Peppy, winsome, and unpretentious, “You Can’t Say No Forever” launches off a nimble acoustic intro, picks up a boy-girl pair of lead singers singing maybe not exactly in tune all the time, a drum kit, an electric guitar or two, an endearing synthesizer (don’t miss it), and a nice fat horn line before it’s all through in a scant three minutes six seconds. The almost but not quite zany energy is the infectious result of a delightful sing-song-y melody and six musicians playing with great bustling spirit–as they get going, I can all but picture the jouncing body parts working things into a dust cloud, like some cartoon animal band, setting up the climactic moment (at 2:25) when the instruments stop on a dime and the vocalists join together for a heartfelt “ba-da-da-da-da-da,” which repeats as the piece draws to its lively close. We have by the way yet another band from Sweden here–Lacrosse is from Stockholm, and are signed to Tapete Records, the German label with an enviable habit of releasing wonderful music. “You Can’t Say No Forever” is from the CD This New Year Will Be For You and Me, which was released in Europe this month. The MP3 is via the Tapete site.
With its carnival organ, idiosyncratic drum beat, cagey structure, and elusive vocals—not only is the singer hard to understand, but you might not initially realize that a woman and not a tenor is singing—this is truly an unusual song. I’ve been sitting with it for quite a while already; it was one of those that fascinated me at an unconscious level, leaving my conscious mind a bit perplexed as to why I kept listening and listening. I’m still not sure I know, exactly, but it definitely has something to do with the unique texture created by the swirling instrumentation, scuttly drumming, Katrina Ford’s reverberant voice, and maybe most of all the seductively repetitive melody–listen to how Ford stays centered on one note a whole lot of the time; the furtive dives she takes to lower pitches somehow serve to further emphasize the unmoving primary note. And I may be crazy but deep within the kaleidoscopic organ sound I’m sensing the beating heart of an old-time soul record, as I could swear I’m hearing a Booker T. and the M.G.s/Stax Records reference in the mix somewhere. “Celebration” is the lead track off this Baltimore-based trio’s second CD, The Modern Tribe, which was released last month on 4AD Records. MP3 courtesy of Beggars Group, 4AD’s parent label.
The combination of tough and lonely is an appealing one, and Tucker’s got it going here, with a tough and lonely shuffle that sounds a bit like Patty Griffin trying to do a Mazzy Star imitation, with Neko Case for a teacher. Tucker’s got an achy edge to her breathy voice, while her able band creates a world of subtle feeling behind her via a series of fluid changes in their reverb-laced playing. Keep your ear on the drummer in particular, who drives the one obvious, and central, change: the apparent time shift of the chorus, which isn’t a time shift at all, simply an ear-arresting rhythmic trick. This outfit, by the way, is actually not from Sweden, but from the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard–which was the traditional center of the city’s Scandanavian community (thus, it would seem, the band name). The Sons of Sweden, by the way, were a band called the Dark Ages before joining forces with Tucker, who has herself released one solo CD before this one. “Faster Than Cars Drive” is from the self-titled debut CD as an ensemble–a disc produced by Ryan Hadlock, who has worked with Blonde Redhead and Metric, among other bands. The CD was self-released at the end of October, on the band’s Red Valise Records imprint.