Monday, August 07, 2006

week of Aug. 6-12

"La Cage Appat" - Peppertree
So how much fun is this song? We get, out of the gate, a wonderful, mysterious tension built by a question-answer style alternation between a gently strummed electric guitar and a chimey organ. This kicks open into a melodramatic series of now-the-guitar-is-chimey chords, then pulls back again into a restrained verse, in French, reinforcing the song's engaging sense of back-and-forth, of doing this then that, being here then there. See too how the musical accent is all off the beat, which generates more tension (listen to the guitarist to get the clearest sense of what's driving the song rhythmically here, that ringing line you can hear between all the regular beats). Where it's leading is to the heart-opening chorus, and I know exactly when this song lodges in my gut: it's the surging-up melody in the (I think) third line, at about 1:06; and it's not just the melody surge, it's the chord underneath: listen to how suspended and unresolved that baby is. I love this a lot. There's a great culturally far-away sound (to my American ears) that I'm also loving all the way through--some antique French-Canadian essence seems to be driving this thing, a sense reinforced by the unexpected "ba-ba-bas" singer Patrick Poirier unleashes near the end. And it's all done in three minutes. Most excellent. According to Babel Fish I see that Poirier actually means "pear tree," and I don't doubt there's a joke there, as the Montreal-based band displays quite the quirky sense of humor on its still-sketchy web site. "La Cage Appat" is the lead track on the band's debut CD, self-released (I think) last year. The MP3 is available via the band's site, and came to my attention thanks to the fine feathered folks at 3hive.

"Take Me Back" - Furvis
While the Peppertree song knocked me out right away, "Take Me Back" won me over steadily, over time. I think maybe the bashy guitar onslaught at the beginning blinded my ear (if I can engage in a bit of willful synesthesia) to the tune's nicely constructed subtleties. The first verse is sturdy and amenable, four repetitions of a four-measure melody (three, really, with a guitar "coda"), until after the fourth time around, where we suddenly modulate through a couple of new chords, hit a brisk hand-clap, then go back into the verse. But things are now different: the melody this time extends into all four measures, and runs together to join the segments, including the end bit with the modulation and hand-clap. And then we get a sort of aural clearing--the insistent guitars peel back, as the chorus is sung against an acoustic rhythm guitar and lead electric guitar that sounds distorted into a steel-ish tone, while the melody takes some nice Wilco-y detours. And yeeks the more I dryly describe this the less interesting it probably sounds. My advice is listen, a few times. Furvis is a young quartet from the Boston suburb of Newton, with one self-released EP to its name so far. "Take Me Back" is one of the band's as yet unreleased songs; the MP3 is available via their web site.

"Lonely Land" - Trentalange
Barbara Trentalange has a voice, all smoke and ash, made for singing about barstools and shotglasses and no-good men and infinite gazes. It's a blessing and a curse, actually--because, I mean, really, how seriously can we take this slightly too cliched tale of a shadowy figure in a bar? Well, maybe not all that seriously--until my friend the chorus arrives, and oh boy: the soaring harmonies, the grand sad elegance of the melody, the despondent cello (which arrives the second time through) all work to transform, basically, everything. This song sticks with me, hard. On top of that, the chorus also yields a lyrical gem--the story of a woman meeting a shady man in a bar may seem a cliche, but the catch phrase "Follow me to lonely land" is brilliant in its catchy concise complexity--just want I want from a good pop song. So if "Lonely Land" does indeed walk that sometimes fine line between cliche and transcendence, perhaps it's doing so, to interpret this generously, to teach us that transcendence may yet be a heartbeat away, even when we least expect it. In any case, Trentalange is the latest project from Barbara Trentalange, formerly the lead singer of a Seattle-based band called Spyglass; she also toured in a recent incarnation of Crooked Fingers. "Lonely Land" is a song off the forthcoming CD, Photo Album of Complex Relationships, scheduled for an October release on Coco Tauro Records. The MP3 is available via her site.

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