This Week’s Finds: Dec. 19-25 (Explosions in the Sky, Amy Miles, Autolux)

“Memorial” – Explosions in the Sky

At once contemplative and majestic, the instrumental “Memorial” unfolds with precision and grace; it feels like a story someone is telling you in a language you can’t quite understand. With chiming guitars, an expansive sense of song, and a controlled use of both ends of the volume dial, Explosions in the Sky sound like they must be from Europe somewhere. But what the heck, they’re just a little old band from Texas, which gives me more faith in Texas than I might otherwise have (no offense to the many other Texans I don’t know who would also give me faith in the place!). This is an edited version (it’s still 6:23) of a longer (8:50) piece; one of just five long songs on the band’s second CD, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place, released last year on the Temporary Residence label. You’ll find the MP3 on the Temporary Residence site. “First Breath After Coma,” another excellent song from the CD, is available as an MP3 through the Bella Union Records site (Bella Union is the band’s label in the U.K.); the only reason I didn’t choose that song over this one is because to access the MP3 at Bella Union, you have to give them an email address. I have no particular issues about doing that, but I prefer if possible not to feature MP3s with obstacles.)

“Kill to Know” – Amy Miles

Like Liz Phair before her extreme makeover, Amy Miles writes down and dirty songs and sings them with an appealing sort of blase-ness. The verse here is sly, itchy, and confrontational; the instrumentation effectively sparse but spacious. Well and good, left at that. But check out the chorus–even as the rhythm continues its unassuming chugging in the background, Miles here sneaks in a casually perfect melodic line (with the words “What is it that you want to know?”), something you might hear in a song by the band Garbage, or maybe in one of the Pretenders’ older, poppier moments. A nugget of surprise in this homespun number, the chorus is subtly augmented by well-placed noodles on the electric guitar underneath and blossoming synthesizers above. This musical moment makes me smile each time it comes around, as does her voice the more I listen to it. “Kill to Know” is the lead track on the CD Dirty Stay-Out (2002), her only album to date. The MP3 is available on her web site. (No more MP3 available but here’s the video….)

Here Comes Everybody” – Autolux

Breathy-noisy neo-psychedelic rock’n’roll from a well-connected new Los Angeles band. Don’t miss the opening notes–they may sound like a throw-away electronic bangle but there’s a lot going on here. First of all, listen to the sound itself: it’s a strange and wonderful blending of a plucked string and a retro-future-y sort of synthesizer-static noise. Very cool. And even cooler that the octave interval the noise describes is seamlessly incorporated into the open-chorded introduction, and again later in the song. Turns out this bit is one of many engaging and sophisticated production touches you’ll hear here. And guess why? Autolux was signed to DMZ Records, a label co-created by T Bone Burnett and movie makers Joel and Ethan Coen; Burnett is the producer here. Great to hear a gifted (older) hand at the dials for a new band–I think there are bountiful synergies to be encountered via such couplings; too bad the mechanics and economics of the music world don’t often allow it. The song comes from the band’s debut CD, Future Perfect, released in October; the MP3 is available on Insound. (There is no direct link available, so you can’t hear it, but the MP3 is still on Insound for downloading if you click on the song title.)

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