This Week’s Finds: Jan. 18-24 (Ambulance LTD, Kate Rusby, Joe Strummer)

“Stay Where You Are” – Ambulance LTD

This one you have to hang with a while. It begins with a long stretch of moody noodlings. I don’t usually have a lot of patience for moody noodlings. But there was something in these particular noodlings that made me at least listen until something else happened. Maybe it was the backwards-guitar effect that kicked in after a while. So anyway about two minutes into the song, lo and behold, the clouds lift, the noodling shifts, a guitar chimes in over an engaging beat, and by the time the vocals start (themselves recalling the early to mid ’80s; the Go-Betweens maybe?), I’m thinking, “Hey. I kinda like this.” Unabashedly guitar-oriented, with a riff that just won’t quit, the song among other things is very nearly pretty. Who’d have thought. The band is young, they’re from New York City, and they don’t have a full-length album out yet, just an EP, from which this comes, on TVT Records.

“Annan Waters” – Kate Rusby

I just need this song right now–the purity of it, the ancient vibe, the heart-deep chord changes, the connection it suggests to earth and nature, and, yes, the simple catharsis of sung tragedy. Don’t mind me, I’m just a little gloomy, but there are worse ways to vent one’s gloom than to listen to Rusby’s lovely take on an old tragic ballad. To find this MP3 on, first enter your email address in the box and then go to the “Americana/Traditional” category. The song comes off her sparkling 1998 debut, Hourglass.

“Coma Girl” – Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

One more from the last Strummer CD, this one with a gratifying mixture of ska-revival itchiness and pure pop know-how. I can almost imagine this song fitting into the Clash oeuvre, although with the Mescaleros songs emerged with more nuance and less muscle as a rule. So anyway, after a week spent combing through a lot of mid-level material from obscure if well-meaning bands, I found myself drawn to this for its sure-footed facility and unforced charm. It’s not all that easy, after all, to make a good song, but the good ones never make it sound hard.

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