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I don’t usually end up being that seasonally sensitive with these playlists but for whatever reason the idea of “April showers” stuck with me at least a little bit and you’ll see the end result in the song selection.

Beyond that I have no particular explanation for anything here. This month emerged as an intuitive flow; I claim no particular credit. I do know that Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour” is one of the best songs ever. And that I love the timeless feel of the gentle piano instrumental “Lorenz and Watson,” which nearly sounds as if it came from the year 1900 rather than 2000. And that Emma Pollock, has delivered yet another solid and overlooked album with “In Search of Harperfield,” which came out at the end of February. And segue fans? Check out Elliott Smith into Samaris; still don’t know how that exactly works. And Genesis again? Sure thing!; Phil Collins is cool again, didn’t you hear? And why not close out with another instrumental, gentle but jazzy this time? It’s where the flow took me. Oh and thanks to George from Between Two Islands for the Samaris track, the title of which I dare you to pronounce. I have no idea what they’re singing about and yet at the same time I feel I know exactly. In other words, music.


Full playlist below the widget.

“Oh Mandy” – The Spinto Band (Nice and Nicely Done, 2005)
“One More Colour” – Jane Siberry (The Speckless Sky, 1985)
“Criminal” – Eliza Hardy Jones (Because Become, 2016)
“Painted Dayglow Smile” – Chad and Jeremy (The Ark, 1968)
“Emotional Traffic” – The Rumour (Frogs, Sprouts, Klogs & Krauts, 1979)
“Bled White” – Elliott Smith (XO, 1998)
“Hljóma Þú” – Samaris (Samaris, 2013)
“Walking in the Rain” – the Ronettes (single, 1964)
“Eyes of the World” – Fleetwood Mac (Mirage, 1982)
“Lorenz and Watson” – Ryuichi Sakamoto (BTTB, 2000)
“Expecting Your Love” – The Roches (A Dove, 1992)
“Kaya” – Bob Marley (Kaya, 1978)
“Wire Wire” – Jen Olive (Warm Robot, 2010)
“Behind the Lines” – Genesis (Duke, 1980)
“Just Walkin’ in the Rain” – The Prisonaires (b-side, 1953)
“Cannot Keep a Secret” – Emma Pollock (In Search of Harperfield, 2016)
“Paint Her Face” – The Records (B-side, 1979)
“Joey” – Concrete Blonde (Bloodletting, 1992)
“Nashville Shores” – Jemina Pearl (Break It Up, 2009)
“Favela” – Antonio Carlos Jobim (The Composer of Desafinado, Plays, 1963)

PJ Harvey

“The Wheel” – PJ Harvey

The first song released from The Hope Six Demolition Project, “The Wheel” has fomented controversy but I am mostly going to steer clear of it, except to note that PJ Harvey has a long and unstinting career as a musical artist and deserves respect and benefit of the doubt. And: that I think it’s foolish and close-minded to find fault with her for taking artistic risks. When writing about real places with real issues, there is always the potential for uncomfortable overlap and/or interplay between someone’s artistic vision and the real lives real people are leading. But I don’t think criticizing an obviously intelligent and talented artist based on a kneejerk and probably limited understanding of song lyrics is either helpful or interesting. And with that let’s proceed to the song.

Continuing in a sonic landscape related to the agitative, semi-stripped-down vibe of 2011’s Let England Shake, “The Wheel” is propelled by an insistent, chant-like melody. At first, each lyrical line is delivered as a stand-alone pronouncement—call and response with the response, basically. The chorus gives us a slight variation on the verse melody and now with the response filled in. Keep your ears on the edges of the carefully constructed mix, where some feisty guitar work can intermittently be heard. And check out the hand claps—I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for songs that use hand claps with which you can’t really clap along. I’m easily amused, what can I say?

And can I also note that I’m delighted to have an available free and legal download at this point in time from an artist of Harvey’s gravitas and caliber? Don’t get me wrong, I love finding lesser-known acts to feature but can’t help noticing the shrinking supply in recent years of free and legal MP3s from the not-lesser-known camp. We are indeed at the tail end of the (almost) late, (almost) great Download Era, but this is the first time I’ve been able to feature Polly Jean Harvey. I’m not sure that means anything but enjoy the offering.

The Hope Six Demolition Project will be out in mid-April on Vagrant Records. Thanks much to the good folks at KEXP for the MP3.

Patrick Boutwell

“Scotch The Snake” – Patrick Boutwell

We get un-clap-along-able hand claps in song one, and extended bits of 7/4 time in song two. 6/4 too. It’s my lucky week.

Of course there’s more to the crunchy, incisive “Scotch the Snake” than an asymmetrical time signature, but the rhythmic imbalance remains central, and keeps straight-ahead catchiness at bay—the melody wants to soar but is repeatedly hemmed in by the offbeat beat. And it’s kind of a good thing: we get the big guitar riffs and plaintive tenor lead of classic power pop without, quite, that genre’s simplicity (or over-simplicity). Another wrinkle here: what appears to be the verse delivers the big melodic hook, as soon as the singing starts; and what appears to be the chorus feels more bridge-like, connecting the payoff delivered each time by the verses. It’s an extra way that “Scotch the Snake” keeps the ear pleasantly off-balance.

As it turns out this is the second song heard here in recent months that offers up the aural vocabulary of power pop while undermining the genre’s tendency to be ear-candily catchy (see, previously, Cotton Mather). I’m not saying this is a national trend (if only) but I like it in any case.

Boutwell is front man for the Rhode Island-based band The Brother Kite, which one or two Fingertips veteran followers might (possibly?) remember from the early early days—they were not only featured here in 2004 but the following year the band’s song appeared on the one and only Fingertips compilation CD (Fingertips: Unwebbed, of which I still have a batch in my closet). (Anyone want one?)

“Scotch the Snake” is a track from Boutwell’s album Hi, Heaviness, which was released at the beginning of March. The phrase is Shakespearean, from Macbeth, where it refers to temporarily debilitating but not actually destroying something dangerous. You can hear the whole thing on Bandcamp, and choose to pay for it whatever you’d like. Thanks to the valiant Powerpopulist blog for the head’s up on this one. And thanks to Patrick himself for the MP3.

The Casket Girls

“Western World” – The Casket Girls

Bright and buzzy cosmetics and solid pop instincts on top, something unsettling underneath. But what else to expect from a band called the Casket Girls, named for a group of poor but probably chaste young women sent by France to 18th-century New Orleans as prospective wives to the colonists there—and whom, over time, have been deemed by local legend to be vampires? Never mind that the band is from Savannah, and that the original casket girls got their name because they arrived with small suitcases that were called “casquettes.” Vampires make a better story for NOLA locals giving ghost tours, and Casket Girls has a disquieting ring for an indie rock band with two female lead singers.

In any case, “Western World” burbles with intent and strata, each sonic element—glitchy percussion, rubbery bass synth, blasé mirroring lead vocals, a smorgasbord of keyboards—adding fluently to the song’s overall sense of things at once coming together and falling apart. While many of the words flow past the ear in a portentous brew just beyond comprehension, one key, repeated lyric hits an insightful target: “But you know disease is like progress/You can’t escape the way it all shakes out.” The implications of this one simile give “Western World” extra oomph, while the carnival of accumulated sound gives you an excuse not to think too much about what they might actually be saying.

The Casket Girls is a band more or less spontaneously generated by the prolific and mysterious Ryan Graveface, best known as guitarist of Black Moth Super Rainbow but also in three other bands now, including Casket Girls. Graveface randomly came upon sisters Elsa and Phaedra Greene one day, singing odd songs in one of Savannah’s picturesque city squares, and pretty much decided on the spot that they would form a band, if only to help him continue to work through his obsession with the Shangri-Las, a girl group from the ’60s (“Leader of the Pack,” “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” et al.).

“Western World” is a song from a split EP the Casket Girls released (on Graveface Records; yes that’s him too) with the band Stardeath and White Dwarfs for Record Store Day back in November 2015. The band’s third full-length album is due out some time this year.

EPS-3-03

This didn’t start out being about what it seems to have ended up being about. As if the choice were mine. If we hold on, maybe we don’t lose to the dark, maybe we come back from the edge of madness, maybe we don’t keep making all the same mistakes. In any case it’s worth a prayer or two at the end to the patron saint of television. She’s the one who brought us to this crazy party in the first place. Are you with me now?


Full playlist below the widget.

“The Shape of Things to Come” – The Headboys (The Headboys, 1979)
“C’est La Mode” – Annie Philippe (C’est La Mode, 1967)
“Electioneering” – Radiohead (OK Computer, 1998)
“All the Same Mistakes” – Mieka Pauley (Elijah Drop Your Gun, 2007)
“Hold On” – Steve Winwood (Steve Winwood, 1977)
“Losing to the Dark” – La Sera (Hour of the Dawn, 2014)
“Temptation Was Too Strong” – Don Covay & the Goodtimers (B-side, 1966)
“The New Stone Age” – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (Architecture & Morality, 1980)
“Sick Muse” – Metric (Fantasies, 2009)
“Madness” – Lucius (Good Grief, 2016)
“Silver Machine” – Hawkwind (In Search of Space, 1972)
“The Wood Song” – Indigo Girls (Swamp Ophelia, 1994)
“Come Back” – The Might Wah! (A Word to the Wise Guy, 1984)
“What Doesn’t Belong to Me” – Sinead O’Connor (Faith and Courage, 2000)
“As If The Choice Were Mine” – Plates of Cake (single, 2011)
“Can You Win” – Charlene & the Soul Serenaders (single, 1970)
“The Bright Light” – Tanya Donelly (Lovesongs for Underdogs, 1997)
“The Party” – Henry Mancini & His Orchestra (The Party soundtrack, 1968)
“Are You With Me Now?” Cate Le Bon (Mug Museum, 2013)
“St. Clare” – Suzanne Vega (Songs in Red and Gray, 2001)