Monday, December 18, 2006

This is the last week you can put your name in for the Lucinda Williams giveaway in progress right now on the Fingertips Contests page. Once more, with feeling: I've got two copies of the newly re-released, two-disc Car Wheels On A Gravel Road to give away for nothing at all but the time it takes to send an email. Two winners will be selected at random; deadline for entry is December 24. Details here.

Note that the Fingertips home office will shut down (mostly) between December 23 and January 1. (The contest winner, however, will be contacted during that week.) The next edition of "This Week's Finds" will appear on Tuesday January 2. Wishing everyone in the meantime the happiest of holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, New Year's Day, and then some: all holidays are for celebrating); see you in '07....

week of Dec. 17-23

"Grain of Salt" - the Morning Benders
A completely endearing blend of do-it-yourself-ish indie rock and pure pop know-how. Let me start, for a change, at the end: the fact that this thing closes out with a rave-up guitar solo--and if I better knew my guitar sounds I could tell you what kind of guitar it is; it's a distinctive and familiar one, to be sure, with a deep feel of rock history about it--says a lot about the Morning Benders' impressive musical instincts. It's nothing I'd've expected and yet now of course it sounds perfectly inevitable, particularly following the coda-like extension the song takes before the solo kicks in. From beginning to end, in fact, "Grain of Salt" oozes charm and craft in equal measure, from the shuffly bashings of drummer Julian Harmon (I feel as if I just about see his elbows flying as he pounds away on the two and four beats) to the effortlessly merry melody, sung with easygoing grace by Chris Chu, and the happy happy chord progressions that enliven it. With repeated listens, I grow more and more impressed with the ability of this Berkeley, Calif.-based foursome to sound so simultaneously spontaneous and durable--a very friendly combination. "Grain of Salt" comes from the band's debut EP Loose Change, which was self-released earlier this year, sold out, then re-released in September (with one extra song) on Portia Records. The MP3 is via the band's site.

"The Vague Angels of Vagary" - Vague Angels
Even though this came out in March and has nothing whatever to do with Christmas or the holiday season of any kind, I like featuring a song by a band named Vague Angels this week. It seems like all we can hope for these days, and maybe all we actually need. And never mind any of that: this free-flowing, structure-free song is itself extraordinarily cool. Rolling firmly to a strong yet elusive train-like rhythm, "The Vague Angels of Vagary" seems, well, vaguely to be about trains, and journeys, and searches. NYC-based singer/songwriter/novelist Chris Leo (brother of Ted) speak-sings the odd but engaging lyrics like Lou Reed with a higher voice and no leather jacket; he seems more bemused by what he sees that pissed off. What hooks me with this one: the energetic, good-natured, descending guitar riff that keeps the song afloat--relentlessly it climbs back to its apex and spills yet again downward while Leo goes on about train track tundras and the WPA and the MTA. "The Vague Angels of Vagary" is from the CD Let's Duke It Out At Kilkenny Katz' (yes there's that weird floating apostrophe in the title), released earlier in the year by Pretty Activity. The MP3 is via the Pretty Activity site; thanks to the Deli for the head's up.

"All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue" - Over the Rhine
This year's directly related holiday tune comes from longtime Fingertips faves Over the Rhine. Karin Bergquist is in fine, bittersweet form while partner Linford Detweiler lays down crystalline piano lines with unearthly deftness. This song comes from Over the Rhine's new Christmas CD, featuring original Christmas songs, entitled Snow Angels. The instantly intimate and enveloping sound here is no accident; Detweiler himself has written, "We hope that Snow Angels is a record that becomes part of the landscape for small gatherings of people who love each other." If justice is served, it will be, but then again the world as we are living in it is not is not known, alas, for great justice at a macro level. We are left to do what we can individually, and in small groups. Do yourself, at least, the favor of checking this song out--and the one other MP3 available from this CD, "Darlin' (Christmas is Comin')"--and then buying the CD if you like the vibe and think maybe an unabashed album of new Christmas songs is its own sort of wonderful thing (and hey I think so and don't even celebrate the holiday myself!). These guys have developed a deep, rich, and very personal sound over the years that is a wonder to behold and deserves a wider audience than they have thus far reached. If you'd like to hear more be sure to check out the Over the Rhine entry in the Select Artist Guide for pointers to other free and legal MP3s of theirs.

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