THIS WEEK'S FINDS
week of Apr. 29-May 5
The hamsters are back in their wheels, firing up the Fingertips generators, and here we are, in the saddle again after a daring week-long venture into the offline world. But not only have the three weekly picks returned (below), there is a new contest on the way as well. The prizes this time will be CDs and 7-inch vinyl singles from the band Mason Proper, a recent "This Week's Finds" featured artist. Visit the Contests page tomorrow (Tuesday) and check it out. And now, on with the show (this is it):
"Everybody's Got Their Own Part to Play" - Shannon Wright
There's a distinct early '70s vibe in the air here, from the head-bobbing piano chords to the sing-song-y melody, but most of all, as I listen, what brings me back to that bygone time are the subtle John Lennon references I'm hearing in the music, the lyrics ("Nobody knows what the truth is"), and even in the echoey way her voice is slightly buried in the mix. As Wright is nothing if not a simmering vocalist, it's actually kind of fun to have to listen more closely than usual for the emotion--powerful singers grow more powerful, I believe, when they learn to present with subtlety. This compact song features an unusual structure--there are basically four different paired melodic segments, three of which we hear twice, one of which we hear only once, and that unrepeated segment appears to be the chorus. In any case, the whole thing whips right by us (total time: 2:43) before we've quite gotten our arms around it; I suggest allowing a few listens for its various charms to emerge most clearly. "Everybody's Got Their Own Part to Play" is the closing song on Wright's new CD, Let In The Light, which is scheduled for release next week on Quarterstick Records.
"TV Reality (The New Plague)" - Contramano
If David Byrne had been an Argentinian cellist rather than a geeky Ontario- and Maryland-raised art school dropout, Talking Heads might have sounded something like this. Contramano centers around Pablo Cubarle's spiky cello playing, homely singing, and joyfully unexpected sense of melody. The jagged rhythms of the introductory cello riff lead us into an extended, unsettled opening section--the band has our attention but it's unclear what they're going to do with it, as the chords hover without resolution and Cubarle's accented English renders understanding minimal. Then, as Cubarle sings, "But it's not a special day," something begins to shift, we are suddenly in a bridge to somewhere else, and that somewhere else becomes a crazy-great chorus, a very Talking Heads-like bit of infectious simplicity, enlivened by crystal-clear bass arpeggios and a lively drum kit. Cubarle is particularly difficult to understand right here; to add to your enjoyment, you should know that what he's singing is: "It's the new plague/The new invasion/Click on, screw your life, screw your life." And maybe reality TV presents an easy target but if so, not nearly enough people are taking it on. "TV Reality" is a song from Contramano's second CD, Unsatisfecho, which the band will release themselves next week. The MP3 is via the band's site.
"First Blood" - the Chrysler
An insistent, minor-key lament with engaging atmospherics and a sustained sense of woe. While an acoustic guitar strumming a simple E minor chord remains at the center of the sonic space, nice touches persist around the periphery, most involving a range of electric guitar sounds--shimmering sustained notes, controlled feedback, echoey chords, an occasional twang. I'm getting a feeling of the archetypal American West in this one, which may seem strange in that the Chrysler is a folk-pop quintet from smalltown Sweden; on the other hand, they are considered a "country" act there, so maybe that accounts for the mysterious, tragedy-prone landscape their music evokes. The song unfolds at a leisurely pace, and doesn't travel too far, yet somehow keeps the ear occupied through its five-plus minutes. "First Blood" is from the band's second CD, Cold War Classic, which was released in mid-April in the U.S. on Parasol Records. The MP3 is via the Parasol site.