THIS WEEK'S FINDS
week of May 7-13
"Thursday" - Asobi Seksu
Gorgeous gorgeous high-volume rock'n'roll--play it loud and feel your heart burst with pleasure and wonder. Yeah it's pretty much that good (and be sure to go back after you're done and re-listen to the quiet beginning; it's there for a reason). While this talented NYC quartet owes some of its sonic foundation to Blondie's indelible, pioneering sound, Asobi Seksu seem at the same time to have found something deep and moving within a place Debby Harry and company sought, mostly, irony and distance (not that there was anything wrong with that!). Lead vocalist Yuki sings with warmth and a sneaky range, moving seamlessly into a yearning, substantive falsetto for that great major-to-minor melody shift in the chorus. Her able bandmates both mirror and amplify her dynamic range--together, they're not just loud, not just soft, not just pretty, not just noisy, but instead create a thoroughly engaging and skillful blend of different sounds, textures, and ideas. And while we may all yet get tired of the reverb-laced sound characterizing a lot of the best rock'n'roll of our new century, right now it keeps seeming to work, in this case contributing to a wash of heavenly sound out of which unfolds a gem that feels at once very familiar and, in its own way, pioneering. "Thursday" is a track from the band's long-awaited (by me, at least!) second CD, Citrus, scheduled for release at the end of the month on Friendly Fire Recordings. The MP3 is available via Insound.
"So I" - Tobias Fröberg
While "Simon & Garfunkel meets Ron Sexsmith" might be a fast and reasonably valid way of summing up this song, I hesitate to offer it because I have heard a few too many bands or singer/songwriters over the past few years who have prompted comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel, typically based on the presence of delicate acoustic guitar picking and whispery harmonies. Too often however these musicians lack a crucial part of the S&G sound, which is (easier said than done, I know!) having memorable songs. To compare anyone to Simon & Garfunkel (or Ron Sexsmith, for that matter) who is singing a well-intentioned but (let's be honest) boring song renders the comparison pretty much pointless. No worries here, however, as Fröberg manages first of all to be singing a memorable song--courtesy of its simple but appealing double-descending melody and a gratifying amount of subtle movement. I like too that Fröberg and collaborator Linus Larsson add some cool stuff of their own, like the forthright electric guitar used throughout as a sort of color commentator to the underlying drive of the acoustic picking. "So I" is a song from Fröberg's CD For Elisabeth Wherever She Is (note S&G-related title!), released on Silence Records in Sweden late in 2004, and a winner of a national award for best singer/songwriter album in 2005. A new CD entitled Somewhere in the City will be released shortly in Scandanavia; apparently he has just been signed to Cheap Lullaby Records in the U.S., so we'll see if that increases his profile here a bit as the year unfolds. Thanks to Hedvika at the recently renamed Getecho blog for the lead.
"Adventure" - Be Your Own Pet
Channeling Bow Wow Wow with great, vibrant, new-century spirit comes a group of teenagers from Nashville with the kind of glorious, in-the-moment song that proves absolutely nothing about their long-term talent or viability, nor should it. (Bow Wow Wow's Annabella Lwin was herself 14 when that band broke; she's 40 now, which is weird, but I digress.) Singer Jemina (yeah, -na) Pearl sings with the same sort of un-self-conscious abandon as Lwin back in the day, and apparently this song is reasonably tame for her. Not sure I'll care much for the wilder, unrepressed punk-ish side of what these guys do, but in this case (am I repeating myself yet?) I'm hearing a really strong song underneath the okay-I-can-scream-and-curse bravado--an unexpectedly full and satisfying less-than-two-and-a-half-minute tornado of rhythmic hooks and gleefully slashing guitars. Beware, by the way, the dark energy of the hype/backlash cycle when it comes to Be Your Own Pet, which seems already to have swirled around and back if you spend too much time in the blogosphere (hint: don't spend too much time in the blogosphere!); some part of their story has something to do with parents in the music industry, but me I just try as usual to listen with my ears, and my ears say: "Hey! Kinda cool!" Or they would if they had a mouth. "Adventure" is a song from the band's self-titled debut CD, which was released in the U.K. in March on XL Recordings and is due out early next month in the U.S. on Universal (note the big record company, which certainly has something to do with the fury of the aforementioned hype/backlash cycle).