“Fifteen On Ice” – Tall Hands

Singer Justin Raisen has sure enough got Lou Reed’s blasé NYC dude delivery down pat, but with a twist: while Reed tended to sing as if the apocalypse were just around the corner (not that this fazed him, mind you), Raisen sounds as if he actually knows how to smile. Not that he is smiling, but that he knows how, he and the other five members of Tall Hands. You can hear it in the upbeat piano riff that drives the song forward, and most of all in the tumble of unruly rhymes Raisen lets forth. He rhymes “sarcophagus” with “none of this”; he rhymes “cover” and “recover.” And he likes rapid-fire rhyming, syllable-matching beyond even internal rhyming into something more manic: “Some kind of believer/total underachiever/dialing up a receiver/but the receiver won’t see ya/and I won’t see ya either.” Tall Hands is a six-man band with enough personality, or ego(s), to consider themselves their own new genre, which they have named “boat rock.” From what I’ve read so far it seems people are taking this as a joke, and maybe I’m crazy, but I actually hear it, and it starts in the banging piano background. If you want to hear it too, follow me specifically to the 2:02 mark and listen how the entire instrumental backing falls into step with that regular 1-2-3-4 piano beat, with nothing in between. The effect, for lack of a better word, is oceanic. I’m hearing some string sounds in here too, which accentuates the oceanic feeling. Close your eyes and check it out. Tall Hands released its self-titled EP a couple of weeks ago on the Pulse Recording label. The MP3 is via the Spin.com’s “band of the day” feature.

“Skara Brain” – Feathers

If the first 45 seconds or so of “Skara Brain” sound something like a small ensemble warming up, this is an ensemble the likes of which has not been heard too often before. We get a spaghetti-western-like guitar trading noodly licks with a cheery vibe, a combination that by itself makes this song worth listening to. And it’s only just beginning. Don’t miss too, in the introduction, the scratchy-echoey guitar noises, along with the electro-expando noises that sound like an old idea of what the future was going to sound like. Then we get a slinky beat, with psychedelic flourishes, and we’re off. Except of course a minute or so later when the song appears prematurely to be ending. No worries–it’s just an excuse for a new rash of strange sounds: scratchy-blippy-funky synthesizers, deep clownish drums, tinkly-pipey organs, and who knows what-all else. We never lose the beat after this; we also never lose the sense–difficult to attain in an instrumental–of the unexpected being ever around the corner. It’s sort of like an Almodovar movie, where you can never guess, scene to scene, what’s going to happen. Best of all, even though an instrumental, it definitely feels like a song, not just an extended groove. The trio from Miami calling themselves Feathers (not to be confused with Canada’s The Lovely Feathers) just had their five-song “mini-album” Synchromy released on the Boulder-based Hometapes label last week. The MP3 is via the Hometapes site.

“Bike” – May Or May Not

It’s sextet week, as May Or May Not is a six-piece band from Chicago. It’s also lots-of-instruments week, as you’ll hear a variety of horns on this one and, yes, that’s a clarinet too. The horns carry a Latin American feel and yet, also, not, which is actually sort of endearing. Sometimes pastiche can be perfectly charming; assembled with the right sense of crazy, good-hearted spirit, music doesn’t have to follow any particular “rules” about what’s “authentic” or not. To my ears, this song is just way too much freewheeling fun, from the out-of-place (but not) horns to the ’60s-style vocals to (best of all) the severe syncopation that gives the chorus its off-kilter hook. Whenever anyone knows enough about music to do something like that, I tend to pay attention. “Bike” is the title track to a four-song EP released on Two Thumbs Down Records in September. The MP3 is courtesy the Two Thumbs Down site.




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