“This Life” – La Rocca
A comfy stomp of a piano riff leads, brain-buzzingly, into a song as brash as it is cheerful, as expansive as it is, also, introspective. This young Irish band will bring some inevitable early-U2 comparisons, both for the country of origin and for singer/guitartist Bjorn Baillie’s semi-resemblance to a young Bono. But the comparison doesn’t hold for long, to my ears. There’s some deep-seated, rather un-U2-like awareness of down-and-dirty classic rock suffusing the groove these guys lay down here, to begin with. And anyway, this quartet isn’t quite so Irish as all that—one of them is from England, they started playing together in Cardiff (in Wales, you know), and have actually been living in L.A. for a while now. “This Life” is a track from the band’s debut full-length CD, The Truth, due out in August on Danger Bird Records. The MP3 is courtesy of the Danger Bird site.
“Too Much Space” – Lisa Germano
With its sad, rich, reversing arpeggios, “Too Much Space” has the beautiful-doleful vibe of one of Tom Waits’ ballads-gone-awry. Germano’s voice of course is far prettier than his (whose isn’t?), but she’s got a deep ache in it as well, and offers idiosyncratic touches that give the proceedings a Waitsian sense of the off-kilter. Her evocative violin adds one mournful flavor; the feedbacky guitars that enter in the second half of the song—screaming like disintegrating aliens during certain moments—add another perhaps less expected one. Having written personally, almost uncomfortably, about love and addiction on previous albums, Germano is apparently tackling death this time around, on her wonderfully-titled In the Maybe World CD, to be released next week on Young God Records. She’s traveled a long and winding road since her commercial heyday as John Mellencamp’s violinist, but it seems one of her own choosing and I for one hang on her every word at this point. The MP3 is available via the Young God web site. Many thanks to the sabas.jud.as blog for the head’s up.
Probably not enough rock songs begin with a strumming ukelele. And that’s not nearly the most charming/unexpected instrumental flourish in Beirut’s bag of tricks. You get horns, you get tambourines, you get a brisk two-step rhythm, you get appealingly old-fashioned melodies, and best of all you get singer/mastermind Zach Condon, all of 20 years old (actually 19 when he recorded this), sounding for all the world like a cross between Rudy Vallee and Morrissey. So, yes, it’s kind of another one-man-band thing, but Condon first of all believes solidly in organic instruments (no laptop rock for him), and he also believes in recruiting talent—Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeremy Barnes, most notably, who offers up a serious hodgepodge of old-country percussion, crucial to the endearingly Eastern European sound Condon has almost inexplicably concocted. Condon is from Albuquerque and now lives in Brooklyn; he left college after one day and went instead to live in Europe. In Amsterdam he was accidentally exposed to Balkan brass music (it’s a long story) and the rest is now indie-pop musical history. “Postcards From Italy,” careening around the blogosphere since the spring, is a track off Beirut’s debut CD, Gulag Orkestar, released in May on Ba Da Bing! Records. The MP3 is available via the band’s site.