“36” – Christina Rosenvinge
Singing accented English with a sweet sort of weariness, Christina Rosenvinge muses whisperily on the strains of growing older. Against a quiet guitar lick that sounds like the Nutcracker‘s “Waltz of the Flowers” theme turned sad and lonely, “36” is a lullaby for grownups, propelled by a sing-song rhythm and an exquisitely intimate accompaniment; I particularly love the desolate, distant, slightly dissonant background tones between verses, embodying time’s doleful passage. The song comes from the Madrid-born Rosenvinge’s second English-language CD, Foreign Land, released two years ago in Europe and slated for a U.S. release on Smells Like Records “soon,” according to the SLR web site. Her first CD in English was 2001’s charming, bittersweet Frozen Pool, also on SLR. The intimate sound of these two recent CDs represents a prodigious break from her past; you’d never know that in the late ’80s, Rosenvinge was a huge pop star in Spain and Latin America as one half of the duo Alex y Christina. But she quickly tired of both the media attention and the musical constraints imposed by mass-market pop success. She left Alex behind to record three solo albums in the ’90s, the last of which was produced in Sonic Youth’s studio in New York City in 1996. Captivated by Manhattan, Rosenvinge eventually moved there and hooked back up with Steve Shelley and Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth, who ultimately helped her create Frozen Pool.
The “36” MP3 can be found on the distribution/label site Midheaven.com.
“Queen of Verlaine” – High Water Marks
Satisfying, buzzy-fuzzy pop from an unusual collaboration between American and Norwegian indie stars. Drummer Hilarie Sidney from the Apples in Stereo and Per Ole Bratset, of the Oslo-based band Palermo, began a long-distance songwriting relationship after the two met during an Apples in Stereo tour in 2002. Eventually Sidney, from Lexington, Kentucky, went to Norway to record with Bratset, in a hotel room of all places. The end result was so apparently gratifying that Bratset has since relocated to Lexington to turn the High Water Marks into a real band (the two other members also live in Kentucky). I like a lot of things about this song, beginning with the cheery, churning vibe, and including distinct elements like Bratset’s appealing voice (and geez it’s really really hard to describe voices in concrete words; that’s probably why writers often resort to comparisons to other voices) and the use of a distorted guitar wave underneath the basic drive of the song. “Queen of Verlaine” comes from the band’s debut CD, Songs About the Ocean, released last month on Eenie Meenie Records;
the MP3 is on the Eenie Meenie web site.
“Did I Let You Down?” – Folksongs for the Afterlife
This duo from New York City creates an unexpectedly rich and effective sonic stew; don’t let the group’s name mislead you into expecting a simple strumming acoustic guitar and sappy lyrics. Out of the gate the song engages me with its trip-hop-meets-salsa-at-the-movies stylishness. Then Caroline Schutz’s clear and airy voice takes over, and watch out—I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “fuck” sung with such offhanded beauty. Wait for the chorus and you’ll see what I mean. This song also highlights the timeless appeal of a well-placed xylophone solo. “Did I Let You Down?” can be found on the group’s sole full-length CD—Put Danger Back in Your Life, released last year on Parasol/Hidden Agenda.
The MP3 is on the band’s site.