This Week’s Finds: July 18-24 (The Pieces, Kate Earl, Jeniferever)

“The Wait” – the Pieces

I’m beginning to think that every city in the United States has its own version of the Fountains of Wayne, its own smart, history-savvy rock band ready to offer catchy, guitar-based pop to a world rather starved for the stuff. The Pieces appear to be Indianapolis’s entry in the game, and a smart, savvy entry they are. While not as giddily brilliant as Fountains of Wayne at their best (e.g. “Mexican Wine,” “Red Dragon Tattoo,” “Radiation Vibe”), “The Wait” is a fine little tune with any number of nuggets of pleasure to enjoy along the way. Right off I love the tumble of chords that are packed together in the introduction, and how they settle on the actual key through the musical side door. The melody has the inevitable touch of Beatle-ish-ness to it, an effect augmented by guitarist/singer/songwriter Vess (?) Ruhtenberg’s quasi-Lennonesque voice. I also like how the band incorporates bassist Heidi Gluck’s vocals into the sound, something that stands them apart from forebears such as Big Star and the dBs, not to mention the Beatles; come to think of it, there aren’t a whole lot of power pop bands featuring male-female harmonies. The moment in the middle where Gluck comes to the fore on the line “This is the part I hate” is a small but wonderful touch. (Gluck apparently sings lead occasionally as well.) “The Wait” can be found on the band’s self-titled debut CD, released last year on Benchmark Records. The MP3 comes from the Benchmark Records web site.

“Silence” – Kate Earl

A little bit Dusty Springfield, a little bit Ricki Lee Jones, newcomer Kate Earl exhibits a good deal of something else all her own on this haunting bit of retro-soul (blue-eyed variety). Earl creates a masterful, unabashed Dusty in Memphis vibe (the strings! the flute!), but infused with an engaging sense of innocence, intimacy, and spontaneity. I fear the MP3 itself is a bit cloudy, sound-wise (although maybe it’s just my overtaxed, six-year-old computer), but the song is still worth hearing. Born in Alaska, living now in California, Earl is slated to release a CD on the Santa Monica-based label Record Collection some time in the presumably near future, presumably featuring this song; the MP3 in the meantime can can be found on Earl’s web site.

“You Only Move Twice” – Jeniferever

A Swedish band with a penchant for long, spacious songs, Jeniferever appears to be inspired partly by the grand, spacey Icelandic band Sigur Ros and partly by the more structured, instrument-based spaciness of Radiohead or even Wilco. One of only four songs on the 37-minute EP Iris, “You Only Move Twice” is propelled by a harmonic-laced riff, a fractured sense of time and beat, and singer Kristofer’s ragged-weary-breathy vocals. The song has a cool enough vibe to keep me engaged for a quite a while, but then really hooks me with an unexpected turn of events about four minutes in, when the vocals drop away, the underlying syncopated beat is stripped down and brought forward, and, then, almost gloriously, an array of real instruments, including horns and strings, are added to the mix, beautifully accentuating the unusual chords and intervals that have characterized the song all along. Then the instruments pull away with a melancholy bit of reverb and the song finishes with another unexpected turn–this time a string coda, which again displays the rather charming musicality of the band in a different setting. Iris was released this month on Big Scary Monster Records, a tiny London-based label. The MP3 comes from the band’s site.

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