“Down the Other Side” – Annie Gallup
Annie Gallup is a fierce writer, a teller of ravishing, compact stories, as funny and sensual as she is literate and subtle, and a vibrant peformer, with an idiosyncratic but immediately accessible, deeply expressive way of kind-of-talking, kind-of-singing her songs. While it’s easy to keep all the emphasis on the words and their delivery (and too readily pigeonhole her as some sort of neo-beatnik folksinger), I am continually impressed by the music as well, which seems at once casually created and intensely crafted, at once sparse and rich; and she may not get too loud but without question she rocks. “Down the Other Side,” for instance, has a swampy, seductive beat and some inspired electric guitar playing, even as the instrumentation is so spare that some of the percussion, it seems, is done by mouth. And yet it’s true that with Gallup, we’re never too far from the lyrics, like these: “Red-tailed hawk and a small white cross/ High on the Great Divide/ Drive on by until the tears I cry/ Roll down the other side”: yikes, to explicate them further takes away their breathtaking poetry. She is the real thing, yet also the single most mysteriously overlooked singer/songwriter I’ve probably ever come across. Swerve, her magnificent 2001 CD, came and went without a trace—I discovered it only as it called to me from the corner of my local library where they sell used books and, occasionally, CDs. Finally she has a follow-up—Pearl Street, her fifth, released on Fifty Fifty Music, oh, in April. (I hadn’t heard.) This is where “Down the Other Side” is from.
(The MP3 is hosted on the Fifty Fifty site.) I just checked and found it was (no joke) the 97,854th best-selling CD on Amazon, where all five CDs of hers have now received a total of 7 reviews, at least two by the same person (a friend of hers, apparently). The world isn’t fair, I know, but sometimes it really really isn’t fair.
“Plan To Stay Awake” – the Deathray Davies
Compress “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” into two minutes and five seconds and here we are, listening to the latest fuzzy blast of power pop from the Dallas outfit named after the storied leader of the Kinks. This is as straightforward a rock song as can be imagined—a hurried tumble of words in the verse, a two-line, sing-along chorus repeating the title twice—yet it positively bristles with spirit and panache, proving yet again that the true power of music is suggested but never completely encompassed by its concrete components. Much like life itself, if I may broaden the metaphor. The Deathray Davies were born in the late ’90s as the jokey stage name under which John Dufilho performed solo material that he couldn’t use with Bedwetter, the band he was in at the time. He wrote, sang, and played everything himself on the first Deathray Davies CD in 1999. Dufilho is still the writer and singer but by the third CD in 2002, the Deathray Davies had morphed into an actual band. “Plan to Stay Awake” is from the The Kick and the Snare, released in May on Glurp Records.
The MP3 is available via the Glurp site.
“Rotten Love” – Levy
A languid sort of majesty propels this oddly affecting song. Everything seems encased in an echoey, mournful blanket, from singer/guitarist James Levy’s forlorn voice to the soft, chiming synthesizer lines and, even, the ringing wall of guitar that never quite blazes through to the forefront. Nothing, in fact, seems quite to burst through, even as the song moves at a steady clip; when all is said and done, lyrics about smelling the rotten love are perhaps best heard cushioned by the aforementioned mournful blanket. Levy is a NYC-based quartet that’s been gathering an enthusiastic following since its founding in 2003; for the record, the band is intent on using all upper-case letters for its name but as luck would have it Fingertips usage policy (see web page yet to be written) forbids such silliness. “Rotten Love” was the title track on the band’s self-released debut in 2004 and will again be when Rotten Love is released in somewhat different form later this summer by the U.K. label One Little Indian.
The MP3 is available via the band’s site.