“Old Shit/New Shit” – Eels

There is something weirdly comforting about hearing Mark Oliver Everett–aka E, doing business as Eels—unload a new cheerful/depressing song on us, just when we need it most. The driving beat, the distinctive chimes, the seriously despairful lyrics, the unaccountable moments of silence, and E’s gruff but disarmingly melodious voice–all of it brings me back to, oh, 1996 or so. And yet (as he well knows) how much is very very different now than it was back when he had a minor pop cultural moment seeking some novocaine for his soul. Gliding by in an airy couple of minutes, “Old Shit/New Shit” is one of more than 30 songs on eels’ upcoming double-CD Blinking Lights and Other Revelations, to be released later this month on Vagrant Records.

“This Time” – Lismore

An appealing amalgam of trip-hoppy textures and wistful melody, “This Time” launches off the repetition of two notes, the first repeated seven times, the second five times. The notes are adjacent to one another, which makes it a so-called “second” interval. It’s an interesting interval because it’s the most natural one when the notes are played separately (we’re talking “do” to “re” here, one logical step up) and yet a jarring (in musical terms, “dissonant”) interval if the notes are played at the same time. There is a compelling, depth-laden tension in the air, then, when a songs grounds itself in a second interval; Lismore works within and around the tension astutely, floating mismatched synthesizer lines on top, glitching up the middle with a variety of electronica fuzz, and anchoring the bottom with an actual bass and drum kit. That we are dealing with a singer with as warm a voice as Australia-born Penelope Trappes adds to the delicious juxtapositions here. “This Time” can be found on Lismore’s debut full-length CD, We Could Connect Or We Could Not, released earlier this year on Cult Hero Records. The MP3 is available via the band’s web site.

“Freakin’ Out” – Graham Coxon

An unabashed shot of guitar rock, emphasis on guitar, from the former Blur guitarist. After nodding off to a few too many Blur songs that idled in one key, almost literally (and don’t get me wrong, I mostly liked the band!), I find myself all but slapped to attention by the crisp and crackly sizzle immediately on display here. On top of its Clash-like swagger and British-punk energy, “Freakin’ Out” adds enough fiery guitar work to spring-clean your brain in three and a half minutes. Anthemic riffs, solid arcs of sound, acrobatic fingerwork, and a way-too-cool solo, it’s all here, wrapped in and around a just-this-side-of-insipid ditty. Great for blasting out the windows if the weather ever warms up and if it stops raining. “Freakin’ Out” is the single from Coxon’s latest CD, Happiness in Magazines, released in the U.S. in January on Astralwerks. (The record was originally released in the U.K. last May.) The MP3 is stored over at SXSW.com.




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