This Week’s Finds: Nov. 13-19 (Kids These Days, The A-Sides, Tapes ‘n Tapes)

“Intoxicated” – Kids These Days

Wow: an instantly appealing song that proceeds to unfold in unanticipated ways. The chimey double guitar lines in the introduction lay out an initial melody both simple and memorable, playing as it does with the ever-engaging fourth interval. (Fourths tend to keep the ear in a satisfying state of suspension, you see.) I like also how in the introduction the intervals are not expressed cleanly, but are scuffed up with well-placed dissonances between the twin guitars. When the singing starts, the verse first affirms the melody (already sounding like an old friend) then glides into the effortless chorus; I love the effect of having the lyrics come up shorter than the musical line, leaving an instrumental measure that’s just as much a part of the chorus as the words. And then, after two rounds of that, the song shifts–the rhythm section becomes itchier and lead singer Marc Morrissette explores the higher end of his range, giving the second half of the song an unexpectedly effective Radiohead-ian vibe. Kids These Days are a five-man band (all five write songs, apparently) from Vancouver; “Intoxicated” is a track from the band’s debut CD, All These Interruptions, released this past spring in Canada on White Whale Records. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.

“Sidewalk Chalk” – the A-Sides

I like how the garagey stomp that opens this song is incorporated into a shimmeringly upbeat bit of neo-power pop–it sounds cool, and also encapsulates this Philadelphia band’s approach, which seems to draw simultaneously from two divergent ’60s sounds: garage-rock psychedelia (think Nuggets) on the one hand, glistening orchestral pop (think Pet Sounds) on the other. The interesting result of this particular blend is how much more emerges in the sound beyond mere revival of the A-Sides’ seemingly obvious, and admirable, influences (Kinks, Who, Beach Boys). Tuning more carefully in to the song’s various charms–including a smiley descending melody and some great guitar interplay (Beatley lines contrasting with psychedelic howling)–I sensed the influences and confluences multiply. Now I’m hearing Robyn Hitchcock, I’m hearing XTC, I’m even hearing the Strokes–and I begin to realize how it’s really the band’s own spirit and musical capacities that I’m hearing most of all. While some rock’n’roll has appeared on the scene as if from another dimension entirely, most of the best stuff over the years is neither more nor less than a skillful distillation of previously available ideas. Picking out influences can be fun and instructive if the point is to understand a piece of music in a broader context; when influence-spotting becomes a reductive game (as it, sadly, does quite frequently with online music criticism), then this usually says more about the writer than the musician. “Sidewalk Chalk” is the lead track on the A-Sides’ debut full-length CD, Hello, Hello, released in May on Prison Jazz Records. The MP3 is available via the band’s site.

“Cowbell” – Tapes ‘n Tapes

Cross They Might Be Giants with Pere Ubu and here you are. This is two and a half minutes of continuously strange, mysteriously catchy avant-pop. Driven by a rubbery bass, twitchy acoustic guitar, and slightly strangled vocals, “Cowbell” threw its first verse by me so quickly I didn’t realize exactly what I was listening to, and then the chorus started and I really didn’t know what I was listening to but I was completely hooked: the off-beat, villainous-sounding, sing-along melody is too cool for its own good. Tapes ‘n Tapes is a Minneapolis threesome that’s been around since 2003, if the band’s web site can be believed, which it doesn’t look like it should be. “Cowbell” comes from the band’s first CD, The Loon, just released on Ibid Records. You’ll find the MP3 on band’s site.

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