“World to Cry” – the dB’s

Listen to the opening salvo, just that first three seconds of guitar. No point in even trying to describe the sound (rubbery-chimy-dissonant-melodic?; like I said, no point), and the delicious sense of anticipation generated as it leads smack into the concise lines and elegant modulation of the rest of the intro. And then Peter Holsapple opens his mouth and there it is, the dB’s are back. Who’d have thought? Alternative before there was alternative, indie before there was indie, the North Carolina-born, NYC-generated dB’s pioneered what became known by the genre police as “jangle-pop”: a post-punk (late ’70s, early ’80s) reformulation of ’60s folk rock with chiming guitars and stellar melodies. These are indeed the dB’s in their original formation–Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, and Gene Holder: the same guys who recorded the first two (some might say classic) dB’s albums, Stands for Decibels and Repercussion. While this song might not on its own give you a sense of how resplendent this band could be back in the day if you don’t already know who they are, neither (I don’t think) will it disappoint you if you do already know who they are and what they were. The guitar riff from the opening three seconds spreads out as a recurring melodic anchor; Holsapple’s sweet-weary vocal style is as charming as ever; and the song displays characteristic dB’s smarts through its effective alternation of major and minor chords and 6/4 and 4/4 measures. “World to Cry” is one of an album’s worth of songs the band recorded in Hoboken in January; while they await a record deal, the song is available as an MP3 on the band’s site.


“Oh Mandy” – the Spinto Band

Radiohead meets the Electric Light Orchestra at Adrian Belew’s house. From the neat staccato dissonance of the opening measures through its gorgeous chords and sprightly vibe, this is one brilliant piece of 21st-century pop, the simplicity and directness of its surface producing a song shot through with depth and strength. Notice for instance how the verse and the chorus are pretty much identical, musically, then notice how this similarity is used to ravishing effect when the song breaks off for an extended bridge at 2:00: the musical tension builds and deepens as the bridge shifts at 2:21—it seems as if we’re heading back to the verse but instead the song veers a couple of times into a new, neatly unresolved chord before triumphantly returning to the verse at 2:36 with more urgent instrumentation and a wonderful new vocal harmony. This young seven-piece (!) band from Delaware—which has been recording since the band members were in middle school—has a sparkling future if this is any indication. “Oh Mandy” is from the band’s debut full-length, Nice and Nicely Done, released last month on Bar-None Records. The MP3 is available via Spintonic.net. Many thanks to Bruce at Some Velvet Blog for the lead.


“Curious” – Holopaw

This is indeed a curious song, from a curious, difficult-to-describe band. One of the oddest things about “Curious” (besides perhaps singer/songwriter/guitarist John Orth’s unearthly tenor) is how short it is—its delicate, stringed setting and offbeat melody (bringing early Genesis to mind, of all things) speaks of a song that wants to spread out, offer instrumental breaks, bridges, and other ornamental accoutrements. And yet somehow we go from beginning to end in about two and a half minutes. No matter: set your MP3 players on “repeat” and let it cycle through a few times in a row, which seems to be the best way to grasp the underlying solidity of this sprinkly, evanescent, haunting song. My ear was hooked for good by the melody line that begins for the first time at 0:36, and in particular the chord change at 0:39, but that might have been on my third or fourth listen. Holopaw is a band from Gainesville, Florida, named after another Florida town that no one in the band is actually from. “Curious” is a song off Quit +/or Fight, the band’s second CD, slated for release next week on Sub Pop Records. The MP3 is available via the Sub Pop site.




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