The Cairo Gang

“Ice Fishing” – The Cairo Gang

“Ice Fishing” is a semi-garage-y, amorphously psychedelic bit of guitar-driven power-pop brilliance that keeps getting better and better with repeated listens, being that rare combination of catchy and complex. Plus, it’s a song about ice fishing, which is about as refreshing a topic for a pop song in 2015 as can possibly be imagined (after of course dancing and fucking).

Just how many satisfying chord progressions ferry this song forward is difficult to quantify. And just how comforting front man Emmett Kelly’s voice is is equally hard to measure with objectivity, but his warm blend of Robert Pollard, Elvis Costello, and Jonathan Richman is a beautiful thing to behold. But most beautiful is the song itself, a wondrously assured construction of heart-melting chords and generous melodies. “Ice Fishing” is in fact so melodically generous that one of the song’s best bits is all but a throwaway: the wordless melody that functions as a kind of unresolved bridge between 2:29 and 2:40. How much self-possessed momentum does a song have to have to effect something like that? And okay the best bit of all is the most gloriously obvious: the nonchalant two-line chorus (first heard beginning at 1:00), each line with its own distinct, bittersweet/wonderful hook.

The Cairo Gang is a five-piece band based in Chicago. “Ice Fishing” is from their new album, Goes Missing, released last week [6/23] on God? Records, a side imprint of Drag City Records. The album is the band’s fourth. MP3 via the record label. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.

Blind Lake

“Lately” – Blind Lake

Comfy like a roomy old leather reading chair, “Lately” glides with offhanded purpose and resonant charm. Fueled by crisp acoustic strumming, the song’s instrumental palette is craftily expanded by a melodic bass line, tasteful electric guitar accents, and some good old “oo-oos” in the background. No one is in a hurry here, but the song still feels sharp and essential.

At the center of it all is the underutilized trick of synchronized lead vocals, as the duo of
Lotta Wenglén and Måns Wieslander both sing the entire song, often without harmonizing. And there is something about their cumulative effort, leading to the climactic lyric “I’ve got myself a pair of slippery hands/And nothing to hold onto” that turns “Lately” from merely comfy to downright moving without my quite knowing how it happened.

Blind Lake is based in Böste, Sweden; they take their name from a 2003 sci-fi novel by American-Canadian author Robert Charles Wilson. In their press material, the band claims that “Lately” is “best played while driving on a slightly wet road on a late summer’s night while deep thinking.” Have yet to try it but I won’t argue.

You’ll find the song on the album On Earth, released earlier this month. Thanks again to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.


“Bad Tattoos” – Thanks

There’s something intriguingly old-school about “Bad Tattoos”—the hand-constructed beat, with its slightly fuzzy and very insistent bass line; those penny-whistle synth bursts; and a female lead singer full of soul and swagger, who happens to perform with the name Jimi Hendrix. At the same time, the song’s sonic landscape and general drive feels entirely of our 21st-century moment. While rock’n’roll may be past the point of reinventability, there is the occasional band that comes along and gives it a good ride. The Portland sextet Thanks appears to be one of these bands. If nothing else, how often, I am realizing as I listen to this, do you hear a stompy, minor-key rocker these days? Not very often, I assure you.

I like too how embedded and cloaked the guitar work is here; more than a minute passes before you hear the guitar, and it arrives with such muted self-assurance (1:04) that it immediately seems as if it had already been here and you just weren’t paying attention. Through most of the rest of the song, the metallic, low-register splendor of Andrew Hanna’s guitar provides both motion and density to a song with a gratifying number of moving parts. By the time the recurring guitar line coalesces into a bit of a solo (2:50), you will have thoroughly forgotten that this song was ever anything but a guitar rave-up. But go back and listen to the beginning; surprise!

“Bad Tattoos” is a track from the annual and always engaging PDX Pop Now! Compilation, the 2015 version of which was released in early June, in advance of the PDX Pop Now! music festival, scheduled for later this month in Portland. More information about the 42-track album is available here. “Bad Tattoos” is also slated to appear on Thanks’ next release, No Mercy in the Mountain, their second full-length, and an album they are at this moment raising money for on Kickstarter.

Things have been slow around here because I am in the process of moving. Fun!

In clearing out and packing up, I realized that I might have a few too many CDs lying around. Especially if the stated goal of the move is “downsizing.”

But my loss is your gain, potentially. I have packaged up a box of 30 (count ’em, 30) CDs that I have received promotionally over the last 12 years. Every CD in the box is from an artist featured at least one time on Fingertips. So while I can’t vouch for the consistent quality of every track on every disc in the grab bag, I do know that each album contains at the very least one very good song. Which is something!

For more information, visit the Contest page:


So here’s one great song you may not have heard before: “If Silence Means That Much to You,” by the Scottish singer/songwriter Emma Pollock, who has never gotten her due. Its sudden beginning made for a difficult segue but I didn’t let that stop me. It’s a good song and no one knows it and that always seems a shame to me. Another good song that you probably sort of know and sort of don’t: “Am I the Same Girl,” by Barbara Acklin. The instrumental track might sound very familiar, as it was taken out from under her and marketed as a single called “Soulful Strut,” without her vocals, before her (original) version was released. Acklin also never got her due. The music industry is like that.

Hat tips this month go first to the great and under-recognized Radio Paradise, the internet’s truest and most steadfast multi-genre, multi-decade radio station, run (somehow; unaccountably) by two people in California. When I’m not specifically checking out new releases, I find myself spending quite a lot of time listening to Radio Paradise, and I rarely hear the same song twice, even after hours of listening at a time. I “stole” two songs from them this time around: “Rain,” by the Icelandic singer/songwriter Elvör, and “Among the Bells,” from Jane Tyrrell, an artist and musician based in Calgary. And I must also salute the always endearing retro blog dustystevens, responsible for alerting me to the Duke Pearson track. I’m not much of a jazz guy but sometimes the right tune smacks me on the head at the right time and I surrender.

Full playlist below the widget.

How did this come to be? (Eclectic Playlist Series, 2.05) by Fingertipsmusic on Mixcloud

“Maybe Tomorrow” – The Chords (So Far Away, 1980)
“Trouble Every Day” – The Mothers of Invention (Freak Out, 1966)
“Rain” – Elvør (Room, 2012)
“Faster Than Light” – Neil Finn (Try Whistling This, 1998)
“Day OK” – Spiral Beach (Spiral Beach, 2005)
“Pointy Shoes” – Cowboys International (The Original Sin, 1979)
“Hey Now” – London Grammar (If You Wait, 2013)
“I’ve Got Something On My Mind” – The Left Banke (Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina, 1967)
“Stepping Razor” – Peter Tosh (Equal Rights, 1977)
“As Cool As I Am” – Dar Williams (Mortal City, 1996)
“Minimal Affection” – The Vaccines (English Graffiti, 2015)
“Love Comes Quickly” – Pet Shop Boys (Please, 1986)
“If Silence Means That Much To You” – Emma Pollock (Watch the Fireworks, 2007)
“Say You’re Mine” – Duke Pearson (The Phantom, 1968)
“The Gospel According to Darkness” – Jane Siberry (When I Was a Boy, 1993)
“Adventurers” – Interview (Snakes and Lovers, 1980)
“Wild Country” – Thunderclap Newman (Hollywood Dream, 1970)
“Misery is a Butterfly” – Blonde Redhead (Misery is a Butterfly, 2005)
“Am I the Same Girl” – Barbara Acklin (Seven Days of Night, 1969)
“Among the Bells” – Jane Tyrrell (Echoes in the Aviary, 2014)