THIS WEEK’S FINDS
Sept. 30-Oct. 6
* There’s still time to enter the Ani DiFranco contest, but don’t delay. The grand prize is Canon, the nicely-packaged, hand-picked two-disc DiFranco retrospective. Two runners-up will receive a copy of Fingertips: Unwebbed, which will disappear from the shelves here at year’s end. There are also five prints of Ani DiFranco artwork available both for the grand prize winner, the runners-up, and two others. So five winners in all! Deadline for entry is Tuesday, October 2.
* The Record Shop is now open for business: a page of links taking you directly to where you can buy some of the albums mentioned here week to week (and support Fingertips in the process).
“Adrenaline” – Emma Pollock
Emma Pollock has this heart-rending way of singing happy songs with a sad voice. “This adrenaline rush is keeping me high/Keep it coming around”: sure sounds happy. (Sounds like a Phillies fan, I might add.) No doubt the bright piano chords sound happy as well. But her voice has too rich a texture for simple happiness–there’s a subtle and soulful abrasion in it, and its substance seems fueled by breath, if that makes any sense. Cross a drawl-free Lucinda Williams with Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays and you’re pretty close. In any case, scratch below the surface of the chipper accompaniment and inspirational lyrical snippets and you may both sense and hear that “Adrenaline” is more about life than happiness: there are wonders to be had, but only if you work to get out of your own way, and understand that they often come wrapped in unpredictable packages. “Adrenaline” can be found on Watch the Fireworks, the long-awaited solo debut by the former Delgados singer and guitarist, released in mid-September on 4AD Records. For more information about Pollock, (and to hear another great song of hers) check out the TWF review of “Limbs,” released long before the CD arrived, from this past February. The “Adrenaline” MP3 comes via Insound.
“He Keeps Me Alive” – Sally Shapiro
Crystalline neo-italo disco from an enigmatic Swede who protects her privacy by forswearing face-to-face interviews and live performances, and by singing under an English-sounding pseudonym. (She is also more the voice than the creative force; Johan Agebjörn is the writer and producer of “Sally Shapiro” music.) And let me quickly add that whatever your preconceived notions about dance music may be (rock’n’roll has always had a testy relationship with dance music, even though rock itself more or less began as dance music), I suggest giving this one a fair shot and actively seeking out its various charms, which include, most prominently: Shapiro’s icy-warm, doubletracked delivery; the pristine sonic atmosphere (this song is the musical equivalent of a meticulously cleaned and dusted room, all silver and white, with blonde woods, in the winter sun); and the sweeping and yet controlled melodrama of the chorus, both musically and lyrically. For the heck of it, check out also the piano-like keyboard that comes in around 1:55, a startling bit of organic-seeming sound in a cascade of beats and synthesizers. Shapiro may be on the verge of having a blog-rock cultural moment, though it could also be that the moment, because it’s about to be here, has actually already passed. You know how it goes. “He Keeps Me Alive” is a song from Shapiro’s CD Disco Romance, which was out last year in Europe, and will be released in North America this month by Paper Bag Records. MP3 via Paper Bag.
“Anna Leigh” – the Sadies
And the perfect counter-balance to neo-italo-disco is probably something gritty and bluegrassy like this–although note that the boys in the band start this one off kinda smooth-like, with pretty harmonies (note, too, however, the wavery organ sound: all is not necessarily well). Soon enough, in any case, the finger-picking beat kicks in and we’re all minor-key and traditional-sounding in pursuit of a forboding tale about a lover who dreams of her lover’s demise and is trying to get him not to go on the trip he’s about to take. Maybe it’s just me but now that I’m thinking about it, I like this stark, fiddle-free approach to bluegrass, which to my ears accentuates the stalwart melody and gripping narrative. The Sadies are a quartet from Toronto who have been recording since 1998. They are perhaps best known these days as having been Neko Case’s backup band, but it would seem they deserve a bit of their own spotlight as well. “Anna Leigh” is a song off their latest CD, New Seasons, which comes out this week on Yep Roc Records.
Visit the Fingertips Record Shop for direct links to purchase some of the albums that feature the MP3s you read about here.