing something new. And that’s always a bonus.
Now, if only I could find the Orange Demo…
Tags: Nas, TV on the Radio