There are certain sorts of on-and-off-pitch voices that are so immediately friendly and unassuming that they welcome you in like an old friend handing you a beer. Andy Graham has one of those voices. Then again, this entire song is kind of like an old friend handing you a beer, most of all the loose-limbed, sing-along chorus, featuring four of the English language’s finest words—“Glorious/ Triumphant/ Optimistic/ Transcendent”—woven together with spot-on pedal steel accents. Like Doris Henson, A. Graham and the Moment Band are another endearing, worthy band from Kansas City, Kansas. “Glorious” is the lead track on the band’s 2004 CD This Tyrant is Free, released on Sonic Unyon Records. The MP3 is available via Lawrence.com, one of the better (if also unassuming) local/regional music resources on the web.
“Heavy Packer” – Amy Miles
Alternating tense, sparse verses with a spacious, gorgeous chorus, the NYC-based singer/songwriter Amy Miles here channels Martha Davis (remember the Motels? anyone?) to great effect. I find it relatively easy to lose patience with slow-building songs, but Miles holds my interest through the simmering opening minute and a half, with its ominous beat, evocative lyrics, and knowing touches—listen to the way the drum stutters on the fourth beat of every fourth measure, and how a deep synthesizer augments the staccato base line with a sustained series of almost below ear level notes. When the song arrives at the chorus—melody now slowed by half, showing Miles’ voice off at its prettiest–the effect is glistening. Don’t miss the elastic guitar accents underneath, without which the song would not have soared nearly as high. “Heavy Packer” comes from Miles’ second CD, Noble Hatch, released in March on the Pcoop label, via Redeye Distribution. Noble Hatch, by the way, was the actual name of a boy Miles had a crush on in sixth grade in Arkansas; the album apparently reflects repeatedly back on that broken-hearted period of her young life.
“August Morning Haze” – Oneida
Like some strange psychedelic nugget from the ’60s, “August Morning Haze” opens with a prickly, vaguely Near Eastern guitar line. In comes a sitar—no, wait, it’s a banjo. Who’d have thought. Together they jangle towards an unexpected and quite satisfying harmonic resolution before veering off into the first verse. The words march out in precise, repeated rhythm (ONE-two ONE-two; I looked it up—it’s trochaic tetrameter, I think), a tumble of landscape and nature images that hypnotize me entirely. I’m trying and I can’t focus on their concrete meaning, and then, wow, there are those wonderful, resolving chords again. Instruments are brought in and out with wondrous subtlety—some strings here, an accordion there, all in service of the relentless trochees. “Pictures of Matchstick Men” meets XTC’s Skylarking, if you squint a little. The song is the final track on Oneida’s new CD, The Wedding, released last week on Jagjaguwar Records in the U.S., Three Gut Records in Canada.
The MP3 is hosted on the Three Gut web site. Largehearted Boy pointed the way.