Song Of The Day
Ian Axel: A Man Possessed
"Waltz" begins with what sounds like the end -- strings cascading to quietude over a pumping beat, until a piano fades into silence. Then the song begins.
Ian Axel, a 25-year-old singer, pianist and composer, says "Waltz" came to him in a stream of consciousness one night when he was a senior in college, hanging out with friends in his Upper East Side apartment. He says he felt as if he were possessed and his evil side was emerging as he played the song on an electronic keyboard, using the "accordion" button; fittingly, "Waltz" has a giddy French vaudeville tinge, while its three-four time signature has "oom-pah-pah" written all over it. Axel's assertive, classically tinged piano is a vital part of the instrumental mix, but the orchestration sounds full and rich, with everything from a strumming mandolin to a pinging glockenspiel, not to mention drumsticks that sound as if they're performing a disembodied tap dance on a tabletop.
With a voice that possesses the sweetness of youth, the stubbornness of a teenager and the swagger of a rock star, Axel sings the nonsensical words he wrote that night, although they somehow seem perfectly sensible as they flow along. The narrator visits a loft in a town haunted by music that weakens souls; then, he asks to be let in for a swim to find the way to someone's heart, declaring, rather like Dr. Frankenstein, "You are alive -- I can die now." After interjecting a charming thump ba-dump ba-dump ba-dump-ba-dump interlude, he delivers a classic arena-rock chant: "You can't stop us now / No, you can't stop us now." It's an appropriate chorus for a rising young singer. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.