This Week’s Finds: March 11-17 (WinterKids, Wilco, Sara Culler)

“Tape It” – WinterKids

Perky British pop with that brilliant blend of polish and DIY-ishness that so often characterizes, well, music that I think is brilliant. Beyond the simple but delightful opening guitar line, one of the things that caught my attention early on here was that 10-second instrumental break from 0:30 to 0:40—not only is that an unusual place to have an instrumental break, listen to what it sounds like: the sing-songy glockenspiel (or some such xylophone-like thing) on top, the dissonant rhythm guitar below. Fun. Also, not a couple weeks after noting how the Los Campesinos! singer uses a heavy British accent, unusually, in a non-punk lyrical setting, here we have James Snider doing the same thing at the head of this Surrey-based quintet. A 21st-century trend? This time the song seems basically to be about remembering (or not remembering?) to tape an episode of a favorite TV show. Oh, and don’t miss that deeply satisfying chord in the chorus on the word “leave” in the phrase “leave it in”—you can hear it first at 1:02. I’ve got nothing to add, just listen. “Tape It” was released by the band as a single last year and is due out on WinterKids’ first full-length CD, entitled Memoirs, scheduled for release in the U.K. this week on Little House Records. The MP3 is available via the band’s site.

“What Light” – Wilco

Relaxed, quirky, comfy, slightly odd, oddly elusive: yup, it’s Wilco all right. It starts off with unusual clarity—upbeat strummy guitar, and is that a straightforward steel guitar, after all these years?; and these words: “If you feel like singing a song/ And you want other people to sing along/ Just sing what you feel/ Don’t let anyone say it’s wrong.” As I think about it, this is not a bad way to approach music in the internet age, when there are always plenty of people, fingers ever poised above their oily keyboards, ready at a moment’s notice, 24/7, to say it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Because of course what counts is not being right or good or authentic or generous but being first. (The first song I heard from this yet-to-be-released Wilco CD was posted—illegally! boo!—on a blog where one of the first comments on the post was: “A ghost is bored.” Been waiting three years to use that one? Now what?) Ok, I’m digressing. I pretty much like anything Jeff Tweedy opens his mouth to sing because his voice is just so real and likable, and because even when it’s not all that obvious, he’s using honest melody to tell his fragmented, quizzical songs. “What Light” is a song from the band’s forthcoming CD Sky Blue Sky (and hey is that a Laurie Anderson reference? I’m thinking yes), which leaked onto the internet last week, well in advance of its May 15 release date, on Nonesuch Records. The band, in response, has offered an official stream of the CD for two short periods of time on its web site, and also, now, this somewhat hidden but entirely free and legal MP3. Thanks to Alan at Sixeyes for the lead.

“Are You Sleeping” – Sara Culler

And talk about a likable voice: Sweden’s Sara Culler opens her mouth and some part of me melts a bit. “Are You Sleeping” begins as a placid march, with a gentle one-two keyboard/drum riff. With the verse come lyrical blurts, rushed between beats in a clipped but also smile-inducing way (I think it’s that voice of hers, that beguiling tone she gets even singing in rushed bursts); but notice in and around the singing how the music is building by way of that swooping, supple bass line. It’s setting us up for something, and that something turns out to be a sweet, expansive chorus—a great sing-along thing set against a whimsical pastiche of blippy, ringy sounds, having the effect of being produced by some intricate Rube Goldberg-like apparatus. Listen to the words, too: as far as I can surmise, she’s trying to wake us up, she is, with that ever-powerful awareness of how much of our lives we quite literally sleep through. “Are You Sleeping” is a brand-new song off her brand-new EP, Miss Takes – Light the Night!, self-released this week—just in time for her SXSW debut, as part of a series of WOXY-sponsored concerts at the festival. I also feel impelled to point out that Sara is one of the 13 wonderful artists featured on the Fingertips: Unwebbed CD, which is currently available for a $12 donation to this here web site; details aplenty are a click away.

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