Free and legal MP3: Goodtimes Goodtimes (amiable, warmly sung, w/ ’70s scent)

Goodtimes Goodtimes

“Fortune Teller Song” – Goodtimes Goodtimes

This one also features a pleasantly fuzzy guitar sound, coupled in this case with a tune so chuggily easy-going and warmly sung that it never once sounds like something you haven’t heard before. And I mean this as a compliment, most definitely—another reason why those who seek to criticize some music for “not being new” are, to me, so off the mark. I don’t think music needs to have an agenda like that.

Goodtimes Goodtimes is the performing name for the Italian-born British singer/songwriter Franc Cinelli, who appears to have a particular affinity for the amiable but often discarded music of the ’70s. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s a sturdy bygone feeling to “Fortune Teller Song” that has something to do with Gordon Lightfoot and Jim Croce and early Billy Joel and a bunch of others who strummed and crooned across our AM radio dials back in ancient times. And yet he does so with an organic rather than commercial touch; he isn’t trying to get on the radio, and it adds a grace to the proceedings that, to my ear, makes this song all the more appealing. The simple, character-based story also seems like a throwback, and Cinelli’s buzz-filled voice—nicely offset by the female backup singers in the chorus—makes me happy for no particular reason.

“Fortune Teller Song” is from the second Goodtimes Goodtimes album, this one self-titled, and scheduled for release next month on London’s Definition Arts label. The debut, Glue, came out in 2007. Cinelli has made the MP3 available on his site for an email address, but has been kind enough to let me post it here directly.

Free and legal MP3: Land of Talk (gorgeous & expansive, w/ FMac feel)

As gentle and brisk as a Fleetwood Mac hit from the ’70s, “Quarry Hymns” funnels Lizzie Powell’s dynamic energy into an unexpected container, and it works with almost goosebumpy potency.

Land of Talk

“Quarry Hymns” – Land of Talk

As gentle and brisk as a Fleetwood Mac hit from the ’70s, “Quarry Hymns” funnels Lizzie Powell’s dynamic energy into an unexpected container, and it works with almost goosebumpy potency. Powell’s slightly fuzzy voice serves her well in Christine McVie territory like this, and her guitar playing—often tough and slashy in the past—here becomes the picture of monumental restraint. Check out how she clears the way, at last, for a solo at 3:06 and then check out how few notes she plays, and how quietly, and with what graceful dissonance. I recommend listening to the guitar throughout, as Powell is relentlessly interesting, even with the volume turned way down.

While “Quarry Hymns” is on the long side—more than five and a half minutes, which can be dangerous for pop songs—the effect is expansive rather than lengthy. Give a lot of credit to the hook in the chorus, which is so strong and effortless that it carries the song along in a timeless, almost trance-like state.

The Montreal-based Land of Talk is an established Fingertips favorite, having been featured previously in ’07, ’08, and ’09. Each song is worth checking out. Powell is the singer, songwriter, and centerpiece; the band has shape-shifted around her, with each recording offering a different iteration. They appear currently to be a trio. “Quarry Hymns” is from the group’s second full-length album, Cloak and Cipher, due out next month on Saddle Creek. MP3 via Pitchfork.

Free and legal MP3: Tim Chad & Sherry (’70s funk homage, w/ spirit)

Tim Chad & Sherry

“The Love I Make” – Tim Chad & Sherry

A thick slice of faux-’70s white-boy funk, paying homage to a generous variety of that decade’s full- and part-time practitioners, from Atomic Rooster to the Average White Band to Hall and Oates to Talking Heads. Not to mention David Bowie and maybe even the Grateful Dead. And somehow it comes together, and somehow—an important point, to me—it sounds fresh without sounding ironic.

Part of it, I think, has to do with what I was talking about last week, about music that makes you smile. If a band is being ironic, they might make you smirk, or prompt a slow knowing smile; if a band is being genuine, any smile provoked is pure—it comes to the face without the brain getting in the way. I think the intro groove is just plain happy—funky, yes, but also spiffy and elaborate in the interplay between what sounds like a synthesizer (or two) and a bass, each playing a skittery, dance floor line. The next thing to listen to is the keyboard, which has a throwback organ sound, and is used once the singing starts with the lightest possible touch, deftly echoing the end of lyrical line. Just when the musical language has seemingly been established, two loud additions crash the party—the guitar, low-register and clangy, beginning at 0:49, and then the snare drum (1:02), which had been missing in the percussion until then. With the drummer now fully engaged (I like his sense of rumble and spirit) the song breathes with added fire. In the end, maybe, authenticity emerges through simple presence: through a sense that the musicians are engaged moment to moment, both individually and collectively. The trippy guitar solo (2:14 etc.) is an obvious highlight; less obvious, maybe, is the allure of the song’s sneaky lack of structure—it’s built on a series of clipped lyrical lines that use the underlying funk to rise and fall as if we are hearing verses and choruses but we probably aren’t, and give the song its ongoing feeling of play and inspiration.

Tim Chad & Sherry is a quartet (go figure) founded by Brian Kotzur, formerly of the Silver Jews. (There is no one named Tim, Chad, or Sherry in the band, by the way.) “The Love I Make” is from the group’s debut album, Baby We Can Work It Out, released this month on Cleft Records. MP3 via Cleft. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.

Free and legal MP3: SheLoom (bringing Bob Welch back)

Welcome to a song that doesn’t sound like a lot that you’ve probably been listening to lately, unless you have had an unaccountable hankering for your old Bob Welch records. (Nah, I didn’t think so.)

She Loom

“One More Day” – SheLoom

Welcome to a song that doesn’t sound like a lot that you’ve probably been listening to lately, unless you have had an unaccountable hankering for your old Bob Welch records. (Nah, I didn’t think so.)

Needless to say, “One More Day” isn’t the product of some net-addled 21st-century rock band, but a collaboration between two nimble studio veterans. Both Filippo Gaetani and Jordon Zadorozny have track records extending backwards to the ’90s, and the breadth of experience to pull off this jazzy slice of pseudo-’70s rock. I’ll leave it to the even more philosophically minded than I to ponder why it can be so enjoyable to hear new music smartly influenced by old music that one never liked all that much in the first place. A conundrum for our catholic times, musically speaking. But I’m digging a lot about this, from those jazz-inflected suspended chords to the deft shifts in rhythm (from intro to verse, verse to bridge, bridge to chorus) and then the way the meandery verse leads into what amounts to a double chorus—the bridge and chorus are distinct but interrelated, and each offers a sturdy melody delivered with a stirring mixture of nostalgia and creativity.

“One More Day” is from the SheLoom album Seat of the Empire, digitally released last week by Minty Fresh Records. MP3 via Minty Fresh.

Free and legal MP3: The Silver Seas (buoyant pop w/ faux ’70s-soul sheen)

Effortlessly enjoyable pop with a faux ’70s-soul sheen. And I mean the faux part in a good way–after all, it’s not the ’70s anymore (by a long shot). It’s far more fun to hear a group of 21st-century popsters re-imagine this sound with a present-day oomph than to hear some slavish recreation of the distant past.

“The Best Things In Life” – The Silver Seas

Effortlessly enjoyable pop with a faux ’70s-soul sheen. And I mean the faux part in a good way–after all, it’s not the ’70s anymore (by a long shot). It’s far more fun to hear a group of 21st-century popsters re-imagine this sound with a present-day oomph than to hear some slavish recreation of the distant past.

But there’s no doubting that the ’70s are the musical mother lode for this Nashville-based trio. Last time we heard from them they were more in James Taylor/Jackson Browne mode; this time Daniel Tashian and company have swung, literally, into Hall & Oates territory, with a loving, twice-removed nod to the Philadelphia Sound that that duo themselves mined. It’s a breezy R&B groove poised brashly between Motown and disco, and the breeziness is exactly why slavish recreation would be self-defeating. You have to sound sharp but you can’t sound rigid, and these guys strut it just right, propelled by a melody that steadfastly refuses to align with the beat in a song filled with large and small pleasures. A favorite smaller moment comes with the third lead-in to the chorus (2:34). The previous two times, the chorus begins after two smooth H&O-like “oo-oos,” covering four brisk measures, which is exactly what the song appears to demand. The third time, they sing the two “oo-oos” once and then repeat them, which if you’re not listening carefully you might not even notice. But it’s one of those great songwriting tricks, giving us a subtle, unexpected, hang-on-what’s-not-quite-right delay before the final payoff.

“The Best Things In Life” is a song from the band’s new album Chateau Revenge, which was released digitally by the band this month; the physical album is due out in July. MP3 via Spinner.

Free and legal MP3: Sangre Degrado (sleeper w/ something of an early ’70s vibe)

“Pearl and Oyster” – Sangre Degrado

“Pearl and Oyster” has the casual aplomb of some forgotten nugget of early ’70s rock goodness. And it’s not so much that this California trio sounds precisely like this or that long-ago band as much as that they don’t especially sound like anything I’m hearing out of my trusty desktop speakers these days. Lead singer and guitarist Dan Chejoka has a chesty baritone with an elastic range, not to mention an engaging falsetto; behind him, his twin brother Nart, on drums, and their good friend Greg Johnson, on everything else, romp with determination and spirit through this sleeper of a song that has gotten about zero attention to date from the fickle and trend-obsessed blogosphere.

And pretty much everything you need to know about this one you can hear even before Chejoka opens his mouth, in the brisk and yearning introduction with its rubbery, soaring guitar line. That’s the sound of people not just looking to fill up space before the lyrics start, it’s the sound of a band with a story to tell that transcends words (which is what good music, even if it has words, should ideally do). The easy way the song unfolds from there–the elaborate melodies in both chorus and verse and the effective instrumental building blocks in between–is both delightful and matter of fact. Listen in particular to how the dramatic, falsetto-charged chorus builds to an emotional–but, interestingly, not a musical–resolution. I don’t think that’s easy to do.

“Pearl and Oyster” is from a debut album with a great title, The Nerve of That Ending, which the band self-released in October. MP3 via the band’s site, where the entire album is in fact available for free.

Free and legal MP3: Wiretree (power pop with ’70s roots)

“Back in Town” – Wiretree

Brisk, spangly power pop from an Austin-based quartet. Equal parts mid-career Wilco and early (or late; who can say?) Traveling Wilburys, “Back in Town” is a friendly, xylophone-flecked burst of tunefulness, anchored in singer Kevin Peroni’s pliable, evocative voice. What he sounds like, in a nutshell, is the ’70s–Harry Nilsson, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne rolled up into one. Works for me.

And if there are a few relative oldsters out there who recognize the chorus of the Indigo Girls song “Jonas & Ezekiel” in the chorus of “Back in Town,” well, I’m always kind of tickled rather than irritated by inadvertent melody transference like this. First off, it’s a heck of a good melody–I might dare to call it anthemic except I fear that word has been neutered by years of overuse. Second, the songs don’t otherwise have anything to do with each other. I don’t mind greeting an old friend in a new outfit.

“Back in Town” is a song from the band’s second full-length album, Luck, ready for release next week on their own Cobaltworks label.