Tuesday, May 16, 2006

week of May 14-20

"The Gate" - Sam Roberts Band
There's something expansively old-fashioned about the Sam Roberts Band--five scruffy Canadian guys with long hair and any number of beards, they seem to be doing rock'n'roll like it used to be done (this is not a jam band, thank you very much), without sounding quite exactly like any classic rock outfit you can put your finger on. "The Gate" opens slowly, building from an organ sustain, a psychedelic bass line, and a glistening guitar that approaches steadily with spidery noodlings. Around 1:10 it bangs into place, driving forward with a late-'60s/early'-70s vibe; Roberts himself has something of David Gilmour's haunting vocal depth, lending a Floyd-like oomph to the semi-Steve Miller-y proceedings (listen especially to the vocals in the quiet bridge section that starts at around 3:12). "The Gate" is the lead track from the band's new CD, Chemical City, being released in the U.S. this week under the Secret Brain/Fontana imprint, which I can't figure out at all. The MP3 is available via Filter Magazine.

"Malherido" - Juana Molina
The wondrously subtle, subtly magical Molina was one of the very first artists featured on Fingertips back in 2003; arrival of new music from this acclaimed Argentinian is big news here. I think you have to slow down a bit to sink into her soundscapes; throw too many things in the multi-task pile while you're listening and the song--all rubbery synths, skittery boops, whispery vocals, and stray animal noises--might not register at all. The breathy but sturdy character in her voice is one hand-hold into her world: she sounds rather scarily like two of my top five all-time female singers put together (that'd be Jane Siberry and Kirsty MacColl), and there's a whole lot in the musical if not vocal vibe that reminds me of another (Björk). "Malherido" is a song from Molina's upcoming CD, her third; it's called Son (in Spanish: "They Are") and will be released in early June on Domino Records. The MP3 comes via the Domino web site.

"Too Much Space To Walk Away" - Avocadoclub
As smooth, catchy, and vaguely disaffected as an old Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark single. This has all the earmarks of a great floaty synth-pop hit but the really cool thing is they're not really using a heck of a lot of synthesizers; the acoustic guitars are actually more prominent. Most of the effect, I think, is coming from the layered majesty of Bendrik Muhs' vocals, and the use of a New Order-style lower-register lead guitar line. Muhs has the ability to sound both pretty and weary, like Ben Gibbard doing a Lou Reed impression; his aching delivery of the sweeping chorus is big-time pop heaven. Avocadoclub is an English-language band from Berlin; there appear to be two guys at the heart of it, but they've fleshed out into a five-piece band for the debut CD. "Too Much Space to Walk Away" was the title track on the band's second EP, released in 2002; it has shown up as well on the debut full-length, entitled Everybody's Wrong, which was released in March on Firestation Records. Thanks much, yet again, to Getecho for the lead.

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