Free and legal MP3: Orchestraville (very nicely crafted, in 3/4-time)

There’s an appealing, homespun rigor to this song, something in the way it laces its 3/4 time gallop with a rock-band oomph that you don’t typically hear, come to think of it, in 3/4-time songs.

Orchestraville

“Half and Half” – Orchestraville

There’s an appealing, homespun rigor to this song, something in the way it laces its 3/4 time gallop with a rock-band oomph that you don’t typically hear, come to think of it, in 3/4-time songs. (For the record, “Manic Depression” is a relative rarity, and in that case Hendrix all but deconstructs the time signature. ) I think it’s the organ that really launches things at the beginning; even though it refuses to move to the center of the mix, it plays its swaying, off-melody lines with haunted-house abandon. The ear is officially engaged.

And the song delivers, especially if you listen carefully. The craft is subtle but exquisite. For instance, listen to the way the melody shifts slightly but unmistakably from the first to the second line of the verse: while the words, nearly repeating (“Why did you smile?/Why did you laugh?”), set us up for a straight repeat of the melodic line, the last note of the line veers up a step. This is ever-so-subtly unsettling, and the exact kind of thing that creates interest, because our ears, bless their hearts (?), like nothing better than to guess where the melody is going and then be proven wrong. It also deftly sets up the resolving turn taken in the third line (from 0:29 to 0:31), which soon, even more deftly, glides us into the sly chorus at 0:40, when Christopher Forbes sings “And the same goes for you” in descending half-steps. It’s sly because this the introverted rather than extroverted part of the song (a chorus by nature is a song’s most extroverted part); we seem to stumble upon the titular phrase as if by accident. And then check back the next time the chorus comes around (1:13) and notice both the lyrical (“And the same goes for me”) and musical changes, as we get a sort of post-chorus—three additional lines that finally deliver the contradictory message to the recurring idea that the you and I in the song are “a perfect match,” an idea never, in fact, borne out by the music.

The Ohio-based Orchestraville seems a poster child for a certain kind of spirited, persevering 21st-century indie band. They have a long and convoluted history (personnel changes, relocations, disbanding, reuniting; sadly, there is also a death involved), they worked hard at what they did, and the fact that they have little in the way of widespread recognition to show for it is obviously no reason to think any less of them. It is indeed what we are all in the process of getting used to in the age of musical over-abundance. “Half and Half” is from the band’s last album, Poison Berries, which was recorded in the first half of the ’00s but never released because the band broke up in ’05. This year, however, they began to make their existing albums available as digital downloads, and in the process put Poison Berries out both as a vinyl album and in MP3 format in September. MP3 for the song via the band’s site.

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