Friday, May 11, 2012

Song #189 of 9999 - Tiny Spark by Brendan Benson

Song #189 of 9999

Title: Tiny Spark
Artist: Brendan Benson
Year: 2002
Album: Lapalco

Do people know who Brendan Benson is? Although he has been releasing records since 1996, I find he is relatively unknown apart from his work with The Raconteurs. (Sure, you know them, don't you?) "Tiny Spark" is a single from his second album Lapalco, which is the name of a highway in Louisiana and also a sort of anagram for the Louisiana Power and Light Company. It is co-written by Benson and power pop icon Jason Falkner, best known for his work with the band Jellyfish.

Benson's songs are prototypical power pop. They deal in melodies that would make The Cars proud and are sung in a voice that is one part John Lennon, two parts Robyn Hitchcock. Most of his songs deal with relationships and the lyrics are relatively simple, sometimes bordering on banal. But it's unlikely you would notice or care because the songs are just so damn catchy. 

A fat analog synth opens "Tiny Spark" (you may have heard this intro in a Saturn car commercial) in the key of F or maybe Bb (hard to tell) before giving way to driving eighth notes in the key of G. It's a pretty interesting and unexpected transition, especially to open the album. I love the pseudo-stop-time section that occurs in the middle, which perhaps could be called a chorus—it features the only mention of the title—but it occurs only once. I've always wondered if early drafts of the song repeated this part, but when I think about it, it really works well as a non-recurring centerpiece and keeps the song at the perfect pop song timing of 3:14.

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