My analysis of the track "Talk Is Cheap" by Chet Faker


Talk Is Cheap" is track #2 on the album Built On Glass. It was written by Nicholas James Murphy

 

The track “Talk Is Cheap” by Chet Faker was originally written in the key Bb major with a 4/4 time signature and a tempo of 134 beats per minute. “Chet played and produced the whole album himself (bar one guitar solo (Kingsmill, 2015)).

The instruments my ears can detect are percussion elements, saxophone, electric keys, upright piano, electric bass guitar and vocals

The percussion really gives the track a distinct glitchy rhythm with a normal 1 bar beat spread out over 2 bars giving the impression of a slow tempo track, when in fact it's not. This allows for the music to be written in full pace (134 bpm ) and half pace 67 bpm adding versatility to the arrangement.

Breaking down the individual components of this track the  kick drum sounds like it has been layered with some sub bass and has very little high frequency information, giving it  less of an attack sound resulting in a smoother well blended kick drum.

The snare is for the most part layered with claps giving the sound more of an impact and wider stereo image, though there are instances where the snare is not layered and is played as a roll during the last beat of every bar. This adds more rhythm and flow and works well as as a bridge between bars.

There are no hi-hats or cymbals, instead you can hear clicks, the clicks sound like finger snaps or created from a synthesizer eq’d to fit wide and tall in the mix. they take the role of the hi-hats, playing an off beat rhythm which adds interest. The shaker in this track plays for 4 bars throughout the entire song, used sparingly and positioned as a lead and tension builder into other sections.

The saxophone sounds layered creating a wide stereo image, possibly double tracked live instead of ADT (artificial double tracking). This makes the track sound smooth and organic, creating more of an emotional connection with the listener.

The bass is really clever, for one its filling out the low end frequencies and it also helps to drive the song in a very subtle way, adding a lot of swing and natural vibe to the track.I found it hard to tune right into the bass at times as it is often masked by the other instruments.

The harmonies and melodies written for the electric piano are authentic and exceptional. They have there own place at times and completely drive the song in parts. The character of this instrument gives it an old school soul vibe.

The upright piano is often hidden but really fills out the track, great sounding instrument and airy, soothing vibes. Once again, exceptionally written harmonies.

The main vocal sounds very warm like a valve microphone or possibly processed and/or recorded to tape. The backup vocals by Faker sit slightly wide of the main vocal in the stereo field adding width and harmonic content. These are arranged to play sparingly in certain areas to build interest and intensity.

This track is dominated by mostly low, low mids and mid frequencies. Apart from the bass guitar, the kick drum, Faker's voice and the electric piano there is not much in the high frequency ranges. The hi -hats and clicks are the only real high frequencies that are arranged play only some of the time, grabbing your attention and then letting your mind wander back to other elements.

I was curious to see how stereo image might relate to the overall feel of the song so I created a timeline showing the arrangement and how intense the music felt to me in terms of the stereo image. This highlights that the stereo width moves in alignment with intensity for the majority of the track. Another interesting point is how the song builds more and more then abruptly stops near the 2 minute mark for a bit of a electric piano solo creating interest and curiosity (normally referred to as the breakdown section).

timeline talk is cheap.JPG

I then imported the track into Ableton Live and inserted a plugin called Ozone 5 by Izotope. It has a Vector scope which shows the stereo image, visually confirming what I could hear. The top photo was captured during the intro with just the saxophone playing, showing a really wide stereo image due to the layered saxophones panned wide. It’s possible some delay was used  via parallel processing. The bottom photo was from the main bulk of the song, showing the kick, snare, main vocal, bass guitar, all staying relatively centered.

sax intro.JPG

verse image.JPG

The next snapshot was taken of the mp3 waveform just to give a very brief insight to the overall dynamics of the track. The high transients you can see are the snare and clap hitting together every 2nd beat. The rest of the track looks fairly tight and lightly compressed, keeping control of any contrasting dynamics and in sync with the other elements.

Lyrics

Oh so, you'll be crying

Your dad will bother, reading into it

I'll probably won't

Left to my own devices

But that's the difference in our opinions

You're a mouthful

That amounts for another week on my own

Now I'm a novel made resourceful

I start a chain with my thought

Talk is cheap, my darling

When you're feeling right at home

I wanna make you move with confidence

I wanna be with you alone

Said help me help you start it

You're too comfortable to know

Throwing out those words

Oh, you gotta feel it on your own

Cold pain

I cannot sustain it

That's what I'm thinking

Not what I'm drinking

I hold up my ways

These thoughts are pervasive

It's not a statement

But peace can be evasive

You're a mouthful

That accounts for another week on my own

Now I'm a novel made resourceful

I start a chain with my thought

Talk is cheap, my darling

When you're feeling right at home

I wanna make you move with confidence

I wanna be with you alone

Said help me help you start it

You're too comfortable to know

Throwing out those words

Oh, you gotta feel it on your own

Talk is cheap, my darling

When you're feeling right at home

I wanna make you move with confidence

I wanna be with you alone

Said help me help you start it

You're too comfortable to know

Throwing out those words

Oh, you gotta feel it on your own

Songwriters

NICHOLAS JAMES MURPHY

To me the lyrics are saying that this story is about a deep emotional relationship between a man and a women, going through good times and bad. Sounds like he is torn between being alone with this women and being angry at the women. It’s hard to gauge whose point of view this is spoken from but I think it can relate to anybody, which appeals to people whose emotions might be going through good and rough times, appealing to a wide audience.

Overall I think this track was well planned and well produced, obviously winning triple J’s hottest 100 in 2014 a lot of other people thought so too. The planning of implementing soulful instruments used minimally creates a warm, smooth and organic soul sound. With little high frequency information the song seems less bright and sparkly, also free of sudden sharp sounds.  Overall Faker has managed to pull off a new, current exciting sound but at the same time managing to sound authentic and vintage, tying in well with Faker's voice.

References

Kingsmill, Richard. (2015, January 29). Chet Faker's "Talk Is Cheap" voted #1 in triple j's Hottest 100. Retrieved from http://www.amin.org.au/chet-fakers-talk-is-cheap-voted-1-in-triple-js-hottest-100/http://www.amin.org.au/chet-fakers-talk-is-cheap-voted-1-in-triple-js-hottest-100/

Future Classic. (2014, February 14). Chet Faker - Talk Is Cheap. [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP_-P_BS6KY

 

Metro Lyrics. (2015). Chet Faker.Retrieved from http://www.metrolyrics.com/chet-faker-albums-list.html#/built-on-glass-album-chet-faker