Free and legal MP3: Madeline (electric guitar + voice, but it works)

Stripped down to electric guitar and voice, “30 Days” simmers with the drama of an unreliable narrator.


“30 Days” – Madeline

We go from a song marked by unexpected instrumentation to a song all but devoid of instrumentation. And yet it still registers as unexpected, because all we have here is electric guitar, bass, and voice. In my experience, it’s very difficult to pull off a song in which electric guitar and voice are the primary elements, way more difficult than if the guitar is acoustic. (I will resist sidetracking onto why this is so but trust me on this one, it’s so. That’s why you don’t hear a lot of people even trying to do this.)

But wow, it works to extraordinary effect here. Madeline (last name Adams, but she doesn’t use it) exploits the electric guitar’s ringing quality, and gives it to us in a manner we don’t often hear it—slow and deliberate, as the guitar is used mostly to describe a series of minor-key arpeggios. I like that this is very clearly designed for electric guitar, not simply a refried acoustic pattern. The bass, meanwhile, after its solo in the unhurried introduction, offers a simple, repeated, five-note line; you barely know it’s there but its punctuation anchors this slow and willful song. Lyrically, “30 Days” simmers with the drama of an unreliable narrator, a woman who seems only partially aware of her troubles, whose sad and seductive declarations sometimes lack connective tissue: “I had a good man who loved me all the same/And lord knows waking is the saddest thing of all.”

Madeline is from Athens, Georgia, although she left there as a teenager, landing in Bloomington, Indiana to record for the punk-oriented Plan-It-X label. She made her first album at 17, in 2002. By 2005 she was back in Athens, releasing multi-faceted albums for Orange Twin Records and working with the Elephant 6 Collective. “30 Days” is from the album B-Sides, which gathers a number of unreleased tracks from her previous albums into one package. B-Sides was released digitally this month by the Athens-based This Will Be Our Summer Records, which was founded just last year.

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