“Call It a Day” – deeB

The nostalgia floating through “Call It A Day” is mutli-layered, irresistible, all but unfair: containing within it both the stylized noir-ish-ness of ’60s soundtracks and the elegant trip hop of three decades later, which had itself found inspiration in those evocative spy-movie sounds in the first place. And now that’s 20 years ago at this point, so here we are again. The phrase “what goes around comes around” seems especially apt, given the itchy, circular ambiance of this canny, constructed, cinematic instrumental.

And yes, I have a hard time resisting the urge to call any instrumental “cinematic,” if only because of the way sounds skittering across a lyric-free aural landscape to my ears almost automatically conjure some kind of wide-open, wordless screen scene or another. But this one all but demands the label, with its three-dimensional distances, footsteppy echoes, and suggestive detail. Such is the aural buffet launching the song that the listener is hard-pressed to be impatient at the music’s unhurried unfolding, which is hung on a framework of unresolved chords, intriguing noodles of sound, and an unpretentious beat. We don’t get even the barest melody until 30 seconds in, and from there the main theme is evaded and implied but not heard until 1:25—and, even at that point it sounds more like an afterthought at first than the star of the show. It is restated at 1:38 but still sounds like throat-clearing. Finally, at 1:52, the theme emerges with confidence but only at 1:59 do we get the first full iteration—and we see now that previously we had been hearing only the theme’s second half. United with its partner, the sparse but purposeful theme feels rich and heady, bolstered by regular visits from a whale-ish trombone sound, ghostly guitar lines, and the drumbeat’s unfrazzled shuffle.

The man calling himself deeB here is Danny van den Hoek, a Dutch producer/beatmaker who is aligned with a collective called Phonophanatic in the Netherlands. “Call It A Day” is a track from the eight-song EP A Day in a City, released in January on the netlabel Dusted Wax Kingdom, based in Bulgaria. MP3 courtesy of Insomnia Radio. You can download the whole album for free at; if you like the sound of this one song, I recommend the rest.

Dot Dash

“Rainclouds” – Dot Dash

Concise, hard-edged power pop that puts the humble electric guitar at the center of the melodic action. It’s rare enough to hear an electric guitar front and center here in the 2010s, never mind a guitar playing an actual melody, and really never mind a guitar playing a melody that does not echo or mirror any of vocal melodies otherwise in the song. Songs that manage this are usually well-built and worthwhile.

So there’s a good amount going on in this punchy nugget of a tune, which clocks in at a nifty 2:43 (the same clock time as Big Star’s “Thirteen” and ABBA’s “Waterloo,” among other pithy classics). One way that “Rainclouds” saves time is by only employing one verse: it opens the song, after the intro, and is never heard from again. The chorus, meanwhile, is an intricate construct featuring one sweetly satisfying melody (the part culminating in “…put the blame on me,” heard first at 0:45) that seems to have been planted in the song just so you’ll wait for it to come back. Which it then doesn’t do quite as often as you want it to. Speaking of which, when the verse is scheduled to return, it doesn’t, and instead we get the aforementioned guitar melody in full force—at 1:09, and repeated on the spot at 1:23. The hint we get that this has replaced the verse comes from the unexpected return of the verse’s wordless backing vocals during the repeat (1:29). This strikes me as kind of unusual, hearing “ah-ah-ahs” underneath a guitar melody rather than a vocal melody. Someone has surely done it somewhere before but I can’t bring anything to mind.

Dot Dash is a D.C.-based quartet that took its name from a song by the seminal British punk/art band Wire (dot dash is the letter “A” in Morse code). Front man Terry Banks and bassist Hunter Bennett were previously together in the band Julie Ocean. “Rainclouds” is from the album Earthquakes & Tidal Waves, the band’s fourth, released last month by The Beautiful Music, a label in Ottawa. The album was produced by the semi-legendary Mitch Easter, best known for his work on R.E.M.’s early albums, at his studio in North Carolina. You can listen to it as well as purchase it via Bandcamp. MP3 once again via Insomnia Radio.


“Nvr Surrender” – Rumble

Effortlessly delightful, “Nvr Surrender” is a chewy concoction of retro-y goodness, from the reverbed guitar effect in the intro through the assertive minor-key backbeat the song settles itself into and, perhaps most of all, front woman Kaylie Schiff’s layered, affect-free soprano. Schiff embraces this faux-’60s romp with an astute blend of earnestness and nonchalance—while the music itself is wrapped in a more or less compulsory shell of irony, she never lets irony seep into her tone. This seems important to me all of a sudden.

Also important: the subtle vibrancy of the arrangement. It’s easy to think, oh, it’s a retro thing, they’re just following the dots, but no not really. To begin with: that oddly hesitant piano descent that opens the song—what exactly is that? Its idiosyncrasy is compelling. And listen for the horns (or, horn-like sounds) that color the background in a variety of ways. They sound unexpectedly inventive. Likewise the string (or string-like sounds), which get kind of crazy here and there, but without being showy about it. And those chimes!: how perfectly restrained. And the wind! (The wind?) Holding it all together is the sturdiness of the melody, which proceeds with expert inevitability. Quite a spiffy tune, top to bottom.

Rumble is the Los Angeles-based duo of Kaylie Schiff and Richie Follin, who played previously together in the band Guards. “Nvr Surrender,” with its unexplained missing vowels, is the opening track of Rumble’s three-song EP, released in January. This is the band’s first recording, and seems to be called either Rumble or ep.1. You can listen via Bandcamp, and you can get the EP there for free if you hand over an email address.

Thanks to the band for the MP3.


How terrific is the song “She’s So Tough,” by the late, great Willy DeVille, who initially did musical business as Mink DeVille? He never really fit in anywhere, Willy DeVille, coming on the scene in the middle of punk’s transition to new wave while being neither punk nor new waver himself. Air-tight and hook-laced, “She’s So Tough” is an uncontaminated bullet of tender toughness, a Van-meets-Velvets amalgam topped by one of the three or four greatest guitar riffs of all time. I do not joke.

The Eclectic Playlist Series exists to bring a song like “She’s So Tough” back to the world, and place it in idiosyncratic context with artists known and less-known, from nearby years and from decades gone by. An underrated Tom Petty nugget (I like to think he’s pulling a Randy Newman on us here, narrator-wise) segues smartly into an outtake from Liz Phair that woulda coulda shoulda shut down the haters in 2003. The hard-to-find (i.e., not digitally distributed) title track from Heroes Are Hard to Find turns up just like that. An unexpected burst of spiritual wisdom from Syd Straw may just blow your mind and melt your heart if you listen carefully enough. And can Grant Lee Phillips write a melody or what?

Above and beyond all this, I have a couple of specific webpeople to tip my hat to for two of this mix’s more obscure songs. First shout-out goes to Sheila B, from the irresistible Cha Cha Charming web site, who (unbeknownst to her) introduced me to the glory of The Glories, via her Northern Soul-filled “She Sold Me Magic” mix from last February, which I only recently stumbled upon. Big thanks too to George from Between Two Islands, who more directly dug a song out of the dark caverns of my memory in the form of “Will You Stay Tonight?” from the impressive but lost British band Comsat Angels.

Oh, and the returnees to the 2015 Eclectic Playlist Series from the 2014 Series this month are three solid favorites: the aforementioned Ms. Phair, Stevie Wonder, and Talking Heads. Everyone else here is mixed in for the first time. Happy listening, via the Mixcloud widget (note entire playlist directly below), and we’ll do this all over next month.

Everything seems to be up in the air (Eclectic Playlist Series, 2.03) by Fingertipsmusic on Mixcloud

“Spinster’s Waltz” – Evan Lurie (Selling Water by the Side of the River, 1990)
“California” – Low (The Great Destroyer, 2005)
“She’s So Tough” – Mink DeVille (Cabretta, 1977)
“No News” – The Glories (single, 1968)
“You Got Lucky” – Tom Petty & the Hearbreakers (Long After Dark, 1982)
“Don’t Apologize” – Liz Phair (outtake from Liz Phair, 2003)
“Heroes Are Hard to Find” – Fleetwood Mac (Heroes Are Hard to Find, 1974)
“Little Broken Hearts” – Norah Jones (Little Broken Hearts, 2012)
“Rocket Love” – Stevie Wonder (Hotter Than July, 1980)
“Temptation Eyes” – Blake Babies (Rosy Jack World, 1991)
“Will You Stay Tonight?” – Comsat Angels (Land, 1983)
“Hard Times” – John Legend & The Roots (Wake Up!, 2010)
“All Things Change” – Syd Straw (War and Peace, 1996)
“Presence of the Lord” – Blind Faith (Blind Faith, 1969)
“Far End of the Night” – Grant Lee Phillips (Virginia Creeper, 2004)
“Our Hearts Are Wrong” – Jessica Lea Mayfield (Tell Me, 2011)
“Cannonball” – The Breeders (Last Splash, 1993)
“Mind” – Talking Heads (Fear of Music, 1979)
“To Love Somebody” – Nina Simone (To Love Somebody, 1969)
“Nobody Dies” – Daisy Victoria (Nobody Dies EP, 2014)

The Fireworks

“Runaround” – The Fireworks

A blistering, buzzy shot of punk-ish pop (or, perhaps, pop-ish punk), “Runaround” is a brazen reminder that digitalia only gets you so far in a world that still exists in three dimensions (so far). There’s a chunky permanence to the guitar-bass-drum attack of The Fireworks that renders the knob twiddling that dominates 21st-century pop music sound like a kind of quaint sideline. Music that does not depend upon physical vibrations of physical objects in the physical world is still music, of course, but that’s my ongoing point: there are different kinds of music, and engaging instances of all these different kinds can and must each be encouraged and celebrated, rather than one kind being dismissed as somehow “un-hip” while another kind experiences a bubble of over-production. Coming to a classic, melodic, three-chord headbanger from the vantage point of the year 2015, to my ears, automatically makes this new and different from whatever past bands you’d like to cite as progenitors of this style. (Me I hear a kind of Elastica-meets-Ramones vibe; what could be bad?)

The song’s simple, crowning achievement is the relentless downturn at the end of each verse line. Classic pop would often give us a downturn at the end of the first line, balanced by an upturn at the end of the second line. Here, the downturn at the end of the second line not only fools us by going down at all but goes down to kind of an off note (first heard at 0:18), surely not the note our ears were expecting. “Runaround” takes us three seven straight downturns (alternating four of the first kind and three of the second) before the last line of the verse becomes the beginning of the chorus, with the long-awaited upturn at the end of the word “Runaround.” Through it all, lead singer Emma Hall finds an effective middle ground between blas√© and excited, letting the hugeness of the guitar sound swell her forward without giving her much pause. I always liked best the punks who weren’t too in love with their toughness; they were the ones to count on for melody. And still apparently are.

The Fireworks are a quartet from London. “Runaround” is the second track off the band’s debut album, Switch Me On, which was released last month on Shelflife Records. You can listen to it as well as buy it via Bandcamp.

MP3 via Magnet Magazine.