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Collette Carter
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serenity by the sea
Ron Granger
Serenity By the Sea

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So many pop songs are beautiful because of their simplistic and surreal take on life. Take Death Cab For Cutie's "Technicolor Girls" or Built To Spill's "Twin Falls"; we all know that there's no such thing as "technicolor girls" who are always on the phone, and that no failing juvenile relationship could truly be adequately summed up in Doug Martsch's cute story and melody. It's the idea that so much pop music is so far from the truth -- reducing complicated emotions down to simple concepts so that they can fit in a perfect, non-existent world -- that makes it so enjoyable.

Ron Granger is a "music-therapist". He isn't making pop music, but his situation is analogous; his melodies are so warm and pristine that the music itself, and the ambient images to which the listener is subjected, are simply too ideal to be found in the real world. Try closing your eyes and listening to the opener, "Acceptance". Okay, admittedly, you have to abandon your presumptions about the cheesiness of new age music or the clichéd sound of smooth jazz. But after a minute or two, the track sort of melds with your mind, becoming second nature, background, ambient. And depending on your mood, you may find yourself by a digitally enhanced stream, or out in a park, or wherever you want to be.

Other songs, like "Heart of the Spirit", "Pebbles, Gulls and Waves" and "River Flow", are significantly longer, allowing melodies and progressions to come and go, to be reintroduced later as hazy remnants of the past. In this sense, Granger has a unique way of arranging his music; the songs are always going somewhere, but at the same time they're often going back for a new spin on an old refrain.

Given Granger's claim that "music transforms us from the solitude of self to the serenity of being", it could be hard to see how something like Serenity by the Sea would be more therapeutic than the stuff we normally review. Personally I find Sunny Day Real Estate's orgasmically stated line, "nef I break down nall that I am..." or the Red Stars Theory's quivering, "Would you be my accident?" therapeutic enough. But there's something about the images that you see in your mind's eye while listening to Serenity... that gets to me. Sure, they are only images of a perfectly constructed world, existing only inside your head, but if you listen to a couple of his songs and then walk outside, the grass seems a little greener. No joke.

-- Josh Kazman
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