Specificity means finding what is unique about something and micro-focusing on its qualities. Writer/composer Michael Hearst specializes on micro-focusing on things like extraordinary people, ice cream trucks, unusual animals, and curious constructions. Hearst’s books come with accompanying music, including his brand-new fourth in a series on transportation, Unconventional Vehicles and its companion CD, Songs for Unconventional Vehicles.
The release features a diverse number of musical styles, from show tunes to funk, to 1940s pop to hard rock to 1970s disco. Throughout, there’s a sense of wonder tinged with merriment and an excitement that these devices even exist. Which is, in fact, what Hearst is attempting to convey with his collections. Michael’s previous album, Songs for Ice Cream Trucks, is presently being blared by at least 50 ice cream vehicles around the world.
Hearst is clearly not alone in his obsession – Songs for Unconventional Vehicles brings together a cavalcade of guest vocalists. A sampling includes Tanya Donelly (Belly, Throwing Muses), Neil Gaiman, Rachell Garniez, Claudia Gonson (The Magnetic Fields), Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom), and Syd Straw (The Golden Palominos).
“Gas Turbine Motorcycle” gets a thrash rock description that lasts an economical 23 seconds. That falls on the short end of the spectrum, as the 47 (!) selections run from 17 seconds to two minutes and 30 seconds. Listeners learn about crafts such as underwater battery-powered scooters, solar-powered race cars, pizza delivery drones, and a hot-air balloon shaped like the Cathedral of Saint Gall. No, really. The tracks are listed alphabetically from “Airboard Personal Hovercraft” to “Zamboni.” The book arrives a few days after the digital (and vinyl) drop. Hearst’s flights of fancy will transport you – literally and figuratively.
Here is the video for the song “Human Cannonball Truck”: