Monday, October 22, 2007

Oct. 14-20

"Dead Sound" - the Raveonettes
Simple and dense, loud and whispery, retro-y and up-to-date, "Dead Sound" continues this Danish duo's studied--and catchy--deconstruction of American rock'n'roll music from the late '50s and early '60s. What you hear here is what they do: take chords and melodies and guitar sounds that feel old-fashioned and familiar and mash them onto a wacked-out Phil Spector meets My Bloody Valentine assault of difficult-to-pin-down noise. These guys are sticklers for detail and like to constrain themselves (their first album, Whip it On, featured eight songs all in B-flat minor; their second album, Chain Gang of Love, was recorded, on the other hand, almost entirely in the key of B-flat major), which tells me that for better or worse no sonic detail is an accident. Here, I'm especially enjoying the guitar's narrative. It starts as a lonely echo in the background, with a simple remark or two (around 0:44)--kind of like a surf guitar looking for the beach. Next we hear it all but drowning in a buzzy vat of undifferentiated din (around 1:18), later to emerge in the spotlight with a reverb-drenched, Springsteen-y solo (beginning at 1:53) and soon to find its true place with a climactic bit of staccato surf-iness (from 2:20 through 2:32) before melting into the final swirl of noise, a lot of which at that point sounds like a harsh electronic wind. All in three and a half minutes, with appealing boy-girl harmonies. "Dead Sound" is from the Raveonettes' forthcoming album, Lust Lust Lust, scheduled for release next month (internationally; the band is currently without a U.S. label) on London-based
Fierce Panda Records.

"Sweet Love" - Melou
Not the Anita Baker song but its own sort of sleek and sultry. This "Sweet Love" is a slow and seductive cross between mainstream R&B, jazz, dub, and pop. Singer Annie Goodchild has a voice one must inescapably describe as "soulful," for perpetual lack of an effective voice-description vocabulary; her bandmates offer her an appealingly minimalist background texture in which the guitar, sax, bass, and percussion restrain themselves both individually and collectively; when any one of them feels like offering a languid lick or flourish, there's always plenty of aural space in which it can move, and no one abuses the privilege. (The final two minutes, all instrumental, take this skeletal approach through its interesting if maybe overlong denouement.) To me the song is anchored mightily by its juicy chorus, which in its hook illustrates yet again the latent power of three simple notes. Melou is a quintet with a globetrotting biography: Goodchild is from Boston, guitarist and songwriter Maarten Reijnierse is from the Netherlands, and they first got together in Guatemala; now rounded out by an additional mix of American and Dutch players, the quintet recorded its debut album, Communication, in Barcelona. "Sweet Love" is the third track on the album, which was released by Barcelona-based
Whatabout Music in June.

"Halfway to Hollywood" - Dick Prall
A good-natured minor-key shuffle with a few thoughtful touches along the way. Prall's voice occasionally brings Joe Walsh to mind, and of how many 21st-century rockers can we say the same thing? Come to think of it, there's something of Walsh's self-effacing goofiness in the air here as well, for reasons I can't immediately identify. The aforementioned thoughtful touches are a bit easier to pinpoint: the violin that joins surreptitiously at 0:46 and stays to lend a jaunty, '30s-ish style to the melody; the rumbly syncopated thud of tom-toms added to the verse the second time around, beginning at 1:22; and those yodelly yelps with which he finishes the lines at the very end, as he sings, "Say what they want." How does he manage to finish the word "want" with a yodelly "oooo"? Hm, so maybe I can after all identify some of the goofiness too. For good measure I like the way the song quite literally ends: we used to call that a "sting" back in radioland--the last note is banged out and it's over, abruptly. It seems to me that just about everything fades out these days. "Halfway to Hollywood" is from Prall's CD Weightless, released in September on Authentic Records, and the Chicago-based singer/songwriter's fourth. The MP3 is via Prall's

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