Free and legal MP3: We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves (sprightly hodgepodge from Brooklyn trio)

A sprightly musical hodgepodge, “A Charming Man” evokes a coterie of semi-incompatible forebears, from the Beach Boys to the Decemberists via the Smiths and, geez, maybe Todd Rundgren?

We Can't Enjoy Ourselves

“A Charming Man” – We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves

A sprightly musical hodgepodge, “A Charming Man” evokes a coterie of semi-incompatible forebears, from the Beach Boys to the Decemberists via the Smiths and, geez, maybe Todd Rundgren? Something/anything indeed; the end result, in any case, is as listenable as it is indescribable, weaving an Phil Spector-ish thump in and out of a old-fashioned rock’n’roll backbeat, everything rendered slightly odd and edgy by singer/guitarist Giovanni Saldarriaga’s earnest, nasally tenor. It’s the sound of a man singing with his heart on his sleeve but keeping his sleeve inside his jacket. And maybe it’s not even his jacket.

The lyrics start out discernibly, then proceed to be ever-so-slightly buried in the mix, which is a shame on the one hand, because what we can make out at the beginning sounds like good narrative fun (“I’m just a rebel from the south/I tuck in the corners of my mouth”). On the other hand, I interpret the lyrical muddiness symbolically—this is a character who the more you know him the less he wants really wants to tell you. Anyone who has to sing “Please know I meant you no harm” quite so often is clearly protesting too much. In the meantime a line like “Take a look at my hands/They’re made for vows and not for one-night stands” is nicely suggestive, in a Colin Meloy-ish kind of way. And beyond that, the words are largely hidden below the chugging, endearing music, complete with its eventually wacky harmonies and its swingingly satisfying resolution of the Spector-beat and the backbeat.

The name We Can’t Enjoy Ourselves apparently derives both from Annie Hall (a movie originally entitled Anhedonia, which is the medical term for the inability to experience joy) and from some dialogue in Rebel Without a Cause. The band has a seven-song EP entitled One Belongs Here More Than You available as a free download on Bandcamp, and that’s where you’ll find this song.

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