“Nowhere Again” – The Secret Machines
Itchy, driving, and full-bodied, “Nowhere Again” combines the melodrama of the more-influential-than-anyone-realized-they-would-be-at-the-time Echo & the Bunnymen with a 21st-century blast of danceable drone. Okay, so maybe they lifted part of the melody (consciously or not) from the old Kinks nugget “Lola”—what the heck, there are worse starting places, and the song proceeds in other directions before it’s through. “Nowhere Again” creates some of its sonic interest by juxtaposing full-speed and half-speed tempos—in particular offering verses at full-speed, the chorus at half-speed, all against a constant, insistent beat. Not a huge innovation, but it does give the impression of texture when the chords aren’t changing all that much. Likewise helpful are the half-speed piano and guitar flourishes that arrive in the second verse. Singer and guitarist Ben Curtis has a subtle, appealing rumble to his voice in the lower register, an anthemic edge to his upper register singing, and a knack for highlighting stark lyrical phrases along the way. The Secret Machines were assembled in Dallas but have since generated much buzz in their adopted hometown of New York City. “Nowhere Again” comes from the band’s debut CD, Now Here is Nowhere, released in May on Reprise Records (that’s how much buzz they generated–they’re actually on a major label).
The MP3 can be found on Epitonic.
“Sleeping and Tooting” – Rachel Goswell
The highly-regarded but spotlight-avoiding Rachel Goswell gained fans as the voice of the woozily atmospheric Slowdive in the early ’90s. When she joined bandmates Neil Halstead and Ian McCutcheon as they morphed into the British-yet-alt-country-ish Mojave 3 in 1996, Goswell retreated to the background, playing bass and singing mostly background vocals as songwriter Halstead took the reins as lead singer. Those who have missed her vocal presence on recent Mojave 3 records will no doubt rejoice at the recent release of her first solo CD, Waves Are Universal (4AD Records), from which this song comes. Although crisp and upbeat, “Sleeping and Tooting” has an engaging air of bittersweetness about it thanks to its repeated use of minor key modulations. Goswell’s airy yet well-rounded voice brings to mind the late, great Kirsty MacColl, which is always a plus in my mind. The song is so full of bright-sounding acoustic instruments and engaging production touches that I willingly overlook its lack of a center–there’s no meaty chorus here to anchor things musically; I find the song scoots by (it’s just three minutes) without completely sinking in. But maybe that’s just me; in any case there are plenty of charms here to make it worth a listen. The American arm of the Beggars Group, which distributes 4AD Records, hosts the MP3.
<"Habite Em Mim" – Arto Lindsay
Once a prominent figure on New York’s so-called “No Wave” scene of the late ’70s, guitarist/producer Arto Lindsay here issues an alluring bit of Brazilian-tinged, jazz-inflected, street-wise pop. Lindsay’s voice is smooth and seductive enough to distract your ear from the vibrant grab-bag of rhythms, competing tones, and sly sonic effects that are going on throughout the song, even as the effects are ultimately what give “Habite Em Mim” its oomph. Heck, I barely notice that he’s slipping back and forth from English to Portuguese, which is a pretty captivating effect itself. “Habite Em Mim” is found on Salt, released in May on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records.