“Lost Again!” – Morningbell
Pop songs tend not to be amenable to significant changes happening within them. In the interest of putting one basic idea across in just three or four minutes, they normally stick to one tempo, one key, one time signature, one vocalist, one type of feeling. This is also why melody lines are inclined to be short, often no more than four measures long, sometimes just two–concise melodies that repeat often being easier for the ear to grasp in a relatively brief span of time (not to mention easier for less-than-inspired songwriters to write). Fortunately for pop aficionados everywhere, however, there are always bands that come along and toss concerns like this out the window. And so we have “Lost Again!,” which begins as a crisp acoustic shuffle, acquiring a quick shot or two of Queen or maybe ELO-like harmonies as the verse sneaks a 16-measure melody into an spiffy, upbeat framework–except of course for that time signature change and slowdown at the end. This slowdown leads, after the second verse, into a chorus in which tempo and feel are completely transformed–the pace slows, the harmonies change character, and the chords transmute from being predominantly minor to predominantly major. (Note one common element: an extended melody again, this time just about 12 measures long.) And then maybe best of all, the instrumental break that begins innocuously enough at 1:20 steps out into a thoughtful and full-fledged guitar showcase, the likes of which bring (oh no, them again!) Steely Dan to mind more than standard-issue indie rock. “Lost Again!” is from Morningbell’s third CD, Through the Belly of the Sea, which is slated for a June release on Orange Records. And as yet another sign of the band’s freewheeling ethos, the CD is billed as rock’s first “Choose Your Own Adventure” album–a different story unfolds depending upon which order you choose to listen to the tracks.
“Brotherhood of Man” – the Innocence Mission
The combination of Karen Peris’s voice and the melodies she writes for her voice to sing kindles unspeakable poignancy with its stark beauty. This is music that might pass you by if it’s playing in the background as you’re fumbling to pay for your takeout coffee but it is music that rewards keen attention with its rich, ageless sense and sensibility. Peris’s distinctive, breathy-yearny voice renders profound the melodic simplicity, aided by husband Don’s ringingly well-chosen guitar lines and subtle organ flourishes. This is also, I would argue, the sound of a small group of experienced musicians (Mike Bitts is in there on bass as well, but you have to listen closely) who are in it for the love of the music–and, in the case of Karen and Don, love of each other. Which sounds corny but the rarity of two people getting along so beautifully in both song and deed for this long–the band has been recording since 1986–transcends corny to all-out awe-inspiring. “Brotherhood of Man” is the opening track from the CD We Walked in Song, released in March on Badman Recording Company. The MP3 is via Insound.
“Dear Confessor” – Immaculate Machine
Friendly and welcoming, “Dear Confessor” launches off a vintage Elvis Costello beat and doesn’t look back. It’s that note that singer/guitarist Brooke Gallupe hits on the second syllable of the word “relax” that does it for me–that’s where I sink in and let them take me where they’re going to take me. There’s an inexplicably comfy vibe permeating the music this Vancouver trio generates that I couldn’t put my finger on until, reading about the band on their web site, I discover that Gallupe and singer/keyboardist Kathryn Calder “have lived down the street from each other since elementary school.” It all begins to make sense. Another victory for a long-term relationship (and another example of how abnormal they actually are, and impossible to manufacture simply because we’re told we’re supposed to want one; and okay end of soapbox!). “Dear Confessor” will be found on the CD Immaculate Machine’s Fables, scheduled for release next month on Mint Records. This will be their third full-length release. (Bonus fact: Kathryn Calder is also a member, since 2005, of the expansive, beloved Canadian ensemble the New Pornographers.) MP3 via Better Propaganda.