“Speech Marks” – God Love You For a Liar

A continually engaging, skillfully constructed song from an unknown, unsigned UK band. Nice chords, indecipherable time twists, hardy melodies, intriguing lyrics, multiple hooks—“Speech Marks” packs it all into four and a half minutes, while adding a bit of goofy 10cc-like pop drama for good measure (I’m referring to the “phone conversation” segment, beginning at 2:26; and don’t miss the answer given to “Do you believe in God?”). Vocalist Gareth Moss has a pliable tenor that suits the shifty music well, sometimes veering towards David Byrne-like rubberiness, sometimes doing a bit of crooning, but not for long, since he’s not afraid to leap back and forth into his falsetto. I’ll admit my eye was caught by this band before my ear was—they describe themselves as “owing as much to Kate Bush as they do to The Smiths,” a claim that does my heart good in a “maybe the world isn’t going to hell in a handbasket” sort of way (I mean, four guys in a rock band calling Kate Bush a major influence? Only in the 21st century.) The band by the way exchanged a ’90s-style name (Plastik) for the much ’00s-ier God Love You For a Liar within the last year, when they expanded from a trio to a quartet. “Speech Marks” is a song from their first CD, How Much Is Enough? that is not only available for free online at their web site but is genuinely good.

“The Underdog” – Spoon

So check out the handclaps (0:58) in this one: probably the most difficult-to-clap-along-with handclaps in the history of rock’n’roll. Knowing how meticulous Britt Daniels, Jim Eno and company are, this can’t be an accident, so it strikes me as a good-natured if inscrutable joke in the middle of a good-natured if inscrutable (not to mention crisp and punchy) song. Launching off a relentlessly strummed, one-chord acoustic guitar riff, “The Underdog” features Spoon’s characteristic sense of instrumental restraint—however many or (more often) few sounds are combined at any given point, one can always hear all of them distinctly—and yet delivers it in an easy-going, shuffly musical setting. This creates a wily tension throughout; even when the horns arrive, they don’t cut loose but keep their distance, never overpowering either the acoustic guitar or Eno’s precise percussion (he refuses to hit or shake too many things at once). The one excessive thing you’ll hear—also no accident, I assume—is that repeating guitar chord (G major, if I’m not mistaken), not only in the beginning but in the middle (where it extends for 10 measures, blatantly two measures “too long”) and then at the end, where it persists an almost excrutiating 18 measures before it sounds like someone has shot the guitar (or the guitarist). If you like this song even a little, I encourage checking it out within the context of the whole CD, in which it sounds mysteriously irresistible. The CD—entitled Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (yet another good-natured if inscrutable joke?)—is the band’s sixth; it’s scheduled for release next month on Merge Records.

“Perdu” – Watoo Watoo

As breezy and refreshing as a mojito in the shade by the beach on a hot day, “Perdu” disappears as quickly, too: the song’s just a hair over two minutes long. With its melt-in-your-ears keyboard and brisk, semi-boss-nova-y groove, the song might fall into the “pleasant but generic” rut but for its immediately captivating melody, thirst-quenching chord changes, and the pure, breathy voice of Pascale, the singer. The French lyrics add measurably to the allure. Watoo Watoo is a husband-wife duo who live in Bordeaux and go by first names only (his is Michaël). They’ve recorded in an off and on sort of way since 1997. “Perdu” is from their new CD, La Fuite, which was released today on Letterbox Records. I’m pretty sure that this song will sound all but perfect on almost any mix you feel like putting together for yourself for the warm weather to come. Remember to thank Letterbox for the MP3.




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