“Los Cruzados” – Elk City

Smooth and sinuous and upbeat and heartbroken. Over a pulse-like bass and a beautifully articulated, reverberant guitar, Renée LoBue sings with an ache in her slightly smoky voice that drapes the whole effort in a buoyant sort of sorrow. She’s singing “Halleluyah” but it’s as if she’s trying to convince herself; and when she says, “Let’s jump in the river to celebrate/The light that they left in our hearts,” the song has gotten so pensive there that she appears more focused on the jumping than the celebrating. Elk City, from New York City, has been around since 1998 and spent most of their time as a trio; the original guitarist left, discordantly, in ’04; LoBue and drummer Ray Ketchem eventually brought in guitarist Sean Eden, formerly in Luna, and bassist Barbara Endes, from the Lovelies, and the new band’s sound is strong and sure and polished in all the best ways. “Los Cruzados” is a song from the forthcoming CD, New Believers, the band’s first as a quartet, scheduled for release next week on Friendly Fire Recordings. The MP3 is available via the Friendly Fire site.

“Miss Marylou Carreau” – Mason Proper

This one is half crazed swampiness, half disciplined pop song. It’s an inspired amalgam. I really have no idea what’s going on here lyrically but I love the spill of tangible, baffling words we get from singer Jonathan Visgr, such as: “She bought a mug of bubbles from a bauble-hawker at the bazaar,/Supposedly an ex-czar from lands afar,” or “Her now ignored automatic attendent M.I.A. on the floor,/Amid discarded decor,” and what really nails these words–which, I’ll admit, sort of just sit there on the screen–are how they scan in the music, which swoops up and down via intriguing intervals and syncopations, rendering physical the strange jumps and blank spots in this impenetrable narrative. I don’t really mind if lyrics don’t make sense because I don’t really tend to hear them except as part of the sound, and Mason Proper seems a band with a great feel for words-as-sounds. The persistent crunch of the band’s variegated guitar arsenal is another ongoing highlight, and there is to be sure no shortage of guitar in this song, from the villainous riff that underpins the verse (heard for instance at 1:06) to the multifaceted, multi-guitar showdown that begins at 1:52 and ends in a high-pitched drone somewhere around 2:40. That’s a nutty and juicy snack for all you guitar fans out there. Mason Proper is a quintet based in Michigan; “Miss Marylou Carreau” is a song from the CD There is a Moth in Your Chest, released last month on Dovecote Records. (The CD was originally self-released last January in a limited run; the new version is re-mixed, re-mastered, and partially re-recorded.) The MP3 is via the Dovecote site.

“Going Numb” – Tin Cup Prophette

Perhaps it’s just in this odd little corner of the indie rock world in which I find myself wandering, but I’m beginning to wonder if the violin isn’t becoming at long last a bonafide rock’n’roll instrument here in the 21st century. Athens, Georgia-based Amanda Kapousouz—doing musical business as Tin Cup Prophette—is, in any case, a talented and energetic fiddler, and she keeps her instrument front and center, from the urgent, appealing pizzicato refrain that opens the song (which, if it repeated unaccompanied for three or four minutes, would not sound out of place in a piece of classical minimalism) to the loops of continuous bowing we hear as a surging and fading swell starting at 1:26. (Apparently Kapousouz has this way of looping her instrument through pedals, and I’m not geek enough to describe that better or to know exactly how it works but it sounds cool.) The other worthy instrument Kapousouz has at her disposal is her voice, a sonorous mezzo at once clear and rich–nicely plain-spoken during the clipped verse, fuller and more passionate during the melodic chorus. “Going Numb” is a track from Tin Cup Prophette’s debut CD, Liar and the Thief, which is another one that was self-released initially, now about to be released nationally—it’s due out later this month on Subway Grime Records, which does not appear to exist online at this point.




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