“Idiocy” – the Double
Psychoanalyze this if you must, but I’m a sucker for weirdness contained within some semblance of normalcy. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, for one thing–it’s much easier simply to be weird, or normal. And boy do our black-and-white assumptions about what is “normal” after all need a continual technicolor tweak. This is one reason why I love the new “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” movie so much, and it’s a good part of why I love this squawking piece of skewed but peppy pop from the Brooklyn-based foursome known as the Double. What on earth is guitarist Donald Beaman up to, first of all?: after a spacey intro dissolves into feedback, he draws the feedback out into the entire song, playing along without playing along at all, not in the wrong key (feedback doesn’t really come in a particular key) as much as in another aural space entirely. The effect is fascinating, especially as vocalist David Greenhill (prone to the occasional odd whoop himself) romps along as if he’s got a normal rock band behind him. He doesn’t; beyond Beaman’s subversive slashing, he’s got a keyboard player (Jacob Morris) with his own sort of weird distortion going, pumping a muffled, organ-like sound into the mix, often via happy, beat-skipping blurts. Check out the clearing created when Beaman abruptly leaves the scene at 1:22 for about a half a minute (not counting one four-second feedbacky smudge at around 1:34). Did he need a rest? A drink of water? No worries, he’s back with an indescribable vengeance for the song’s abrupt conclusion. Weird. But not. “Idiocy” is the first song made available from the band’s Matador Records debut, Loose in the Air, scheduled for release in September.
The MP3 is available via the Matador site.
“War On Sound” – Moonbabies
Back to Sweden we go, and back to the duo Moonbabies (whose song “Sun A.M.” was a previous TWF pick). Multi-instrumentalist/vocalists Ola Frick and Carina Johannason have a happy facility with a variety of pop languages (including but not limited to electronica, folk rock, and power pop) and a carefree touch in the studio. I like for instance how the martial drumbeat of the introduction, matched against a buzzing sort of keyboard, is augmented (and humanized) by the prominently-mixed in-breaths from (I think) both singers which launch every other measure. The song strips back, sonically, for the verse, with Frick singing, in Beck-like tones, against a fidgety electronic beat, Johannson harmonizing dreamily in the background. Everything ultimately is a set-up for the glistening chorus, a brisk yet soothing shot of melody, harmony, and comforting keyboard riff where cliches are forgiven (“It’ll be all right”) as great chords glide by. Listen in particular to where we end up when Frick sings “where everything’s passing by”–how the chord shifts as the word “by” is extended: live in that moment and everything is always wonderful. “War On Sound” is the title track to an eight-song “mini-album” to be released next week on Hidden Agenda Records.
The MP3 is available via Parasol Records, which is Hidden Agenda’s parent label; thanks to Pitchfork for the pointer.
“Friend to J.C.” – Mary Timony
Hailed in the ’90s as part of the D.C.-based trio Helium, which trafficked in the indelible sub-genre known as “noise pop,” Mary Timony veered in a quieter, quasi-medieval direction on two early-’00s solo CDs that puzzled some of her fans and exasperated her record company (the aforementioned Matador, as a matter of fact). Whatever the merits of her musical sidetrack, she decided a return to a harder sound was in order for her latest CD, Ex Hex, which was released–without a whole lot of fanfare–in April on Lookout Records. “Friend to J.C.,” the album’s second track, is an off-beat but rewarding piece of Liz Phair-ish indie-singer-songwriter-rock. A chiming guitar riff (backed by chimes, just for kicks) forms the song’s sort-of-center, but Timony is too idiosyncratic a songwriter to let anything feel settled or familiar. And that strikes me as central to her appeal: like a foreign film in which you’re never sure exactly where the story is going next, “Friend to J.C.” unfolds in its own, unformulaic manner. The closest thing here to a chorus is a section anchored by a series of four chords that seem not exactly to match the pitch of her voice–which somehow or other seems to be its own odd sort of hook.
The MP3 is available via both her site and the Lookout site.