“Kidstuff” – Tenderhooks

This song wallops me with its late-’70s new wave vibe but I can’t put my finger exactly on why. Put early Elvis Costello, the 1977-79 Kinks, Television, and the Undertones in a blender and this song maybe pours out, with its ringing guitar line, observational wordplay, and solid pop melody. The production quality has a strong whiff of past glory about it thanks to those driving dual guitars and the enveloping rhythm section but again the sensation is vague rather than specific. The closest correlation I hear is with singer Jake Winstrom, whose high, sandy-warbly voice brings the legendary Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey to mind. But what of that unglued guitar break, beginning at 1:55 but becoming deviant by around 2:10? There’s nothing late-’70s about that at all; while some may call it “shredding” (a term for the superfast playing style that arose out of heavy metal and prog rock), I hear something more aural than pyrotechnic about it–as if guitarist Ben Oyler is trying to make a cool sound rather than merely to sound cool. Like a good band in any era, this Knoxville quartet—often billed as alt-country but this song has nothing obvious to do with that genre—appear to be adept students and willful experimenters, so that in the end, the pieces of the past you hear become part of a vivid and present experience. “Kidstuff” is from the band’s Vidalia CD, which is slated for release this week on Rock Snob Records.

“Trouble” – Over the Rhine

As the noisy part of today’s music scene is dominated almost fascistically by those obsessed with what is bright and shiny and new, there fortunately remain many musicians to listen to who are not simply brand new, thank goodness. To think of the depth and richness we would lose if we really were only listening to the latest MySpace and Pitchfork sensations—but no worries, we’re not, and never will. Because some of the best new bands will stick around and hone their art in fruitful and unanticipated ways over the years, just as some of today’s most wonderful not-new-anymore bands themselves once gleamed with the newcomer’s glow. Long-time Fingertips favoriteOver the Rhine are a categorical example of how impressive musicians can become as they have the chance to mature and write and perform together. Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have had a particularly enriching path as a married couple making music together; the connection apparent in their performance is a wonder to behold. Sly, engaging, and timeless-sounding, “Trouble” is a crisp and catchy tune that is one part cabaret, one part tango, one part orchestral pop, and all parts Bergquist, whose voice is as sultry and idiosyncratically alluring as ever. “Trouble” is a song from the band’s forthcoming CD, entitled The Trumpet Child, to be released in August on the band’s Great Speckled Dog label.

“Move = Move” – Wheat

And this one oozes the ramshackle charm of 1967-or-so Rolling Stones (the melody to my ears partially echoes “Sing This All Together Now”), without any of the silly bad-boy posturing. And yet “Move = Move” likewise feels rooted right here in the indie-rock-saturated ’00s, with its sculpted sound and stray electronic lagniappes. There’s a real looseness on display that I find totally wonderful in such an otherwise brisk and focused tune, epitomized by the almost haphazard way the harmony vocals weave in and out of both awareness and alignment. Wheat is a thoughtful duo from Massachusetts that began life in the late ’90s as an art project; “Move = Move” is a song from the band’s loquaciously titled CD Everyday I Said a Prayer for Kathy and Made a One-Inch Square, their fourth, which was released last month on Empyrean Records. The MP3 is courtesy of Spin.com.




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