Fingertips Explores the Archives: Rocky Votolato - White Daisy Passing
Jeremy from Fingertips joins us every Friday as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.
This week we bring you "White Daisy Passing" from Rocky Votolato.
What's the difference between a boring, doleful singer/songwriter and compelling, doleful singer/songwriter? Aurally, not a whole helluva lot, sometimes. And yet it's this difference--which hits me clearly in the gut even as it's tricky to articulate--that allows me to like Elliott Smith and yet all too often really not like people who sound like Elliott Smith. And yet here's Rocky Votolato, all sweet-voiced and whispery, and yup, he grabs me right away. Maybe it's the crispness of the rhythm guitar. He may be sweet and whispery, but the song moves. This movement is based in both tempo and structure, as Votolato gets a lot out of the ever-engaging, Jackson Browne-ian relationship between a major chord and its relative minor (the introduction, for instance, is major; when he starts singing, he's in the relative minor, a pleasant but definite shift). Note too the sense of movement stemming from how he starts the chorus on the upbeat, straight out of the verse, and then leads us through a chord progression that pivots on a seventh chord. This seems particularly striking as he's getting just then to the saddest part of the song. (Seventh chords are usually good-timey things.) The lyric at this point is almost mind-blowingly painful, yet easy to miss in the strummy flow of the whole thing, so check it out: "I'm going down to sleep/On the bottom of the ocean/'Cause I couldn't let go/When the water hit the setting sun." "White Daisy Passing" can be found on Votolato's debut CD, Makers, released in January 2006 on Barsuk Records.
- Jeremy Schlosberg