This Week’s Finds: December 3-9 (Megan Palmer, A Passing Feeling, Maia Hirasawa)

“Angelo” – Megan Palmer

Smart piano-based pop that puts me in the mind of Jonatha Brooke both for its savvy songwriting—this thing has both bounce and venom—and for Palmer’s vocal style; she sings with something of Brooke’s timbre and sometimes crack-voiced phrasing, without at all sounding like a knock-off. Palmer is a violinist, of all things, and her instrument adds a nice depth to the unfolding of the song—listen for instance to its role in the instrumental part of the bridge that begins at 1:29. The violin is typically an ensemble instrument, whether playing in classical, country, or (occasionally) rock, and it strikes me that violinists may therefore have a leg up when it comes to knowing how to blend instruments into a cohesive whole. In any case, Palmer does a great job of that here, using the piano, violin, electric guitar, and percussion with great aplomb. One nice example is how the song emerges from the bridge at around 2:10: first a chime plays a lazy three-note melody (I kept thinking the doorbell was ringing when I initially heard that), out of which the violin emerges, slurring in with an answering couple of notes, underneath which the guitar then plays its own little dancey variation. It’s a small but indicative moment in a song that’s both immediately appealing and satisfyingly substantive. “Angelo” is a song from Palmer’s debut CD, Forget Me Not, which was released this summer on tiny Sunken Treasure Records. The MP3 is available via her site.

“Red Gold” – A Passing Feeling

This is one of those “you had me at the intro” songs: the ringing chords, hinting at but not quite utilizing dissonance and/or feedback, and so carefully placed in that universally appealing 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3 pattern—but actually no, they extend past the “obvious” resolution with chord number seven of the progression and manage to re-resolve with an additional, eighth chord. This NYC-based quartet will hang the entire song upon this series of nicely articulated chords and it works because of what it sounds like when Brian Miltenberg starts spitting out the words: it sounds like his life depends upon every syllable. And I do mean spitting: he rivals Joe Strummer as the rock vocalist who for me most easily conjures visions of sweat and saliva hitting the microphone with each lyrical declaration. (This is a compliment by the way.) A Passing Feeling had a Fingertips Top 10 song earlier this year with “Book of Matches,” from their debut EP. Now they have a debut full-length CD called We Might Not Sleep At All This Year, which was released in November on 75 or Less Records. That’s where you’ll find “Red Gold”; the MP3 is up on the 75 or Less site.

“Roselin” – Maia Hirasawa

We’re back to the piano but this one is so charming and exquisite I needed to put it in the mix this week, figuring that separating the two songs with that blast of melodic indie-punk will kind of cleanse your palette. And in any case I can surely use the beauty right here and now, breathing it into me like a supple, restorative wine. “Roselin” starts daintily enough, heading almost but not quite towards preciousness, but right away with a great melodic sensibility. And I’ll tell you where it just slays me—mainlining the beauty part right here—is in the chorus, which has as winsome and plaintive a melody as I’ve heard in a long time: notes that sound ancient and familiar and fresh and coy; as a bonus (for me, anyway) it’s got a touch of early Jane Siberry about it, adding to the depth and charm. When she sings “Don’t know what I should do/What I should get”—ahhh. Just that: ahhhh (more h’s are useful). She even sings the “ahhh” for us right at that point: how convenient. Maia Hirasawa is a half-Swedish, half-Japanese musician who sings in English in Stockholm with an unplaceable accent; “Roselin” is from her self-released EP entitled My New Friend, which came out back in April (and is now sold out). The MP3 is available via the really impressive, information-packed blog It’s a Trap, which is devoted to Scandanavian music. Thanks to Avi over there for permission to link, and thanks too to Hedvika at the great Getecho blog for the original lead. Hirasawa by the way was recently since signed to the Stockholm-based Razzia Records and will have a full-length debut available in March 2007.

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