Veal was a Canadian band that hung around off and on for nearly 10 years as the ’90s bled into the 21st century. “Judy Garland” comes from their third and final album, and is as accidentally great a song as I can think of, dropped in the middle of an obscure album by a forgotten band. Front man Luke Doucet remains active in Canada as a solo musician. “Judy Garland” was an early Fingertips find and all these years later I love this song to pieces.

“Kellyanne” is sadly self-explanatory. Juliana Hatfield sounds like an old friend calling out of the blue.

What a beautiful and unexpected little song is “I Fall Down,” still.

“Shilo” is way better than a song about an imaginary friend should be as well as better than I tend to think a Neil Diamond song is going to be (but I’m often wrong about that; he had some serious chops back in the day).

I could feature the Kinks every month and not run out of amazing songs; it’s only my self-imposed “no artist more than once a year” rule that keeps them away. We’ll get back to them in 2018, provided we’re all still around.

And Kirsty MacColl. Sigh.

A couple of outside credits this month. “Girls Girls Girls” came to my attention via the amazing Emma on the ever-engaging Said the Gramophone blog. It comes from a 2008 compilation of recordings put together around 1967 in East St. Louis by the veteran musician and producer Allen Merry, who at that point was working with young men at a community center, aiming to keep them off the streets and out of gangs. You can read more about the project, and listen to the whole album, here.

Secondly, the wonderful Mexican singer/songwriter Carla Morrison floated into my inbox via “Off Your Radar,” a newsletter featuring one weekly album recommendation, accompanied by a dozen or so reviews of that one album from their stable of music writers. OYR had recently recommended Morrison’s 2012 album Déjenme Llorar, which led me to dive into her catalog. She’s a terrific singer and an engaging personality; I’m happy to know of her work and will continue to familiarize myself with her catalog in the coming weeks.

And yes Kate Bush’s cover of “Sexual Healing” is odd in a number of ways but something about it charms me and moves me as it develops. Maybe when all is said and done it’s nothing more or less than the ineffable profundity of her singing voice. Her version of Marvin Gaye’s final classic was originally recorded in 1994 and intended for an album by the Irish musician Davey Spillane (whose uillean pipes are featured throughout), but it ultimately was left off. Bush finally released it as a b-side to “King of the Mountain,” the first and only single from her 2005 double-album Aerial.


Full playlist below the widget.

“Judy Garland” – Veal (The Embattled Hearts, 2003)
“Kellyanne” – Juliana Hatfield (Pussycat, 2017)
“Tainted Love” – Gloria Jones (single, 1964)
“Novocaine for the Soul” – Eels (Beautiful Freak, 1996)
“Wives and Lovers” – Cécile McLorin Salvant (For One to Love, 2015)
“I Fall Down” – U2 (October, 1981)
“Back to Black” – Amy Winehouse (Back to Black, 2007)
“Second Hand Store” – Joe Walsh (But Seriously, Folks…, 1978)
“Girls Girls Girls” – The Young Disciples Co. (single, 1967?)
“You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (Bad Reputation, 1981)
“H>A>K” – Jane Weaver (Modern Kosmology, 2017)
“Another Girl, Another Planet” – The Only Ones (The Only Ones, 1978)
“Shilo” – Neil Diamond (Just For You, 1967)
“All I Ever Wanted” – Kirsty MacColl (Electric Landlady, 1991)
“Nutty” – Thelonious Monk Quartet (Misterioso, 1958)
“Un Beso” – Carla Morrison (Amor Supremo, 2015)
“Strangers” – The Kinks (Lola Vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, 1970)
“Beating of Hearts” – XTC (Mummer, 1983)
“Hello” – Poe (Hello, 1995)
“Sexual Healing” – Kate Bush (b-side, 2005)

CocoRosie

“Smoke ‘Em Out” – CocoRosie (featuring Anonhi)

“Smoke ‘Em Out,” when released back in January, was positioned as a protest song, timed as it was to coincide with the massive Women’s March on Washington, the day after the U.S. president* was elected*. And you can surely sense righteous and rightful anger and frustration here. But as protest songs go, this one is elusive at best. The lyrics, as often with CocoRosie songs, scan as randomly associated words (but scan they do; the Casady sisters are masters of rhythmic authenticity), and together add up to little more than an intriguing mystery. But hell if they say this is a protest song, I’m all in. We need as many of them as we can muster.

We also need as many talented and idiosyncratic musicians as Bianca and Sierra Casady as we can encourage. Doing musical business as CocoRosie since 2004, the sisters have consistently trafficked in a quirky but captivating sound that blends a dizzying variety of musical elements together into something unusually gripping. While pundits like to point out their proclivity at creating an unusual mix of the lo-fi and the tightly produced, the amalgam of theirs I find personally gratifying is their simultaneous commitment to eccentricity and accessibility. This strikes me as a rare treat in today’s musical landscape, which has tended to polarize towards the almost fascistically formulaic on the one hand and the blatantly outre on the other.

Glitchy percussion, child-like synth lines, appealing chord washes, “Smoke ‘Em Out” has all of that just in the ear-catching introduction. When the lyrics start, the song incorporates Bianca’s rap-like delivery into a beautifully sculpted aural environment. The Casadys’ long-time friend Anonhi brings her distinctive voice to the impressively succinct chorus, but I think it’s actually Bianca’s lines after Anonhi sings (first heard at 1:42) that seals this song’s triumph. Her singing voice is here processed in an old-school, megaphonic way, and while mimicking the precision of her rapped verses in her first sung line, in the second line she holds back and releases her words exquisitely behind the beat; that this lyric coincides with a sneaky musical resolution has a lot to do with how satisfying the song feels.

Based in France, CocoRosie has been featured on Fingertips twice previously: in March 2007 and in April 2010. Longtime friends with Anonhi, the sisters previously worked with her on 2013’s Tales of a Grass Widow. Their most recent album was 2015’s Heartache City. “Smoke ‘Em Out” is so far a single only. MP3 via KEXP.

The Rebel Light

“Where Did All The Love Go” – The Rebel Light

This a great, must-hear summer song, now that we’re smack in the middle of summer here in the northern hemisphere. The minor detail is that this song came out last summer—it fell through the cracks here, as music often does, due the unprecedented volume of recorded musical activity that entreats us in the 2010s. Apologies up front to the fine fellows of The Rebel Light, who have been dolling out delightful indie rock goodness since 2013, and were previously featured here in October 2014.

“Where Did All The Love Go” is upbeat in a languid way, has happy string riffs, is easy to sing along with, and is all about love: perfect summer song, yes? What seals the deal is that the song is not lyrically cheerful, but shot through with wistful ruminations. What is a summer song without a shot of wistfulness? Barely a summer song at all, in my book.

I like how effortlessly this trio call forth bygone musical times without caving in to pure nostalgia. There is nothing frozen here as they call forth a’70s-in-California sound; instead, they tap into the heart of anthemic pop music that knows no time or space (although has been too often kicked to the curb since the mid-’00s or so). To accentuate the song’s sing-along quality, the band gives us two different versions, lyrically, of the same chorus, and it works because they have landed on a classic-sounding melody here, leaking all sorts of references out its sides but asserting itself as its own new thing right here and now.

“Where Did All The Love Go” is a track from the band’s most recent effort, a five-song EP entitled, appropriately enough, A Hundred Summer Days, released last August on Dualtone Records. Thanks to the band for the MP3.

Coincidence Bizarre

“Invisible Man” – Coincidence Bizarre

“Invisible Man” is a concise and atmospheric number from a group or ensemble or collective that calls itself Coincidence Bizarre. Outside of their location in Los Angeles, the folks behind this effort are keeping themselves purposefully hidden. Meaning, I can’t even paper over my congenital lack of hip-hop knowledge with information about the artist. With an upfront understanding that my musical affinities are rooted in melody and therefore my ears have always felt at sea in the hip-hop world, I find myself engaged by the sleek and sonorous “Invisible Man.”

Why? Not exactly sure. I like the gentle texture of its careful construction, the way there is always something of aural interest happening but without melodrama or turgidity. I like the wit on display. Even just the way it starts, with something resembling a jazz guitar noodle, gives me a good feeling. As a bonus, my ear notes not one but two hooks, one with lyrics (the “Skip along, Sam” part) and one instrumental (the little run on that same guitar, immediately following [e.g., 0:42]). And I do not at all underestimate the simple power of an appealing voice in this context. For better or worse (and it’s probably an age thing), the aural character of what strikes me as a typical rapper’s voice has been a longstanding turn-off for me. The sound to my ear is bratty and self-involved. (Just for context, I didn’t much like the bratty and self-involved vocal character of someone like Johnny Rotten either.) The rapper here, whoever he is, conveys depth and spirit, humanity and complexity. I want to listen to him, and he layers his voice within a cunning amalgam of samples, effects, and surprises. Don’t miss the eerie insertion of something choral-sounding in the mix (around 1:56) as the song trips along to its conclusion.

“Invisible Man” is the A side of a single released in mid-May. It is the only Coincidence Bizarre release to date.

A lot of big names slipped into this month’s playlist. It’s a summertime thing. Speaking of which, I find “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” to be as majestic and beautiful a song as Bruce Springsteen has ever written, and in my mind the one absolute classic he’s recorded in the 30 some-odd years that have passed since Born in the USA made him a stadium star. (Note: while I appreciate it emotionally, I found The Rising kind of ponderous and self-derivative musically speaking.) It came out on the 2007’s generally underrated Magic album and is a must-have on any summer playlist; if you happen to have never heard it before, you’re welcome.

One you almost certainly have not heard before is the odd little Patti LaSalle nugget, “How Many Times,” which was made available this month on an intriguing compilation that just came out last week called Mid-Century Sounds: Deep Cuts From the Desert, via Fervor Records. Given that I am a sucker for anything that says either “mid-century” or “deep cuts,” I could not pass this one by. The overall quality is erratic but the story, which you can read about here, is interesting, and there are a few goodies buried in here for those willing to dig into the hot desert sand.

And talk about buried goodies, how awesome is “I Stand Accused (Of Loving You),” from the The Glories, a criminally overlooked trio fronted by Frances Yvonne (Frankie) Gearing? This was the only song of theirs to crack the Billboard charts (for a mere two weeks); their other seven singles disappeared without a trace, at least until Goldenlane Records put them all out on a CD called The Glories: Soul Legend, in 2011. Many of them, now, sound good enough to have been hits, and have been embraced by Northern Soul fans, this one perhaps most fondly of all. But, sheesh, The Glories have slipped through the internet’s cracks for sure—they don’t even have a Wikipedia page, probably because there’s no reliable source material otherwise online.

Meanwhile, I finally found a place for Todd Rundgren on one of these playlists, and “Long Flowing Robe” is a terrific example of a lead track that was not a single, the kind of thing FM radio loved to play back in the day (there were no notable hit singles from Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren; maybe because they never released this one?). And let’s not overlook the glory that is Dean Friedman’s “Ariel,” which was in fact something of a hit in 1977, coming in at number 87 for the year on the American Top 40 year-end chart. Although long since faded from the mainstream scene in the U.S., Friedman has all these years been recording and touring, and released the album 12 Songs just last month, as luck would have it. Take that as a reminder that luck does, sometimes, against the odds, have it.


Full playlist below the widget.

“Long Flowing Robe” – Todd Rundgren (Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, 1971)
“Almost” – Sarah Harmer (All Of Our Names, 2004)
“Strange Relationship” – Prince (Sign O’ the Times, 1988)
“Contessa” – Mice Parade (Candela, 2012)
“Tell Me When the Whistle Blows” – Elton John (Captain Fantastic and the
       Brown Dirt Cowboy
, 1975)
“Maricela” – Los Lobos (Colossal Head, 1996)
“Thrasher” – Casey Dienel (Imitation of a Woman to Love, 2017)
“I Stand Accused (Of Loving You)” – The Glories (single, 1967)
“London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)” – Heather Nova (Siren, 1998)
“Gates of Steel” – Devo (Freedom of Choice, 1980)
“Ariel” – Dean Friedman (Dean Friedman, 1977)
“Start a Little Late” – Annie Hayden (The Rub, 2001)
“Everything Now” – Arcade Fire (pre-release, Everything Now, 2017)
“How Many Times” – Patti LaSalle (single, 1960)
“Fast Buck Freddie” – Jefferson Starship (Red Octopus, 1975)
“Black Sails in the Sunset” – Elvis Costello (originally unreleased, 1980)
“Couldn’t Love You More” – Sade (Love Deluxe, 1992)
“Girls In Their Summer Clothes” – Bruce Springsteen (Magic, 2007)
“The Magic Touch” – Melba Moore (single, 1966)
“Over There” – The Connells (Boylan Heights, 1987)