“Primitive (The Way I Treat You)” – Ambulance LTD

The same young NYC band behind the gorgeous, spacey “Stay Where You Are” reveals a gratifying versatility as they’ve come forward with their first full-length CD. In place of the ringing melodicism of “Stay Where You Are,” “Primitive” arrives with a down-and-dirty groove, complete with a stomping keyboard riff and squonky guitars. Singer Marcus Congelton alternates fetchingly between a blase, Lou Reed-i-ness in the spoken-sung verses and a sweeter, yearning vocal in the chorus. Here is one new band fully comfortable with the length and breadth of rock’n’roll history, a fact further revealed by what they’ve chosen to call their CD: LP. Gotta love that. The MP3 can be accessed through the TVT Records web site, but you will need to provide an email address and postal code to get it.


“Slung-lo” – Erin McKeown

Before there was Nelly McKay, on her teenaged rampage to become the next fresh face of pop, there was Erin McKeown, mining some of the same territory from a twenty-something perspective, but unfortunately (or not?) lacking McKay’s publicity machine. This song has an old-fashioned, finger-snapping jauntiness to it (much like McKay’s “David,” which came later) that charms me enough to overlook the lyrical theme, which appears to be writer’s block. I don’t really like hearing from writers—be they book authors or songwriters—about writer’s block. Either write, or don’t; writing about having trouble writing is a cheap dodge (unless you’re Charlie Kaufman), and usually boring as hell (unless you’re Charlie Kaufman). But, heck, at least the vibrant McKeown doesn’t belabor the point (the song’s only 2:47). The MP3 can be found on SXSW.com’s elusive but worthwhile MP3 storehouse (soon to be written up in the Music Site Guide). The song can be found on her 2003 CD Grand, released on Nettwerk Records.


“Grave’s Disease” – Matt Pond PA

Another accomplished, nuanced, and engaging song from Matt Pond PA. While continually associated with the so-called “chamber pop” movement, for its use of cello and violin, the band is more instructively associated, to my ears, with ’80s bands like the Cure (in its radio-friendly phase) and the Smiths—the Cure for its easy way with driving pop (not to mention a tone in Pond’s voice that brings Robert Smith to mind), the Smiths for that band’s idiosyncratic way of using upbeat but minor-key acoustic rhythms to drive their unusual yet accessible songs. Propelled by clipped, enigmatic vocal phrases, “Grave’s Disease” unfolds with a gentle sort of urgency and a subtle acquisition of musical themes over the course of the song. It will be found on the band’s new CD, Emblems, which is scheduled to be released next week on Altitude Records; the MP3 can be found on Insound.




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