“Between the Lines” – Sambassadeur

A sure sign of the robust state of Swedish rock’n’roll is how there really isn’t a “sound” we here in the U.S. can pinpoint anymore to say: “Ah! That sounds like a Swedish band.” Of course I’m sure that never really was the case in Sweden to begin with–clearly the country has had a diverse and potent music scene for decades. But only recently (thanks in no small part to the internet) have we on this side of the Atlantic been exposed to so much of it to begin to be truly impressed with the range of aural possibilities emerging from Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, et al. So here’s the band Sambassadeur, a quartet formed in 2003, and here’s “Between the Lines,” a wispy, summery confection with earnest acoustic guitars and an early-’60s melody. Singer Anna Persson’s pure, weightless voice conjurs Belle & Sebastian somehow, even as the song itself better resembles something from Kirsty MacColl’s earlier years in its efforts to recapture something otherwise lost between the years 1962 and 1965. “Between the Lines” can be found on Sambassadeur’s self-titled full-length debut, recently released on Labrador Records; the MP3 is available via the Labrador web site.

“In This Home On Ice” – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Alec Ounsworth has a voice like a mosquito, thin and buzzy, and he sometimes infuses syllables with the same swoopy anxiety that David Byrne specialized in back in the early days of Talking Heads. Beyond that, however, this suddenly visible Brooklyn quintet really doesn’t have much to do with Talking Heads, early new wave, ’70s or ’80s art school rock, or any particular past moment in rock’n’roll, despite what you may be reading. What catches my ear here is the song’s ongoing juxtaposition of edginess and resolution, most prominent in the way Ounsworth’s metallic strangle of a voice works against the muted, pulsing drive of the guitars. But maybe the best example is at the end of the verse, a moment that sounds to me like the song’s central pivot point (and best hook): the way the melody works through the same note twice with a classic (actually classical) chord progression through to the tonic, or home chord. Adding that extra line delays resolution even as it makes resolution all the more inevitable and delicious–extra-delicious, really, in the context of this nervous-seeming song. Don’t by the way miss the wacky moment of Queen-ish anarchy in the bridge, which adds to the song’s odd brilliance. “In This Home On Ice” can be found on the band’s self-titled debut CD, self-released this month (and temporarily sold out); the MP3 is one of three available on the band’s site.

“Raging Red” – Dear Leader

The idea that music has to sound different to be deemed admirable/worthy/whatever is a common underlying theme in many reviews you will read every which where, but it’s a needless intellectual conceit, introducing a boggy layer between the sound itself and the world at large. Too many critics are so wrapped up in assessing whether a band is doing something “new” that they can’t possibly be listening, simply, to the song itself and deciding whether it is good, which may or may not have to do with how much sonic ground it happens to be breaking. Never mind the fact that what critics tend to listen for to determine newness are typically surface-level characteristics (same guitar sound as Band X, same vocal sound as Musician Y) that can be concretely identified, versus ineffable aspects of the sound such as vibe, integrity, and spirit. That said, this is a big, bashing rocker from a Boston band fronted by Aaron Perrino (ex- of local indie favorites the Sheila Devine) and the way it is different than most songs you’ll hear on the internet is that it’s good: solidly constructed and passionately delivered, with a nice balance between the exclamatory verses and the anthemic chorus. Perrino is not above utilizing time-honored big-time rock tricks like stuttering a central word in the chorus, screeching beyond the capacity of his vocal cords, and a quick cut of silence before cranking into verse number two. “Raging Red” is a track off Dear Leader’s debut CD, All I Ever Wanted Was Tonight, released towards the end of 2004 on Newburyport, Mass.-based Lunch Records. The MP3 is available via the band’s site.




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