A stimulating combination of breezy and portentous, not to mention melodic and dark, “Mrs. Marquis de Sade” finds the elusive Brooklyn band The Cloud Room doing its New York City rock’n’roll thing with renewed vigor, even after all these years. (Many of you may remember them for their rather brilliant breakthrough song, “Hey Now Now,” featured here, and lots of other places, back in 2005.) This is a band with the enviable ability to have a “sound” without so much as breaking a sweat, based largely on the fortuitous way front man J Stuart’s Bowie-esque croon floats so naturally on top of Devon Johnson’s scratchy guitar rhythms and John Petrow’s athletic bass lines.
The sound is so strong and consistent that it transcends the material: “Mrs. Marquis de Sade” is not originally a Cloud Room song, but was written by filmmaker and songwriter Devon Reed as part of a project he conceived to support the non-profit organization 826 Valencia, about which more in a moment. The band clearly makes this one their own. I especially like how the chorus is split in two sections, creating an extra climax via the second, higher-ranging melody, during which Stuart conjures more than one rock’n’roll ghost (I’m hearing Richard Butler in particular) before handing center stage to a fabulously tuneful guitar line that
I’m guessing was added by the band and in any case seals the wonderfulness of this brisk and oddly catchy number. (Editor’s note: Turns out I was wrong. Reed wrote the guitar lick too. More power to him!)
As for the project itself, Reed wrote a bunch of songs and then managed to corral an impressive list of top-tier indie artists to record them. The final product is an album called You Be My Heart, which will be released next week. 826 Valencia is a literacy organization focused on inspiring children to write, co-founded in San Francisco by the writer Dave Eggers. Among the other artists who recorded Reed’s songs for the album are Fingertips veterans Marissa Nadler, Bowerbirds, Saturday Looks Good to Me, and The Spinto Band. You can listen to a few songs from the album via SoundCloud. In the meantime, I should also note that The Cloud Room did end up releasing a long-anticipated second album in 2012, which was called Zither and kind of came and went without much fuss. You might want to listen to it at Bandcamp, where it is also for sale.
MP3 via Magnet Magazine.