“23” – Blonde Redhead
A ravishing combination of guitar noise and melody. I’m a sucker for the combination of guitar noise and melody, particularly when the melody comes, as here, via a breathy, difficult to decipher soprano. Kazu Makino may as well be singing in Serbo-Croatian for all I can understand her; the only thing I’m picking up is that she’s actually saying “two-three” rather than “twenty-three” (so, no, no tie-in to the Jim Carrey movie; just an unexplained coincidence! bwa-ha-ha!). And let me get more specific about the guitar noise, because it’s a particular kind, the kind where the chords just seem to melt or bend continually into one another; the guitar is played (via a pedal of some kind?) more like a keyboard, with a sustained tone rather than in discrete strums of any kind. (Ah, note how the song is introduced by a few keyboard chords. Another unexplained coincidence?) I invite you to go back and listen to the entire song and try only to hear the guitar rather than the singer. It’s almost mind-blowing. Blonde Redhead is an intriguing, international, NYC-based trio–Makino’s from Japan; her bandmates are twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace, from Italy. “23” is the title track to Blonde Redhead’s forthcoming CD, the band’s seventh, scheduled for release in April on 4AD Records.
The MP3 is available via Spinner, the AOL Indie Music Blog.
“Hard Line” – Jill Barber
Anything this sharp and snappy is pleasant enough to listen to from the get-go, but for me what renders it memorable is Barber’s voice. Just a quarter step away from a twang, Barber may sound somewhat like Nanci Griffith, and maybe also somewhat like one of the McGarrigle sisters, or both of them, but the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based singer/songwriter is truly her own singular self. In a way, the snappy vibe is almost a distraction–I get caught up bobbing my head and tapping my toe and I don’t really listen, much the way one gets caught up in daily living and forget, for days on end, simply, to be. And yet, of course, the paradox is one needs the form to give rise to the essence. So I wouldn’t trade the snappy vibe here for anything. And I keep listening, keep trying to sink fully into this indescribably rich and playful and sweet and knowing voice, even while bobbing my head and tapping my toe to a song that acquires a deep and meaningful momentum underneath the peppiness as it unfolds. “Hard Line” comes from Barber’s second CD For All Time, which was released last year in Canada on Outside Music.
The MP3s is available via SXSW, one of the hundreds of new free and legal MP3s recently posted there for the 2007 festival.
“You! Me! Dancing!” – Los Campesinos!
This song’s almost excruciatingly slow build is completely worth it when the payoff arrives: the itchy, catchy, joyful guitar riff that announces the true beginning of the song (well over one minute after it actually starts) and propels us giddily through the rest of it. There is, however, way more to “You! Me! Dancing!” than fun guitar work, and exclamation points; Los Campesinos! are a seven-piece band from Cardiff with a no-holds-barred instrumental sensibility–glockenspiel (that’s the tinkly xylophone-like sound) and melody horn (a type of melodica) are both prominently featured among the free-spirited mix. And talk about free spirits: all seven members of the band have taken on the last name Campesinos! (with punctuation). Thickly accented lead vocalist Tom Campesinos! upends rock history with his unexpectedly endearing persona. In the past, a thick British accent has been all about punk posturing. Here it’s just a guy who’s not sure about his dancing ability. “You! Me! Dancing!” is a song from the band’s self-released EP Hold On Now Youngster, which came out last year; the MP3 is via the BBC (and hm I have to investigate the BBC music sites more carefully; could be a good source of free and legal music). Signed to the British label Wichita Recordings towards the end of ’06, the band’s first label release, a seven-inch single called “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives,” came out this week in the U.K.