“War” – Jonatha Brooke
This song, released on Brooke’s 1995 CD Plumb, was written for the last Iraq war. I forgive her somewhat heavy-handed lyrics because, heck, at least she tried. (Not many did, or do.) If she could have known back then that this one would come around again quite so specifically, she might have sounded even more exasperated than she already does. “War” is one of the three MP3s Brooke has available to download on her music-filled site, which allows you to stream every song she has recorded. (Another worthwhile MP3 is her passionate take on the Christmas hymn “Emmanuel” as well; I’d have chosen it here but it seems a bit out of season already.)
“Artists Are Boring” – Kingdom Flying Club
Ben Folds meets the Smiths in this affecting yet jaunty little number from a Columbia, Missouri-based band with two (very) small-label CDs to its name. This song comes from the band’s 2003 release, Non-Fiction, on Emergency Umbrella Records. Never mind that I’d like this for the title alone; I also like that for all its indie trappings (the not-quite-on-key-all-the-time vocals, the tinkly ambiance), there’s something quite accomplished in the vibe here. I also love the fact that I only found out about this small band from Missouri through a recommendation on a French blog. And I can’t even read French, and never would have known about the blog (called La BlogothÃ¨que) in the first place if one of the people who posts there hadn’t written about Fingertips (in French, as noted) last week. So a guy in Philadelphia finds out about an obscure band from Missouri via a blogger in France. Vive l’internet!
“El Paso” – Felix McTeigue
I don’t normally recommend MP3s with less than CD-quality audio (or at least near-CD-quality), but I also don’t like to have etched-in-stone rules about anything. So when something simple, bittersweet, and disconcertingly haunting like this song comes along, here it is, lower sound quality and all. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone who actually reminds me of Phil Ochs before, but with McTeigue it’s a gentle Ochs-ishness, without the passive-aggressive humor/anger. This song ambles along with a loopy sort of grace (“Van Halen’s on the radio/The old stuff, Diver Down/Right before David left and Sammy came around”), completely engaging me by the end. McTeigue is a NYC-based singer/songwriter with one CD to his credit, 2001’s Felix McTeigue. This comes from that, but probably sounds a little richer on the album.