“Welcome Back” – The Trashcan Sinatras
There’s something to be said for experience. So, sure, I had no idea the Trashcan Sinatras–a band I vaguely associate with the early ’90s–were still around, but the fact that they are means that when they want to, the Scottish quintet can sound like this: crystal-clear, swaggery-assured, and quirky-pop-gorgeous. After making a minor splash with their debut CD, Cake, in 1990 (not to be confused with the band Cake, which I’ll admit I’ve done)(or Sea and the Cake, for that matter), they proceeded to lie low through most of the decade, releasing only two other CDs, in 1993 and 1996, before re-emerging with Weightlifting (Spin Art Records) last month. Biding their time may have made sense, since their shiny, well-crafted, jangly Brit-pop is much more aligned (praise the lord) with the current music scene than it was in the middle ’90s. I love this song’s offbeat drive, an effect amplified by the insertion of two extra beats at the end of each verse. The chorus, for its part, acquires a keen hook simply by modulating through three great chords, underscored by a wall of full-tilt, almost Edge-like electric guitar. I like how even in a short (2:24) song, they let the guitar open out into a sly, wailing solo that might be mistaken for a heavy metal cliche if you don’t listen closely. Vocalist Frank Reader (brother of the marvelous Eddi Reader) has an open quality to his voice that brings you back in time, managing to sound yearning without any over-acting. The song opens Weightlifting; the MP3 can be found on Filter Magazine.

“Isn’t the Sun” – Cordalene  link no longer available
On the heels of last week’s wonderful Paul Westerberg song comes another faux-’60s piece of perfect, slightly skewed pop, this from a little-known Philadelphia band. I’m loving the way the intro takes a bass line as old as the ’50s and segues it into an itchy guitar riff, and that’s really what makes the song so spiffy all the way through–that dusty bass line keeps knocking against the itchy guitars, and when they settle in together in the chorus with a kick that is somehow almost (but not really) swing-like, the result is all but swoon-full. Halfway through, the instrumental section works this out in a particularly charming way, as the guitar itself does a squonky riff on the bass melody. But I think my favorite moment of all is a lyrical one, when Mike Kiley (who’s got a really nice power-pop voice by the way) sings, “And she looked at me with a breathtaking stare,” breaking up “breath” and “taking” so resolutely as to give new shades of meaning to the word. The song comes from a release known simply as The Red EP; the MP3 is on the band’s web site. Thanks again to Oddio Overplay for the head’s up.

“Retour A Vega” – the Stills  link no longer available
I find this irresistible: the acoustic-guitar driven minor key beat, the tasteful use of violins, the French lyrics, and then, putting it completely over the top for me, the octave harmonies. Gotta love the octave harmonies. They were a great pop weapon in Squeeze’s arsenal, and with the Kinks before that. As if this weren’t enough, there’s a crunchy little electric guitar bit in the middle. Put this on in the background with a crowd of people and everyone will start to smile without knowing why. Better yet, be the owner of a small record store, put it on with a store full of customers, and see how many people (remember that scene in High Fidelity with the Beta Band song?) come up and ask about it and buy the CD. The CD in question, by the way, is the soundtrack to the movie Wicker Park, and while I can’t say anything about the movie itself (doesn’t look like one I’m heading quickly to see), the soundtrack has a positively “ooh! pick me, pick me!” sensibility in terms of seeking to appear very of-the-moment in an almost-but-not-quite mainstream way. (Think Singles soundtrack, back in the early ’90s.) In addition to the Stills, this one has the Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Mates of State, and Stereophonics, among others. The MP3 comes courtesy of Vice Records.




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