Monday, October 18, 2004

week of Oct. 17-23

"Lucky Jam" - Soft
A brand new band from Brooklyn, Soft has emerged Athena-like, fully-formed from the head of the internet. According to the band's John Reineck, Soft spent a year writing, rehearsing, and recording in their practice space without once playing in public or playing for anyone else at all. Not an approach that's going to work for everyone, but I for one am enjoying the payoff in Soft's case. It takes a certain amount of gumption and know-how to craft a compelling hook from a syncopated beat, but that's exactly what "Lucky Jam" does from its opening notes, as a lovely, Edge-like guitar rings out against a stuttering drum beat. After that, singer Reineck barely has to open his mouth to have me completely engaged, his voice channeling a bygone time of power-pop innocence (does the band Shoes still ring a bell to anyone?) even as the musical drive feels fully of the current 21st-century moment and the band's sophistication--for starters, listen to how guitarists Vincent Perini and Samuel Wheeler wind their instruments around one another--gives the song a subtle depth at every turn. "Lucky Jam" is posted on the band's web site. Soft expects to have a full-length CD ready by January.

"Jody Said" - Farma
Here's a beautiful, restrained, and idiosyncratic Americana-ish ballad from the formidable San Francisco quintet Farma. From a twinkly, slightly psychedelic start, "Jody Said" proceeds with great assurance over territory that would feel downright quirky if it didn't likewise seem so familiar. The song combines the gruff delicacy of Son Volt with the jazz-inflected chord flavors of Steely Dan, fleshing out the strong melody with a lazy, soaring steel guitar and noodly keyboards. When the verse returns after an instrumental break in the middle, everything coalesces, and as the melody gets to that place where it modulates and extends beyond the frame ("I'll be dreaming in this bar, eternally"), the enterprise levitates to that place where the effect of a song transcends the particulars of its construction. "Jody Said" will be found on the band's self-titled EP, soon to be released on Wishing Tree Records. The MP3 is on the band's web site.

"Second Winter" - Patty Moon
Right away the tremulous flute and drama-queen chords tell you this is borderline kitsch, and that's even before the cinematic wash of pop-electronica sweeps in to create an eye-opening Lulu-meets-Portishead vibe. (I'll quickly note that there's nothing wrong with borderline kitsch; Blondie has always walked that line to great effect as well.) When Patty Moon, the singer (Patty Moon is also the name of the band; they're from Germany) intones "I've been waiting all this winter for a true emotion"--gee, I hope Morrissey gets a royalty check for that line--the song defeats my resistance, winning me over on its own glorious-wacky terms: like any good pop song, it creates its own kind eternity from the forces that swirl around it here in this moment. And it will always do that. "To Sir With Love," after all, wasn't necessarily a great song, but it's always listenable, and it will always evoke the British mid-'60s pop scene in a way little else will. With enough exposure (and this is not necessarily likely to get that exposure), "Second Winter" could one day evoke the mid-'00s Euro-global pop scene in a similar way. The MP3 arrives via the worthwhile German MP3 hub Tonspion; the song is on the band's CD Clouds Inside, released this month in Europe on the Berlin-based Traumton Records.

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