“Hey Now Now” – the Cloud Room
Cross the Strokes with New Order and they might come out sounding like this, if the lead singer were Richard Butler’s first cousin (Butler being the lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs). Whether the titular nod to OutKast’s monster “Hey Ya” is intentional, there’s something of that song’s relentless infectiousness at play here, funneled through a downtown NYC sound, all rumbly drumbeats, Farfisa-like keyboards, and prickly, surf-style guitars. I imagine if you were to hear this song live in a club you wouldn’t stop bouncing around for a good few days, and I’m tempted to think we could all use that sort of vibe right about now. Not to be confused with the wonderful Laura Veirs song of the same name, the Cloud Room is a New York-based foursome featuring a guy named J on vocals and guitar, just so you know. “Hey Now Now” will be found on the band’s self-titled debut CD, scheduled for release on Gigantic Music on April 19th.
I’m not sure when I’ve heard such a diverse, unexpected, and yet disconcertingly organic 20 seconds of music as can be found towards the end of the introductory section of this curiously titled song from the idiosyncratic Mr. Bird. After an echoey electronic burst, the song begins with voice and acoustic guitar, the singer providing a clear if rather wacky introduction to the subject at hand, and then, around 45 seconds into it, comes this marvelous 20-second stretch: a violin takes over, changes key at least twice without playing many notes, then (somehow) hands it off seamlessly to an electric guitar; said guitar issues an assured couple of strums before giving way to what sounds like a ghostly synthesizer, accompanied by some Beatle-like string punctuations. But hold on, this “synthesizer” is Bird himself, whistling. He’s an expert whistler, it seems, in addition to being a classically trained violinist. This song is so hard to describe and yet so craftily put together that I seem only to be able to talk about short stretches of it. Another great one happens at around 1:45, at the end of the verse; here, Bird breaks off, nearly a capella, and modulates himself through a captivating series of chord changes, leading into the chorus, from whence cometh the title. I have a feeling many listens are required to have this all coalesce meaningfully, and I have no doubt that those listens will be rewarded. This song can be found on Bird’s latest CD, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, which was released in February on Righteous Babe Records. The MP3 can be found on Bird’s web site.
“So Begins Our Alabee” – Of Montreal
This is another unusually put together song, but in quite a different way than “Nervous Tic.” Opening like the Beach Boys on Ecstasy, “So Begins Our Alabee” flits through a number of different electronic and guitar sounds in its extended introduction before settling on a driving beat that sets up a very simple but undeniably catchy vocal section. Singer/guitarist Kevin Barnes bears a happy aural resemblance to Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame, and sings with the same elastic bounce in his throat; even though he ends up repeating the same melody line over and over in lieu of any real chorus or verse structure, he does so with such engaging energy, surrounds himself with gleeful harmonies, and leaves off with a memorable lyric (“Girl I never want to be your little friendly abject failure”) that it all seems to work somehow. Of Montreal is actually not; rather than being another cool band from Canada, they are another cool band from Athens, Georgia, emerging in 1997 out of the so-called Elephant 6 collective–and no, I can never quite get my arms around what a “collective” actually is, but no doubt it’s a generational difficulty on my part; at some point in the ’90s bands started having this loose, shape-shift-y way of “emerging” from “collectives.” I do know that “So Begins Our Alabee” is a song from the band’s new CD, The Sunlandic Twins, to be released on Polyvinyl Records on April 12th.
The MP3 is on the Polyvinyl web site.