Friday, March 26, 2010

Fingertips Flashback: Novillero (from June 2005)

Here's an entirely overlooked gem from 2005, with far more musical and lyrical sophistication than one dares to expect from a largely unknown band. But it's kind of what keeps us music seekers on the prowl. You never know what you might yet find.

[from "This Week's Finds," June 5-11, 2005]

Aptitude" - Novillero
Anchored by a swinging piano riff, appealing chord progressions, and what seems an unusually hard-headed philosophy for a pop song, "Aptitude" is both immediately enjoyable and lastingly affecting. A quartet from Winnipeg founded in 1999, Novillero sounds like the real thing to me, capable of delivering music that is at once melodically and lyrically astute--no mean feat in our mash-up culture. The chorus is especially marvelous, rendered all the more effective for its jaunty bouncing between major and minor chords. Even better, it builds with each iteration--first delivered in a restrained vocal-and-piano setting, the chorus next arrives with the full band fleshing out the harmonics, and the third time with vocalist Rod Slaughter (he's also the piano player) singing an octave higher, adding a keening edge to both the music and lyrics. This works particularly well as the song has now shifted its focus: what began as a world-weary warning about how we are all limited by our inherent capabilities reveals itself (if I'm hearing it right) rather poignantly as a philosophy borne from disappointment in love. Complete with nifty horn charts. "Aptitude" is on the band's cleverly titled second CD, Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives, which was released in the U.S. last week on Mint Records. The MP3 comes from the band's web site.

ADDENDUM: The band has since become a quintet, and was featured again on Fingertips in 2008, when their most recent album was released. Things have been quiet on the Novillero front since their last stage appearances in Canada in mid-2009.

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