This Week’s Finds: August 8-14 (Asobi Seksu, Christine Fellows, Constantines)

“I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me” – Asobi Seksu

Three minutes and nine seconds of giddy neo-new wave bliss. The melody is Blondie perfect; combine that with the band’s capacity to unleash some serious but disciplined guitar noise and I’m all but swooning. Lead singer Yuki’s innocent breathiness adds to the glory of a song that sounds to me like the bright flip side of one of the new wave’s greatest singles, the bleak but invincible “Enola Gay,” from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Asobi Seksu is a NYC-based band that offers songs in both English and Japanese, but prior understanding of Japanese is not required to enjoy this awesome piece of pop. “I’m Happy But…” comes from the band’s debut, self-titled CD, which was released on Friendly Fire Recordings in May. You’ll find the MP3 on the band’s web site.

“Veda’s Waltz – Christine Fellows

The label “chamber pop” has been floating around for the better part of a decade, and is typically used to refer to music made by indie bands which have incorporated traditional stringed instruments (e.g. violin or cello) into their sound. Normally the label seems to miss the mark (and often has the air of gimmickry about it) but in the case of Christine Fellows, the shoe fits agreeably: “Veda’s Waltz” sounds like nothing so much as a pop song peformed by a small chamber ensemble, if that were something small chamber ensembles usually did. What makes it work, to me, is Fellows’ strikingly immediate voice. Stripped of all pretense, her voice is underscored by the same sort of ineffable ache that characterizes the sound of the instruments she is singing with; she blends beautifully, gratifyingly with them–gratifying because I have never believed one has to sing like an opera singer to perform with “classical” instruments, even though that’s been the presumption for, oh, a few hundred years or so at this point. Another engaging, idiosyncratic musician from Canada, Fellows was in a couple of bands in the ’90s before striking out on her own, first with an album called 2 little birds in 2000 and then The Last One Standing in 2002, on which “Veda’s Waltz” is found. The MP3 is on her web site.

“The Long Distance Four” – Constantines

From the first note, the electric guitar here says “pay attention to this,” and yet, how, exactly, is this achieved? I find it difficult to articulate (writing about music remains a basically ridiculous idea), but it’s a two-guitar sound that rejects classic-rock, guitar-hero fire for a clipped, urgent riff below, accompanied by open-chorded harmonics above. Bringing Television to mind, it’s a sound that puts you on call, and on edge, and then along comes lead singer Bryan Webb, sounding for all the world like Joe Strummer’s Canadian cousin, with the late Clash leader’s endearingly husky, offhanded capacity to carry a tune and his knack for spitting out startling, unexpected lyrics (“Collect the body of Isadora Duncan”??). Now I’m definitely paying attention, and I’m liking what I hear a lot. “The Long Distance Four” comes from the band’s first full-length CD, a self-titled disc released originally in 2001, and just re-issued by Sub Pop.

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