“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.

“Heart Pine” – the Sames

From its opening guitar pulse—sounding like a stressed-out siren—“Heart Pine” grabs my ear and doesn’t let up. This is quite an accomplishment for a song lacking both melodic and harmonic diversity; here the whole clearly transcends the sum of its parts. With repeated listens I begin to understand how the insistent guitar accompaniment, at once slashing and chiming, works with the hypnotic melody (sung with slightly fuzzed-out vocals) to push the song forward with an urgent but subtly complex sort of drone–and then how the drone itself is slyly deconstructed as the song develops. Listen for instance to the way the second beat is dropped in the verse section–once the singing starts, you may notice the 4/4 time is marked out by the first, third, and fourth beats, which is a very gratifying rhythm (the fact that the drummer masks what he’s doing adds to the effect). Listen too to how the song’s limited chord changes are swallowed by the drone for a good minute and a half, creating an extra layer of tension before the release introduced by a perfectly timed bit of feedback at 1:35 and then (at last) a series of chord changes that I feel as if I’m hearing in my stomach more than my ears. The Sames are a quartet from Durham, North Carolina; “Heart Pine” is a song from their debut full-length CD, You Are The Sames, released in April on Pox World Empire. The MP3 is available via band’s web site.

“Just One Breath” – Devics

What an instantly fetching voice Devics singer Sara Lov has, simultaneously strong and vulnerable, with great character and yet not odd in the way that voices with great character can sometimes be—think, maybe, Tanya Donelly (upper register) combined with Over the Rhine’s Karin Bergquist (lower register) without, somehow, the potentially distracting idiosyncracies of either. The song glides along with grace and assurance, blending equally crisp acoustic and electric guitars with some baroque-ish keyboards in a cinematic sort of aural space, veering into the occasionally unexpected chord, with Lov always at the magnetic center. Devics are a duo from Los Angeles now living in Italy, multi-instrumentalist Dustin O’Halloran being the other half.
“Just One Breath” is a song off the band’s new EP Distant Radio, to be released next week on Leftwing Records. The MP3 is hosted on the band’s site, with Filter Magazine pointing the way.




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