This Week’s Finds: Nov. 21-27 (One Star Hotel, Stirling, Ephemera)

“Can’t Be Trusted” – One Star Hotel

At once bouncy and earnest, good-natured and serious, “Can’t Be Trusted” takes a timeless Allman Brothers rhythm and infuses it with a Wilco-informed indie-Americana spirit. Singer Steve Yutzy-Burkey (also the band’s guitarist and songwriter) has a comfortable, Tweedy-ish throatiness to his voice and an equally Tweedy-ish way of writing subtle and agreeable twists into his songs. In fact, for Wilco fans a bit befuddled by the band’s tendency to deconstruct its songs over the last two CDs, One Star Hotel may come as a comfy aural balm–Wilco without the weirdness. But this Philadelphia-based quartet has a lot more going for it than mimickry. I like the way the main melodic phrase extends into a third measure, turning upward in a way that pulls you into the center of the song. Listen also for some extra sonic treats–twinkly synthesizer flourishes, controlled use of feedback, and, I think, a touch of harmonica buried into the texture as well. “Can’t Be Trusted” can be found on the band’s new CD Good Morning, West Gordon, to be released tomorrow on Stereo Field Recordings. This is One Star Hotel’s first full-length CD; their one previous recording was a self-titled EP released last year. The MP3 can be found on

“Côte D’Azur” – Stirling

With no free and legal MP3s to be had from the new U2 CD, this one just might serve as an admirable substitute. Stirling is a band from Edmonton, relocated to Toronto, with a flair for Bono-like drama and Edge-like guitar riffs. This is the kind of song that walks the fine line between tension and bombast, but I think the bombast is held at bay by the concise, siren-like guitar line, the satisfying chord changes, and the fact that the whole thing drives by in three minutes. Never underestimate the power of keeping things short; had the band dragged this out to five minutes (the urge to do this is apparently compelling), I think my interest would have waned. Instead I find myself taken in by the urgent melodrama of it all. The song is the lead track on Stirling’s debut CD, Northern Light, released in June in Canada; the MP3 is on the band’s web site.

“Saddest Day” – Ephemera

A three-woman Norwegian band channeling Astrud Gilberto via Frente–yes, the world can be a wonderful place when we all just mingle together peacefully and see what happens. Bright, silvery, and airy, “Saddest Day” is that sweetest of pop confections: a sad song wrapped in an upbeat package. Stars in their native country (they received the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy earlier this year), Ephemera have released four CDs to date; this spring, a compilation disc called Score was released for the U.S. market. Not yet out of their 20s, Ephemera has nevertheless been together for 10 years now. “Saddest Day” was originally from the band’s 2000 CD, Sun, which was their second; it is also found on a CD called Score, a compilation released for the U.S. market this past spring. The MP3 is on the band’s web site. Thanks to visitor Jeff for the head’s up.

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