“Woman King” – Iron and Wine

A timeless sort of mystery hangs in the air from the opening rhythms of this satisfying new song from Sam Beam, the one-man band who calls himself Iron and Wine. While the critically-acclaimed Beam in the past has been just a little too whispery-slow for my tastes, here he finds a propulsive, ancient-seeming groove to explore; combined with concrete, evocative lyrics, the results are deep, elusive, and magical. While his acoustic guitar is still center stage (I’m loving his slide work in particular), Beam delivers an outstandingly textured song through the use of precise percussion, engaging electric guitar accents, even what sounds like a woodwind-like synthesizer line. “Woman King” is the title track to a six-song EP released last week on Sub Pop Records. The MP3 is up on the Sub Pop site. Me, I’m going to go back and listen to some of his other songs again; maybe I’m now ready to hear what many others have been hearing in him for a while already.

“Ablaze” – Liz Durrett

Liz Durrett proves that slow doesn’t have to mean boring, trombones aren’t necessarily out of place in a moody rock song, and that Athens, Georgia isn’t finished spawning worthy musicians. After a pensive, minor-key guitar intro, Durrett enters, awash in echoes and echoed by (yes) a trombone chorus. I am hooked by the oddly glowing shadowiness of it all. Durrett has a substantive duskiness to her voice, and a pleasing way of creating melody out of a minimum of notes. “Ablaze” is one of nine songs on her debut CD, Husk, which was released last week on Athens-based Warm Records. Durrett is a niece of the offbeat singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt, who produced the record. These songs were all written between 1996 and 1999, when Durrett was still in her teens; an album of newer material will apparently be released before the year is out. The “Ablaze” MP3 is available
through SXSW.com.

“Underwater Wave Game” – Pit Er Pat

A strangely engaging little song from a strange little guitar-free band. Keep your ears on the opening piano motif–an endearing string of ascending four-note clusters. They form the backbone of this indecipherable song; when they disappear in the chorus, we’re a little disconcerted but some of the unusual intervals singer/keyboard player Fay Davis-Jeffers leaps to and from vocally become their own sort of hook, and before long we’re swimming along again with the endearing piano. At about 1:55, however, I feel I’m in over my head as the song hits an almost dissonant stretch all the way to 2:45. But—hurrah—the piano motif returns triumphantly, and in so doing justifies the ornery section. All in all this sounds engagingly like, oh, I don’t know—maybe the Waitresses singing Genesis after listening to Talking Heads ’77. Or maybe not. In any case, I have been listening and listening to this, continually assuming I wouldn’t actually end up featuring it but I kept hitting the play button again and again, finally alerting me to the fact that even if my brain can’t figure out why I like this some other parts of me obviously do. The song will be on Pit Er Pat’s full-length debut, entitled Shakey, to be released in early March on Thrill Jockey Records. The MP3 is available on the band’s site.




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