THIS WEEK'S FINDS
week of Feb. 5-11
"Electricity + Drums" - the Apparitions
From its almost startling, stripped-down, Frank Zappa-meets-the-Stones opening, "Electricity + Drums" picks up full-out rock'n'roll flavor, but with any number of idiosyncratic turns and shifts. I'm particularly enjoying how the song blends the straightahead ambiance of a basic, three-chord rocker while actually sneaking a lot more into its simple-seeming container. The overall sound seems familiar in a rootsy-rocky somewhat-Southern sort of way and yet also slightly off and unusual, like when you dream you're in your own house, and you know it's your own house even as it doesn't look like your house really looks. Stuff keeps happening: different vocalists show up (three of the band members sing), chords modulate, guitars churn and squeak in unexpected combinations (the band also features three guitarists). I don't think I've often for instance heard these two sounds in one song: the down-and-dirty, feedbacky, "get ready to rock" electric guitar sound at :33 and the siren-like octave accents that chime in around 2:18. They are from two entirely different rock-guitar universes. The Apparitions are a five-man band from Lexington, KY; their second CD, As This Is Futuristic, was released last month on Machine Records. The MP3 is available via the band's site.
"Sonic Parts" - Khoiba
Slow, moody electro-pop from the Prague-based quartet Khoiba (apparently pronounced ko-EE-ba). Listen to how vocalist Ema Brabcova keeps us paradoxically enveloped and off-balance through the purposeful meanderings of the song's subtle yet robust melody. The quiet verse--based around the always lovely alternation between a minor one and major four chord--appears to resist a time signature, which right away tells me that we're dealing with something interesting. (Standard-issue electronica, after all, is all about beats; beats are all about steady time signatures--in other words, a regular, symmetrical rhythm, however fuzzed-up and complicated by programmed effects.) Electronica accents, subtle at first, more up front as the song develops, are therefore used for their aural contributions, not just for their rhythms. Even as the chorus acquires a steadier beat, Brabcova's plaintive, hanging-off-the-beat, fully human voice (listen to how she lets it crack and wobble, softly but definitively, whenever it wants or needs to) dominates almost hypnotically. "Sonic Parts" is a song off the band's debut CD, Nice Traps, released in September on Streetbeat Records. The MP3 is available via the band's site. (Khoiba, by the way, is an invented name, which strikes me as a particularly brilliant move for a band in the Google era.)
"Blue Skies" - the Young Republic
I think it's safe to say that not many rock songs have begun with this particular combination of strings, flute, and drums. It sounds like a small orchestra has arrived to serenade you out your window (and here you didn't even know the sun was out and the flowers were blooming). It's a charming, earnest bit of acoustic fuss and bother, leading right into a quick, lightly-stepping piece of pop, full of expansive melodic lines and grand ensemble energy. Vocalist Julian Saporiti uses his thin, guileless voice with great verve, as if physically buttressed by all the musicians who've agreed to play along. The net effect is a rather precise amalgem of Belle and Sebastian and the Arcade Fire, but only achieved by a band not attempting specifically to sound like that at all. The Young Republic is Boston-based nonet (and how often do I get to use that word?); they once in fact had 11 members, and all are Berkee College of Music students. "Blue Skies" comes from the band's new, eight-song Modern Plays CD. The MP3 is up on the band's site. Thanks to Bruce at Some Velvet Blog for the head's up.