THIS WEEK'S FINDS
week of Jan. 1-7
"Court Report" - Little Man Tate
Borrowing something basic and anthemic from the Jam and their progeny (Blur in particular), Little Man Tate is not however content being simply mod or neo-mod; instead, this Sheffield foursome draws satisfyingly from rock'n'roll's many decades--I hear an unexpected shot of late '60s/early '70s blues-rock in the mix as well as the itchier, garage-y bashings prevalent here in the mid-'00s. And yet check out the lyrics: "Well he's a cross dresser honey, he fights for his team/He dishes out a kickin' with a thong under his jeans/He's a cross dresser honey and it don't seem right." The song manages to capture the goofy-poignant-violent goings-on with unexpected finesse, from the barroom harmonies finishing the lyric "Switches channels to Eastenders/Cleans his house in his red suspenders" to the pitch-perfect, Paul Wellerian way the words "skinhead cross dresser caught" scans in the chorus. Named, I suppose, after the wonderful 1991 Jodie Foster movie of the same name, Little Man Tate is unsigned and as yet without even a self-released EP or CD; "Court Report" is one of eight free and legal MP3s the band has available on its web site.
"Blood and Marrow" - Amandine
This song's slow sad accordion-laced swing puts me in the mind of the Band, as does the tune's intriguingly timeless sound. Lyrics about fathers and mothers and blood and mourning deepen the effect gracefully. Amandine is a Swedish quartet featuring not only guitars and drums but glockenspiel, trumpet, and theremin (!) along with the evocative accordion, and yet truly one of the best instruments on display is Olof Gidlöf's tender high tenor, which sounds at once firm and fragile, weaving in and out of the spotlight with the other distinctive sounds. Nothing happens in a hurry, and nothing sounds unusual if you're seeking sheer novelty; what is, however, unusual is how Amandine does not confuse restraint with boredom, or vice-versa. The song moves slowly, but it does move: chords change, melodies unfold, there are hooks and climaxes and knowing touches throughout. "Blood and Marrow" can be found on the band's debut CD, This Is Where Our Hearts Collide, released in November on Fat Cat Records, a British label with a penchant for signing Scandanavian bands. The MP3 is hosted on the band's site. Thanks to Thomas Bartlett at Salon for the lead here.
"America's Boy" - Broadcast
On the surface "America's Boy" seems the sort of groove-based song I don't readily connect to, as I tend to keep hankering for a sturdier melody to keep me happy. And yet there was something here that piqued my interest from the outset--first and foremost the soaring, New Order-ish synthesizer line, and how it is immediately complicated on the one hand by its specifically changing character (as it reaches its full interval--a sixth, I think--it morphs into something vast and choral-like) and on the other hand by the starchy, blippy way the electronics are continually stretched and scratched out of their pure tones into something harsher and yet also more compelling. Vocalist Trish Keenan's appealing voice--somewhat but not completely deadpan--doesn't float on top as much as find itself sandwiched in between the semi-heavenly synthesizer above and the semi-deranged clockwork electronica below; the effect is at once earthier and weirder than standard-issue electronica. The song's single-like length--a brisk 3:34--is another thing that gives me a pop hand-hold through some of the oddness. Once a quintet, Broadcast is now a duo, just Keenan and bassist James Cargill; "America's Boy" is a song off their Tender Buttons CD, released in August 2005 on Warp Records. The MP3 is available via Insound.