“Indian Summer” – Maplewood

One of a surprising number of current bands that are grooving, against all odds, to a very ’70s mellow-rock vibe, Maplewood even has the one-word band name to seal the deal (think America, think Bread). But Maplewood brings more than nostalgia and anti-hip-hipness to the table here; the music is not only groovy, it’s intelligent, brisk, and crisp. Both briskness and crispness are crucial if the mellow thing is going to work for me: a certain sort of clean and upbeat strumminess is necessary to keep the music from stewing its own sappy juices, while crispness—both of sound and arrangement—is probably what lends an air of intelligence to the effort in the first place. Listen, for instance, to the three-part harmonies, which kick in with the second verse: the two background voices are mixed perfectly, with just enough oomph to give the song a wash of beauty, while avoiding the “look at us singing in three-part harmony” effect one usually hears whenever a band has the cajones to try it in the first place. “Indian Summer” leads off Maplewood’s self-titled debut CD, released earlier this month on Tee Pee Records. You’ll find the MP3 on the band web’s site.

“No Danger” – Inouk

Unfolding with singular style, “No Danger” offers the ear a series of intriguing, mysteriously slippery hooks at every bend. An opening, repeated, siren-like call of the guitar gives way to a twitchingly percussive second guitar, which is then joined by a third guitar, playing a churning, repeated melody line before a now-acoustic guitar punctuates the intro and the vocals start. The interweaving of the three electric guitars serves as an undercurrent against which the song develops in a very hard to describe manner, driven as it is by an almost compositional sense of complexity. By the time the chorus is repeated (and it’s hard to hear as a chorus the first time around) I’m completely engaged: by the chugging major-minor fluctuation of the guitar, the literally offbeat call-and-response section (we suddenly lose a beat in the measure after the word “anyone” is repeated, but get it right back again), and then, in the literal last minute, the seamless introduction of new elements, including a new melody, a noodly new guitar sound, and (particularly unexpected and charming) a chorus of ghostly female back-up singers. “No Danger” is the title track to the band’s first full-length CD, released in August on Say Hey Records. A NYC band with roots in Philadelphia, Inouk is worth knowing about and keeping an eye on.

“What’s Your New Thing?” – Walking Concert

Kinda chunky, kinda poppy, and kinda edgy, just the way a good two-and-a-half-minute song should be. Walking Concert’s founder, Walter Schreifels, has a long indie-rock history behind him by now, having started the bands Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, and Rival Schools before launching Walking Concert. Um, don’t worry, I never heard of them before either, as I have never been musically drawn to the so-called “hard core” side of alternative rock. But apparently Schreifels was well-regarded in those circles, and something of a wunderkind, as he was but 16 when Gorilla Biscuits launched; the guy’s still in his early 30s at this point. His background, in any case, brings an undeniable energy-burst to this likable little song, which displays an affectionate awareness of some of rock’n’roll’s best pop, both older (early Who and Kinks and even David Bowie) and newer (the Replacements, Guided By Voices). “What’s Your New Thing?” is found on the band’s debut CD, Run To Be Born, released earlier this month on Some Records; the MP3 is on the label’s web site. Thanks to 3hive for the head’s up on this one.




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