ALIGN IN TIME is the musical alias of John Boles, whose second album On a Spiral will be released on June 19th (see our latest news story HERE). The album draws influence from John’s array of musical loves: the cathartic builds of post-rock, the visceral aggression of post-hardcore, the heartache and pristine melodies of pop rock and emo, and the storytelling technique of film scores. Today we’re excited to premiere the second single from the album, “Headlong,” a chaotic track that commands attention from its first moments.
We asked John about his approach to songwriting, and he offered to share thoughts on the ways that some of his favorite artists tell stories through their music, and the influence they’ve had on his own.
Counting Crows – “Round Here”
The simplest way musicians tell stories is through their lyrics, but it’s often the vocalist’s performance that determines whether the emotional weight of those lyrics hits me. Even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times, singer Adam Duritz’s performance in “Round Here” can still give me chills. From the fragile opening, to the almost frantic yelping at the climax, to the off-key collapse at the close, it’s a stunning example of how compelling words can become something greater when set to music.
The Receiving End of Sirens – Between the Heart and the Synapse
My favorite concept albums allow you to understand their concept just by listening, without needing outside explanation. This album was an eye-opener for me as an example of how to write songs that stand on their own but also form a cohesive, thematically-linked whole. I remember discovering the way the album was split in two, the recurring musical themes, the transitions between songs, the ongoing lyrical dialogue that pays off the album’s title. To this day I rarely listen to individual songs from the album—if I’m going to listen, I want to experience the whole thing.
Imogen Heap – “Wait It Out”
Imogen Heap is a wizard at using a song’s production to tell its story. There are so many good examples I could mention, but “Wait It Out” might be my favorite. Like “Round Here,” it’s got an incredible vocal performance, but it also has an unreal level of instrumental and technical detail that makes every moment feel like the song is accelerating toward its peak. It might not make an obvious comparison to my music, but this is the type of songwriting I most try to emulate. If I could come even halfway to accomplishing what she does with this song, I’d be happy.
John Williams – “Remembering Childhood” from Hook
John Williams is one of the few people capable (still, somehow, at age 88) of writing music that is both overwhelmingly complex and emotionally accessible. In scores like Hook, he creates dozens of musical identities for characters, places, and plot themes, and develops and intertwines them so that they convey an entire story without the need for their accompanying film. “Remembering Childhood” scores the climactic sequence in which Peter remembers how to fly, one of my favorite musical moments ever.
Align in Time – “Headlong”
All these artists have influenced how I approach writing music as Align in Time, and “Headlong” is a good example. Like the name implies, the song rushes forward recklessly until it reaches a pivotal moment a little past halfway through, also roughly the midpoint of the album. I don’t like to get too specific about what these songs signify to me—hearing people’s individual responses to the music is one the best parts of sharing it—but hopefully it’ll be clear in context how “Headlong” is the culmination of everything that came before it, and how it sets the stage for the rest of the album’s story.
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