“Intelligentactile 101” – Jesca Hoop

There’s a Björk-like friskiness enlivening this song, from its invented-word title to Hoop’s somewhat pixie-ish delivery. At the same time, this Northern California-born, LA-based singer/songwriter exudes a laid-back cool that’s far more akin to a young Rickie Lee Jones than to the Icelandic wonder (Björk may be a lot of things but laid back isn’t really one of them). “Intelligentactile 101” springs along with a finger-tapping boppiness, and in the boppy course of things Hoop rather casually gives us a generous array of melodies (there seem to be four distinct sections: verse, bridge, chorus, and something else) to capture her trippy lyrics, along with a winsome assortment of percussive accents, from clacky to tinkly to whirry. The opening melody has a particularly lovely lilt to it, but she slyly withholds its full effect until the song is more than half over: listen to how the same melody that opens the song (0:10-0:16) sounds later on, fleshed out ever so slightly with an elastic bass and spacey keyboard, enough to open our ears to the chord progression that lay latent beneath the tune. “Intelligentactile 101” is a song from Hoop’s forthcoming debut CD, Kismet, scheduled for a September release on 3Entertainment/Red Ink, a Columbia imprint.

“White Dove” – John Vanderslice

Another slice of harsh reality served up with passion, precision, and beauty by one of his generation’s leading, if under-publicized, singer/songwriters. Driven by fuzzed-out guitars, “White Dove” nevertheless leaves a lot of aural space in and around its attack; there are quiet sections, the acoustic guitar remains central throughout, and there are moments where the silence in between instruments is used as its own sort of beat. This approach strikes me as the musical equivalent of a movie that terrifies more for what it doesn’t show than for what it does. Here, a horrible story from the past is retold, along with its lingering effect on the present, suggesting the pointlessness of expecting anything resembling peace here in the human realm and yet also, I think, the necessity of holding on to that dream. Or maybe that’s just my personal addition. “White Dove” is a song from his new CD, Emerald City, due out later this month on Barsuk Records. (Emerald City by the way is his caustic way of referring to the Green Zone in Baghdad; no, we’re not in Kansas anymore.) MP3 via the Barsuk site.

“Rootwings” – the Sheds

Popular music’s internet age has given birth to a whole heck of a lot of indie-rock duos—the duo being the most DIY-ish way of being a band, I suppose (less equipment, fewer people to pay, etc.). What they tend to possess in spirit and productivity, however, duos seem commonly to lack in songwriting acumen—a fact which makes Burlington, Kentucky’s premier contribution to the field of indie-rock duos so unexpectedly wonderful. The Sheds feature a croony but homespuny vocalist, simple but personable arrangements, and truly rewarding music and lyrics. Also, female backing vocals when you least expect it. “Rootwings” is both short and truly sweet, and one of a number of nice songs from the band’s latest CD You’ve Got a Light, which was self-released this spring and available, in its entirety, via free and legal download on the band’s web site.




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