Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This blog has been moved; update your RSS feed!

This note is to remind you that the separate Fingertips blog no longer exists, but has been consolidated into the main Fingertips site, at

If you are reading this via your news reader, please update the feed address if you'd like to get back on board with the weekly Fingertips MP3 selections. The RSS feed is now located here:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Now you'll be automatically redirected

If you've come to find the Fingertips blog, it no longer exists here on Blogger. You will be automatically redirected to the new site within about five seconds. If you can't wait, the link is

See you there...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Attention linkers: change the Fingertips URL

Anyone currently linking to Fingertips using this Blogger URL is encouraged to change the link to This Blogger site is no longer being updated.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reminder about new site and new feed

This week's MP3s will be posted tomorrow. Just wanted to remind everyone that Fingertips is now one site rather than two; the new site, now live at, incorporates the blog and the RSS feed.

Please change your feed URL through Feedburner. It's as simple as can be.

Thanks, and see you at the new site...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This week's posts now up on redesigned Fingertips site

The new MP3s this week are from Sarah Harmer, Light Pollution, and Sarah Jaffe. But you won't be able to read about them here, alas.

Because the time has come to relieve Fingertips of its split personality and deliver one site where there used to be two. The newly redesigned Fingertips site is now itself much more blog-like than before, rendering the existence of this separate blog suddenly and permanently superfluous.

Weekly song picks will no longer be available here. Actually, pretty much nothing new will be available here moving forward.

But to ease the transition, I will for the time being post weekly here just to let everyone know that the new week's songs are up and to remind everyone to switch over to the new RSS feed.

You can do that via Feedburner.

I'm also working out whether the existing RSS feed can be automatically redirected. Such a thing is beyond my technological IQ but I've got some crack technicians on the job as we speak.

I will not be sorry to be off Blogger, but I will be sorry to leave my Blogger followers behind. The best way to follow Fingertips moving forward, besides simply subscribing to the new RSS feed, will be through either Facebook or Twitter or, even better, both.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Free and legal MP3 from The King Left (sharp, rumbling rocker at the edge of dissonance)

"The Way to Canaan" - The King Left
     Okay so noise is one thing. When you come right down to it, it's easy to make noise. Never understood what the fuss was about from the rock'n'roll primitivists who glorify sheer volume. I mean, okay--turn the bloody amps up and boom. It's noisy. Like, wow.
     Start combining noise with discipline and you begin to get my attention. Start understanding music enough to create different kinds of noise, not all of which are simply loud, and now you've really got something going. The King Left certainly does, playing continually along the edge of dissonance in this sharp, rumbling rocker. From the outset, we get no settled sense of tonic, a base chord to call home; instead we get slashing, clanging guitars and--key to keeping things unsettled--a dynamic bass line, running up and down and all around. The sound is at once harsh and tight. And listen to where the music goes when the lyrical line ends, at 0:27, and again at 0:40--we're left not only without resolution but bopping itchily in a clashing key, with that bass guitar refusing to ground us in a stable place. The chorus at long last delivers an anthemic release, but--there's a catch--buries it under a searing lead guitar, while Corey Oliver, even as he all but shouts, delivers his vocals as if now down in the basement. Nothing is easy but the hand-hold here is that it's all very precise. Knowing you're in good hands relaxes the ear, I think.
     The band's MySpace page lists Radiohead, The Beatles, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Nirvana, and R.E.M. as its first five influences and damned if "The Way to Canaan" isn't some kind of crazy-brilliant amalgam of all five. The song is from the New York City quartet's first full-length album--which is unfortunately also their last. They played their final show last week and are now no more. MP3 via the band's site. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head's up.

Free and legal MP3 from Sarah Blasko (smoky vocals over Morricone-ish setting)

"All I Want" - Sarah Blasko
     Nothing says "cinematic" better than a Morricone-inspired whistling introduction, but I like how down-to-earth and personal everything still manages to sound here. Often this kind of spaghetti western-ish styling opens up sweeping vistas with a certain amount of ironic winking, conjuring bleak deserts and dusty trails in an almost cartoonish way. But here Blasko takes the whistly intro, the Spanish-like guitar, and a touch of martial snare and wraps them up in her smoky, heartsore voice, singing a simple, haunting melody. By the time the strings arrive, we aren't picturing a lonesome rider in the blistering vastness of the faux Wild West; she is clearly singing about inner landscapes, not outer ones. That producer Björn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn and John fame) has found a way to personalize a musical setting rooted in outsized gestures is a mighty part of this song's charm, but it took Blasko's distinctive husky-breathy voice to pull it off. I'm guessing her voice gave him the idea in the first place. There's something haunted and unreachable in it.
     Blasko is from Sydney, where she has a sizable following after three well-regarded albums. "All I Want" is from her third and most recent CD, As Day Follows Night, which was recorded in Stockholm with Yttling and released last year in Australia and this spring in Europe. A U.S. release is scheduled for August.

Free and legal MP3 from Pallers (graceful electronic dance-ballad)

"The Kiss" - Pallers
     This graceful electronic dance-ballad unfolds with a New Order-like majesty, but minus the melodrama. Despite the quickly established synth-driven pulse, a gentle dreaminess prevails during the song's careful build-up. There's no hurrying this song and in the end, you don't want to, because the payoff, while subtle, is deeply felt.
     So let this one happen on its own terms. The simple pulse--a robotic synthesizer line backed by a conga beat of organic simplicity--fuels an extended intro, while another synthesizer slowly plays with a melodic line that finally takes over the front of the mix nearly 50 seconds in. The singing starts at 1:06, adding a wistful melody to the carefully constructed beat. New synth lines emerge at 1:40. No one is in a hurry, remember. A new layer of percussion and previously unheard synthesizer flourishes add palpable substance around 2:30 but soon the song retreats back to its conga-and-synth origin before blossoming, from 3:00 to 3:15, into almost goose-bumpy wonderfulness the rest of the way, as the melody doubles its pace and we see now that our gentle electronic dream has transformed itself into something brisk, sturdy, and memorable.
     The Swedish duo Pallers is Johan Angergård (also a member of Acid House Kings, Club 8 and the Legends) and Henrik Mårtensson. "The Kiss" is a digital single due out next week on Labrador Records (a great Stockholm-based label, itself worth checking out). MP3 via Labrador.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Free and legal MP3 from Phosphorescent (slow-burning singer/songwriter fare w/ classic rock guitar)

"The Mermaid Parade" - Phosphorescent
     At once laid-back and expansive, "The Mermaid Parade" brings a slow-burning quality to its sauntering vibe. Singing this affecting if slightly mystical (or maybe just surreal) tale of love gone wrong, front man Matthew Houck has the knocked-around tone of a man who's been hurt a little too much; his voice has a built-in crack to it without ever really cracking, and he sings with the relaxed cadence of someone slowly draining the beer from a long-necked bottle.
     And the thing, to me, that really gives "The Mermaid Parade" its piercing quality is the electric guitar that plays like a backbone through the skeletally told story. Neither fancy nor newfangled, the guitar brings a classic-rock majesty to the singer/songwritery proceedings. The climactic lyric is plainspoken and startlingly moving: "But yeah I found a new friend too/And yeah she's pretty and small/But goddamn it Amanda/Oh, goddamn it all."
     "The Mermaid Parade" is four tracks in on Here's To Taking It Easy, the fifth full-length release from Phosphorescent, a band which is basically Houck and anyone else he can get to play with him at the time. The album is out this week on Dead Oceans, sister label to Secretly Canadian and Jagjaguwar. MP3 via Dead Oceans.

Free and legal MP3 from Villagers (indirect, well-crafted keeper from Ireland)

"Becoming a Jackal" - Villagers
     "Becoming a Jackal" is not necessarily an immediate smash hit; it insinuates rather than sweeps away. Never is it uninteresting, however, and I mean that quite literally, in a moment to moment way. Great hooks are awesome, don't get me wrong, but songs can sometimes coast a bit too much in between the hooks, not to mention that sometimes it's a fine line between hook-y and facile, never mind hook-y and annoying. (You'll know what I mean if you've ever gotten a song stuck in your head that you don't even like.) So there's definitely a place in my pop universe for songs like this that use well-crafted indirectness, unexpected twists, and tension-building restraint to gain your trust and devotion.
     Sink into the song's small moments, let them float by and gain strength, notice the subtle shifts in accompaniment, and eventually a few become their own, quirky sorts of non-hooky hooks. The recurring phrase "I was a dreamer" at the beginning of the not-very-chorus-like chorus may be the first that sticks but a number of other melodic motifs grow in stature as the song unfolds. I like the one that first comes, at 0:26, with the lyrics "in the scene between the window frames"; when we hear it (I think for the third time) at 2:21, with the lyrics "you should wonder what I'm taking from you," it sounds like a climactic moment, but only because of how artfully we've arrived there.
     Villagers is the name Dubliner Conor J. O'Brien has given to his musical project, which is kind of a band but kind of not a band. "Become a Jackal" is the title track to the debut album, to be released next month on Domino Records. MP3 via Domino.