“I Knew” – 22-Pistepirkko
Memorably described once as “nothing you’ve heard before, from nowhere you’ve been,” 22-Pistepirkko is an odd, enduring trio from Finland that plays an unpredictable sort of surfy garage pop. Founded in the northern village of Utajärvi in the early ’80s, the band, named for a common European ladybug, does seem to have a faraway sound; there’s something in singer PK Keränen’s high-pitched, accented, warbly English that appears to be coming to us from some other dimension of space and time. “I Knew” lopes along with a combination of early-’60s effects—the pre-Beatles beat, the sugary strings, and the surf guitar—that don’t actually sound like they’ve been successfully combined before, and certainly not with a high-pitched, warbly singer. “I Knew” is a song from the band’s most recent CD, Drops & Kicks, which came out back in 2005. They’ve yet to release a CD in the U.S., but are about to record for the first time with an American producer, suggesting the possibility of a Stateside release when the time comes. Another hint: the band visited North America for the first time ever this month, for a short tour which included an appearance at SXSW.
The MP3, in fact, is courtesy of the SXSW web site.
“Gimme Shelter” – Patti Smith
Smith—truly one of the most inspired interpreters in rock history—manages here to take a familiar song, not change it very much, and still make it entirely her own. See, for instance, how she replaces the falsetto “oo-oo” vocals at the beginning with a languid slide guitar, and how different it sounds and yet strangely similar too. Growling and snarling and gargling through one of Mick and Keith’s best compositions (apparently Keith wrote most of it), Smith gives me the impression she overheard Bob Dylan giving singing lessons to Little Richard and liked the sound of it. And get a load of how she handles the tail end of the song, famously delivered by gospel singer Merry Clayton on the original Stones recording, here performed with extended moans and an almost trancelike roar. She’s now in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, but she’s still alive and kicking. “Gimme Shelter” is one of twelve intriguing covers Smith has assembled for her CD Twelve, due out next month on Sony. She’s doing offbeat Dylan (“Changing of the Guards”) and Wonder (“Pastime Paradise”), mainstream Cobain (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and Airplane (“White Rabbit”), and a bunch of “how did Patti Smith decide to sing this?” sorts of things (“Everybody Wants to Rule the World”? “The Boy in the Bubble”?). The MP3 is via Pitchfork.
“Rainbowarriors” – CocoRosie
A dreamy wash of rhythm and atmosphere, “Rainbowarriors” manages to sound simultaneously very current and altogether timeless. Rarely have I heard a song brought so beautifully to life by hip-hop scratches and other electronic goodies as this one—for once they seem not like random accessories but the very stuff and pulse of the music. I also don’t think I’ve heard a piece of resolutely 21st-century pop with such an ancient-sounding refrain at its heart. I mean, check out the chorus, first heard at 1:07: the ghostly harmonies that enrich the melody are positively medieval in timbre and interval, bringing to mind countertenors and Gregorian chants. CocoRosie is the half-Cherokee sister duo of Sierra and Bianca Casady, whose exotic and itinerant background found them separated for almost 10 years before Bianca appeared without notice at Sierra’s apartment in Paris in 2003; somehow, they knew they were supposed to start recording music together, and did, and have been inseparable ever since. CocoRosie is one of those groups with its own inscrutable mythos and I’ll be honest, I have no idea what to make of stuff like this, from the record label’s web site: “Rainbowarriors horse gallop through miles of balmy grass roads all the way to the swingset swamps. They witch water and have witches for fathers; they hear disharmonies of sadness sung by drunken glowworms. They sleep in swollen barns; they sleep through silver nights.” O-kay. “Rainbowarriors” is the lead track from CocoRosie’s forthcoming CD, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn. (O-kay.)