“I Win” – Abra Moore
A stark, hypnotic minor key piano ballad from the sweet-voiced Abra Moore, returning after a long absence from recording. Once a member of the neo-bohemian band Poi Dog Pondering, Moore released two engaging solo CDs–Sing in 1995 and Strangest Places in 1997–then disappeared. She has had quite the experience in the interim. Clive Davis took Moore with him when he left Arista to start J Records; the new label wanted to run her through the Vanessa Carlton-Avril Lavigne machine, basically, with team-based writing and production, teenybopper songs, the works. Moore was open to the experiment going in, but found she couldn’t live with the results, artistically. Despite having finished a CD called No Fear for J in 2002, the label–unusually–allowed her out of her contract, stopped the record’s release, and let her keep the masters. Moore regrouped, re-established her independent vibe, and has now emerged two years later with the aptly named CD Everything Changed, just released last week on Koch Records. Moore is an engaging musical presence; blessed with a voice that is at once lithe and hardy, her subtle variety of vocal tone and emphasis gives this simple, brooding song a great deal of weight.
“Little Black Ache” – Bishop Allen
Punchy, quirky, and catchy, this one brings you back to the Kinks in 1965, but with a Pixies-like or perhaps an Ass Ponys-like edge. The sound is at once loose and tight, and I’ll admit I’m a pushover for songs with a goofy call-and-response hook like this–“I’ve got my little black little ache”/(“What you got?”). Now Brooklyn-based, the band was founded in Cambridge; they took their name from their location on Bishop Allen Drive in Central Square (the street itself was named after Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episopal Church, if you must know). “Little Black Ache” comes from the band’s debut CD Charm School, which was self-released in May 2003. These guys have an appealing silliness to them, some of it planned (on the web site, where they present their lyrics, the band writes: “For increased prestige, we type them in Garamond”), and some not exactly (of the four members, two are named Christian but one of them is a man and one of them is a woman; go figure).
“Under Control” – Shutterspeed
Talk about bringing you back, here are five lads from Brisbane who come to you through a ’70s rush of Keith Richards riffs, horn charts, swaggering vocals, and back-up “woo-oo-oohs.” Lead singer Andrew Petersen has more than a little Southside Johnny in him, somehow–not that the decaying ambiance of an aging South Jersey beach town has anything in common with the up-and-coming subtropical splendor of Australia’s third largest city. It’s a small world after all, I suppose. While there’s always a danger Shutterspeed will lose itself under the weight of its influences, the band’s sheer brash energy pulls them through, to my ears; like Paul Weller (another guy grooving on that ’70s thing), Shutterspeed at once mimics and rises above the mimickry. “Under Control” comes from the band’s second album, Custom Made Hit Parade, released in June 2003.