"Hearts of Palm" - Ravens & Chimes
Cheerful songs are usually vigorous things. Songs that seem hesitant, wavery, or otherwise introverted, on the other hand, tend to be at best wistful if not downright mournful. "Hearts of Palm" subverts the formula, and is all the more effective for it--a sprightly, hopeful-sounding song edged by an equivocal, somewhat trembling vibe.
Some of this is due to the vocal qualities of Asher Lack, who sings like someone wading into cold water, at once timid and determined, while instruments chug forward around him. But listen and you'll hear how the music yet reinforces the partially timorous atmosphere: it's peppy, yes, but likewise stuttery, and lacking the oomph and crunch of a typical rock band. This isn't for lack of personnel. Ravens & Chimes is a six-person outfit, but the members are busier playing things like harmonium and flute and glockenspiel to bother with the din of standard-issue rock'n'roll. And so this is how we end up with this buoyant, reserved piece of pop and I for one am happier for having heard it. I especially love the agile, islandy flute lines and the beautiful, pure-toned female harmony vocal that blends and yet doesn't quite blend with Lack's quasi-speak-singing in the chorus.
"Hearts of Palm" is a single from the band's forthcoming and as-yet untitled second album. Its first CD, Reichenbach Falls, came out in 2007. Prior to the album's release, this song is slated to be released soon as the a-side of a 7-inch single. MP3 via the band's site.