“In the Rain” – Marqui Adora

Marqui Adora is a quartet from Miami who do not otherwise sound like this. And while there’s nothing wrong with the early U2- and Cure-inspired material the band more typically produces, I find myself smitten by the easy-going, old-fashioned swing of this unabashedly tuneful little song.

Sprung off a nostalgic descending guitar lick and pop’s most basic chord progression, “In the Rain” succeeds to a great extent on the vocal flair of Danny Ashe, whose airy tenor echoes the doo-wopping crooners the song so fluently evokes. Reigning in a bit of the drama he employs for Marqui Adora’s neo new wave sound, Ashe floats himself casually atop “In the Rain”‘s loping beat; I find that I can’t quite tell if he’s lagging behind or pushing ahead but in either case his knowledgeable, unexpectedly silky singing lends subtle substance to a tune that drummer Joe Shockley says was inspired by the movie That Thing You Do! and “a love of 50’s and 60’s pop.” I suggest the world would be a better place were we all inspired every now and then by That Thing You Do! and a love of ’50s and ’60s pop. The MP3 is free via the band’s site—as, in fact, is all of Marqui Adora’s music.

“You Cross My Path” – the Charlatans

Smart, driven, atmospheric rocker from a veteran British band. I really like how this manages to be at once trippy and succinct. True to their “Madchester” roots, the Charlatans give us a nice shot of psychedelic keyboard washes (I especially like the burbly buildup into the chorus you can hear starting at 1:19); but even so, the song surges forward with fierce clarity, anchored by a powerful bridge, with its double-time, adjacent-note melody.

The fact that the Charlatans are still active doesn’t fit neatly into the current decade’s internet-driven view of pop music—the relentless need by online music sites and writers to dissect rock into micro-genres and leave everything behind for the next new thing. The Charlatans (who must officially place “UK” after their name here in the U.S. because of a long-defunct ’60s band with the same name) came initially to prominence in the aforementioned Manchester music scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s; their second single, “The Only One I Know,” from 1990, survives as one of the quintessential hits of that short-lived era.

Scenes rise and fall, usually taking bands with them. The Charlatans, however, managed to effect what was seen as a comeback in the mid-’90s, and now, look, it’s even 10 years later and they’re still doing what they do. And now, Radiohead-ishly, they’re giving it away: the band has decided that it will offer its next album free online. “You Cross My Path” was the first single, made available in October via both the band’s site and the British music site Xfm. A second song, “Oh Vanity,” will be available next month. The as-yet untitled album is slated for a March release.

“Country From the Dome Car” – Brooke Miller

On the one hand a straight-ahead piece of countrified rock, “Country From the Dome Car” is likewise a fetchingly elusive sort of song, centered around two divergent guitar sounds–sprightly acoustic; fuzzy electric—and a resolutely unresolved melody.

I definitely think that latter aspect is what hooked me: each line of the chorus ends by veering away from a sense of musical groundedness. Listen to the notes she sings at the end of each line—the words “everyone there,” “in my hair,” “engineer,” and, most prominently, “out of here,” at the end. Not once does the melody resolve. That she is employing a so-called “half rhyme” here—every line ends with the same consonant sound—is a subtle counter-effect; likewise the rollicking, rail-inspired rhythm provides a regularity that the melody beguilingly undermines.

Miller is a singer/songwriter from Prince Edward Island, now living in Ontario. “Country From the Dome Car” is based on the experience she had participating in a unique, three-day on-train folk festival that traveled from Toronto to Vancouver a few years ago. The song can be found on her 2007 CD You Can See Everything, which was originally released in July and was subsequently picked up for a digital re-release via Sony/ATV.




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