“Waifs and Strays” – Jeniferever

A Swedish band that sounds more like an Icelandic band—that is to say, drifting and expansive versus kicky and ironic (and yeah, I know: generalizations; oh well!)—Jeniferever plays with a lilting sort of precision that seems well-suited to the grey icy whiteness that many of us have been looking at out our windows for the weeks on end. They are not in a hurry but they are determined. The chorus—gorgeous, noble, and subtle—is as beautiful as your heart will allow it to be.

The song derives its elusive power from its hidden-in-plain-sight 3/4 time signature. The pace is steady and deliberate, like a 4/4 song, without any waltz-like clue that we’re in three. Blame drummer Frederik Aspelin on the seductive misdirection; after staying aligned with beats one and two he rushes ahead and then behind the third beat before the ear quite recognizes it, creating a hypnotic, syncopated flow where more typically we get the prosaic ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three. The verse melody then works complexly in and around this already complex approach to the basic time signature; singer Kristofer Jönson here does not once sing a melody aligned with the basic beat (“Fight to find the balance in between,” he sings, at one point). And this is exactly why the chorus floods us with grace, beginning with that wondrous four-note guitar lead-in (1:18), which seems literally to launch us into another plain of awareness. In the chorus, the melody at last surrenders to the beat the song had otherwise resisted. It feels just about transcendent, all the more so as the chorus otherwise remains unresolved. The big moment is the moment that appears to be leading to a bigger moment but actually doesn’t.

“Waifs and Strays” is a song from the quartet’s new album, Silesia, only its third full-length in 15 years of existence. (Not to date them or anything but the band is named after an early Smashing Pumpkins song.) It will be released on Monotreme Records in April. Thanks to Monotreme for permission to host the MP3. And thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up on the song.