“Boys and Children (Sing for Summer)” – Those Transatlantics
This song makes me happy–a bright blue flowering tree smell sort of silly happy, to be somewhat specific, while rather vague at the same time. What begins as a clean-cut sort of dreamy-jangly-sing-song-y pop song evolves through almost five minutes into an unexpectedly satisfying if goofy aural adventure. Anchored in the crisp, airy, layered vocals of Kathleen Bracken, “Boys and Children” chimes along sweetly for two full minutes, keeping the listener suspended in a what’s-going-to-happen-next state of awareness before a fluttery fadeout brings us smack into a jaunty time change, as Bracken starts a fetching sort of call-and-response section with herself. Early Jane Siberry comes to mind, not only because of Bracken’s vocal resemblance to Queen Jane but because of how the band as a whole combines playfulness with a resilient musical assuredness. Forty seconds later we fade again, only to revisit the opening melody, joyously re-set with a glistening new beat, underscored by happy keyboard riffs. And then the final payoff–a return to the call-and-response section, but now keyboard player Chris Hatfield joins in and addresses Bracken directly; the song ends with a goofy discussion of the song itself, set to music. Fun. Hailing from the funky central Michigan college town of Mt. Pleasant, Those Transatlantics were founded in 2003 and have two EPs out to date. “Boys and Children” appears to be a new song; the MP3 comes from the band’s web site.
“Fudgicle” – the Lovely Feathers
Many are now aware that Canada is all but flooding us with high-quality 21st-century rock’n’roll, but I don’t think we all know about this Montreal quintet with the odd name and a penchant for tight, punchy, somewhat off-kilter music. My goodness, just listen to the opening chords: it’s a simple riff but it bursts with a substance and spirit that transcends the notes being crunched out. The Lovely Feathers feature a pair of twitchy vocalists, Mark Kupfert and Richard Yanofsky, both of whom waver between reined-in tunefulness and wigged-out Pere Ubu-ishness, but I’m with them all the way because of a wonderful recurring motif that appears, almost out of the blue, forty seconds in–a thorny guitar melody set off against a majestic, new-wave-ish synthesizer. How this arises and weaves into the confident drive of this urgent song speaks to me of a band that really knows what it’s doing. On the other hand, what the hell are they singing about? Your guess is, probably, better than mine. “Fudgicle” is a song off the band’s debut CD, My Best Friend Daniel, released in 2004 on a label called Love Your Diary; the MP3 is available via the band’s site.
“What Happened to the Sands” – Pas/Cal
Detroit’s answer to Belle and Sebastian, if Stuart Murdoch had a love-hate relationship with Brian Wilson. Smooth and peppy on the surface, this song offers an outpouring of sonic treats, from appealing melodies and spiffy chord changes to spacious drum beats, falsetto harmonies, and sleighbell accents, wrapped up in a listenable but mystifying structure. The time changes 40 seconds in and never changes back, and there seems to be neither a chorus nor, in fact, any discernible verses. And yet somehow it still feels very much like a song, which strikes me as both an interesting effect and a worthy accomplishment. “What Happened to the Sands” can be found on the band’s second EP, entitled Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous, released in March 2004 by Le Grand Magistery. A full-length CD is apparently in the works. The MP3 arrives courtesy of band’s site.