Muscular and precise, this song is driven by a snare-less drumbeat and an itchy, energetic low-register guitar line. This is right away a wonderful thing, as rock’n’roll history is pockmarked by guitarists who tend to wail unaccountably in the upper register. But listen to how compelling and grounded and unpredictable the instrument sounds when the guitarist keeps his or her fingers up at the top of the neck. Singer/guitarist Aaron Robinson’s urgent—but, also, not too high—voice adds to the tension and drive; he has the nervous edge of a David Byrne or Adrian Belew while staying largely out of their sort of upper-register singing. Robinson actually reminds me of Gary Clark, lead singer of the by now obscure Scottish band Danny Wilson (they had a hit in the ’80s with the song “Mary’s Prayer”); there is something reminiscent of the Blue Nile in Imaginary Baseball League as well–perhaps they have an affinity for Scottish rock bands. I for one wouldn’t have expected it from a four-man band from the Nashville area, but clearly there’s more to the music scene down there than the Grand Ole Opry. “Fat Boys Are Not Athletes” comes from Imaginary Baseball League’s self-released 2004 CD Revive; you’ll find the MP3 on the group’s web site. Thanks to visitor Ben for the suggestion.
“Walking in the Air” – Seachange
A reverberant dream of a song, “Walking in the Air” sweeps me in and slows me down; it seems literally to require the listener to meet it on its own, decelerated terms. Using echoey synthesizers, aching minor chords, subtly shifting time signatures, and inventive production, Seachange succeeds in the more-difficult-than-it-seems task of creating real drama in a soft and langorous aural environment. The one-minute, ten-second introduction is itself a marvel of slowed-down luminosity; by the time the violin emerges from the background to add a sad, clean note over the gathering rumble, I feel my heart rate has already been slowed, my breathing deeper and more mindful. Singer/violinist Johanna Woodnutt’s breath-filled soprano, singing largely indecipherable words, seems the ideal addition to the half-folk, half-psychedelic ambiance; what else, after all, could this song be called but “Walking in the Air”? Seachange is a six-piece band from Nottingham, England; the song, apparently not otherwise released yet,
is available as a Christmas present on the band’s web site. Thanks to the ever-vigilant Largehearted Boy for the tip.
The Pretenders meet the Gang of Four via Public Image Ltd. Or something like that. In any case, this Toronto-based quintet has definitely found inspiration in some of the post-punk music of the late ’70s and early ’80s. But these guys seem to want more than anarchy or dissonance with their dancebeat; both in terms of melody and structure, “Silent Seven” is disarmingly well-crafted, unfolding with a simmering sense of grandeur. Funny, here’s another song with a minute-long introduction, but how different the vibe than with the Seachange song. And here’s another group with a nervous-edged vocalist, but here we have the exotic and powerful Nirmala Basnayake evoking Chrissie Hynde rather than David Byrne. As with many songs that I end up writing about, “Silent Seven” is another that delivers all the way through, rather than coasting towards a finish–note in this case the guitar chords that ring out, rhythmically, at around 3:45, and the nifty, satisfying change the instrument glides into at 3:50. This with the song nearly over. “Silent Seven” is the third track on an EP called History, the band’s first recording, which was released in 2004 on Paper Bag Records. You’ll find the MP3 on the band’s web site.