“Please Stand Up” – British Sea Power

Immediately spacious, majestic, and heart-warming, “Please Stand Up” updates a late ’70s/early ’80s sound not often aimed at, even in today’s rock flea market, in which past styles are rummaged through with the speed and tenacity of the experienced bargain hunter. British Sea Power’s vocalist, a chap who goes by the name of Yan, sings with great, husky Bowie-ish bravura, but what really nails things down here is the clean, melodic guitar line (courtesy of a chap who goes by the name of Noble) at the center of the sound. Playing both carefully and fiercely, Noble offers sweeping, middle-register intervals that seem always to yearn upward; and he knows how to lay back, never unduly asserting his sound and in so doing anchoring everything around him. “Please Stand Up” is from the band’s second CD, Open Season (Rough Trade), which sort of blew by me when it was released back in April, but judging from this song I think I will find myself a copy post haste. The MP3 is available via Insound.

“Heroics” – The Scribbled Out Man

Some songs are inexplicably endearing and this is one of them. But let’s see, there must be a way to quantify the feeling, at least a bit. Certainly the stuttery guitar riff is fetching from the get-go; and the casual way electronics are used to create atmosphere without overwhelming the soundscape, very nice; and the way singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Linklater flips into falsetto without warning, as the song builds, gotta love it; and then the way the whole song is just this accumulation of largely indecipherable lines, emerging relentlessly and with increasing (but controlled) frenzy. It’s all very cool. The Scribbled Out Man is a four-man Canadian band fronted by Linklater, and includes drummer/cellist (not to mention engineer/producer) Don Kerr, who has worked with the great Ron Sexsmith. The band formed in 2003; its first full-length CD, All Different, was released last year on the net label Zunior.com. “Heroics” comes from the CD; the MP3 is available via the band’s site.

“Recovery” – New Buffalo

Snappy, airy, off-kilter pop from Australian singer/songwriter Sally Seltmann, who for whatever reason records under the name New Buffalo. Underscored by pipey keyboards and electronic handclaps, “Recovery” features a subtly wondrous mix of unexpected sounds, from ’40s-style choral harmonies and sampled horn flourishes to a brilliantly textured wash of harp-like synthesizer. Seltmann’s voice on its own has a compelling fragility, as if any note she tries to hold might abruptly crack; and yet she also sings back-up harmonies with heavenly gusto. The overall effect is something at once strange and familiar, wispy and solid. “Recovery” is the lead track on the second New Buffalo CD, The Last Beautiful Day, released overseas last year and slated for a North American release next week on the Canadian label Arts & Crafts. Seltmann wrote, arranged, and produced the CD on her own, and performed it almost entirely by herself. The MP3 is available via Seltmann’s site.




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