This Week’s Finds: May 21-27 (The Little Ones, Our Lady of Bells, 1888)

In honor of Memorial Day here in the U.S., and honoring too a personal need to take some space and regroup a bit, there will be no weekly update next week (the week of May 28-June 3). The site will be up and running as of May 29 but I will use the week to tend to many things that need tending, taking the week off from the three-song update. The next “This Week’s Finds” update will appear on Sunday, June 4. Be sure to keep visiting for other updates and news!

“Lovers Who Uncover” – the Little Ones

The introduction is all I need with this one: the ascending, slightly distorted ringing guitar doing that fast alternating one-two rhythm thing–well, just forget the description, I’ve already mutilated the pop beauty of it all. And, sure, it’s simple stuff at its core, three adjacent notes, just me-fa-sol in disguise, but they ring out an eternal truth, and if you’re a high-quality pop junkie you know transcendence when you hear it. So okay yeah then there’s more to the song than the introduction of course, and the next thing I love to death are the vocals. I don’t really know who’s doing what, the Little Ones being an L.A. band that doesn’t relinquish a lot of personal information, but whoever is singing has that keening high-register voice that sounds full of substance, like a lower voice, rather than airy and irresolute, like many falsettos do. And what, class, is the most unusual thing going on in this shiny happy little number? There’s no chorus to speak of. Go figure: power pop with a killer verse, not a killer chorus. Who’d have thought? “Lovers Who Uncover” is a song from the band’s self-released debut EP; the MP3 is available via the band’s site. Thanks to Bruce at Some Velvet Blog for the lead.

“With My Eyes” – Our Lady of Bells

Another great intro, this one beginning with an acoustic guitar picking out alternately major and minor chords in three-quarter time, soon to be joined by what sounds like both an electric guitar and a bass, each plucking incomplete phrases in musical proximity, setting a subtly tense stage for a really nice lead guitar line, chiming out its syncopated theme with bittersweet majesty. Guitarist and songwriter Jules Gimbrone sings with an air of regret and entirely without pretense, letting the strength of the timeless, sea-charged melody pull us along, rough spots in her singing voice be damned. Her singing is but a part of an air of unpolishedness that hard-nosed lo-fi folks may actually see as a positive; I tend not to in general, but the material is compelling enough to keep me with it–the song acquires a weary and quite beautiful momentum as it rolls along. I suspect the group has much to offer moving forward. Based in Northampton, Massachusetts, Our Lady of Bells began in 2004 as a duo and has added three members along the way. “With My Eyes” can be found on the band’s first full-length CD, Forgetting the Way Home, released earlier this month. The MP3 is via the band’s site.

“Mountain” – 1888

So it’s cool introduction week, it seems. Check this one out: all beats and twitches, but as I listen it manages to sound, somehow, like electronica done by hand, with organic instruments. (It may not be, but the itchy, clicky vibe has a particularly hand-hewn quality.) We are thereby led into a song that presents, to my ears, one of the most intriguing uses I’ve heard of electronica-style beats and/or samples in a song that really doesn’t sound like electronica at all. On top of a precise blend of well-placed tweets and twiddles and buzzings is crafted something else entirely, although I’m not exactly sure what this something else is. The ultimate impression is the kind of sonic deconstruction that brings Wilco to mind, even though this doesn’t really sound much like Wilco either. Check out that lugubrious organ coloring the deep end; and as for singer/songwriter Brad Rosenberg, there’s nothing remotely techno about him–he sounds like a guy from a rock band who doesn’t understand something that happened to him (like many guys in rock bands). Hailing from Norfolk, Virginia, 1888 was almost a collective rather than a band in its early days (late ’90s), with a rotating series of players coming and going as required, as the spirit moved, to record in the studio. Solidifying as a quartet to hit the road as a live act, the band now plans to release its first full-length CD later this year; “Mountain” is originally from an EP released in 2003 called Panda. The MP3 is up on the band’s site.

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