“Last Cast” – The End of the World

A compelling mid-tempo rocker that’s equal parts unresolved chords and resolving melodies. It’s also equal parts playful bass line and insistently bashing cymbals, and as I listen I’m thinking these two things are related, somehow, as both oppositions—the harmonic one and the one within the rhythm section—foster a really chewy sort of dynamic, half unsettled and half really comfortable. I haven’t praised the trio concept in a while, so I think I’ll do that here, noting (yet again, for long-time Fingertips visitors) how satisfyingly present a trio is in a rock context: with guitar, bass, and drums, nothing is buried, no sound unaccounted for; I find it a welcome relief, sometimes, from the sort of sonic overload that the digital age has often brought upon us. This is another in a long (long…) line of songs that I like but have no idea what they’re about; what brings a song like this to life, lyrically, anyway is when individual lines jump out and intrigue; the one that does it for me here is: “Now it’s the quiet ones/That we watch out for.” Again, no idea what’s going on, but I’m definitely curious and engaged. The End of the World are from New York City; “Last Cast” is a song from their debut full-length CD, You’re Making It Come Alive, which was released earlier this month on Flameshovel Records. The MP3 is via the Flameshovel site

“Breakable” – Ingrid Michaelson

Deconstructing waltz time beyond recognition, Ingrid Michaelson here breathes fetching new life into a 3/4 piano ballad. The Brooklyn-based Michaelson sings with a choppy sort of breathiness, and gives me the impression that even she doesn’t quite know which way a note is going to go until her elastic voice lets it fly. I will do us all the favor of not drawing on the usual comparisons that seem to beset any woman who plays the piano, even when she sounds pretty much nothing like the person everyone is always compared to. Instead I find myself drawn to her freshness, a not-quite-like-anyone-else quality that she presents in a most familiar-seeming container. Many little things along the way are just a bit different, from the plaintive same-note harmony vocals matched against the pumping piano that open the song to the minimalist snare and percussion she calls on to provide distinctive rhythmic support. “Breakable” is a song from Girls and Boys, Michaelson’s second CD, which was self-released in May. The MP3 is available via her web site. Thanks to Bruce at Some Velvet Blog for the lead.

“Harvest (Within You)” – Clinic

If this one doesn’t hit you on first listen, I urge you to listen two more times. That’s when it really began to sink in for me, and now of course I’m not sure why I didn’t hear it the first time, but music is a mysterious thing–maybe even more so when created and performed by an enigmatic band from Liverpool that wears surgical masks and costumes in all their publicity photos, and apparently while performing as well. Against a “Lust For Life” rhythm, “Harvest” unfolds with (sorry) almost clinical precision, with Ade Blackburn’s nasally-twitchy voice accompanied by ghostly harmonies, a funereal organ, and a really really great-sounding guitar, all skeletal and portentous. “Harvest (Within You)” is a song from Visitations, the band’s fourth CD, released in the U.K. and digitally this month on Domino Records. (The U.S. hard copy will not arrive until January.) The MP3 is available via the Domino web site.




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