Free and legal MP3: Light Pollution (short, bashy, melodic)

“Oh Ivory!” – Light Pollution

While apparently muddier, mix-wise, than the usual Fingertips fare–the very-bashy drums are up front, the vocals buried halfway down–“Oh Ivory!” succeeds through the giddy force of its melodic energy and the quirky chemistry of its not-really-that-muddy-after-all production. There’s something old-school at work here, something that puts me in the mind of the ’60s, though I can’t put my finger on it. And anyway, by the time I think I’m getting it, the song is over. It’s nice and short.

And yet, although just 2:29, check out how the tune meanders for more than 40 seconds in an orchestrally interesting but melodically static interlude–featuring the not often used but always engaging combination of classical stringed instruments and rock percussion. On the one hand it goes on a little too long but on the other hand if it didn’t go on that long the payoff wouldn’t be quite so stirring. And stirring those final 30 seconds are, featuring now a shouted, one-note melody over an engaging parade of chords. In the end, this brief song has an offbeat but resonant structure, giving it the feeling of a much longer journey.

Light Pollution is a quartet from Chicago; “Oh, Ivory!” is a track from the band’s debut album, Apparitions, which is set for release next month on Carpark Records. MP3 via Spinner.

Free and legal MP3: Cut Off Your Hands (Spector-like power pop with New Ordery vibe)

“Happy As Can Be” – Cut Off Your Hands

Put Phil Spector, the Beatles, and New Order in a blender and out comes “Happy As Can Be.” (Well, it works in my blender.) There’s the spacious, bashy wall of sound, the “Please Please Me” melody, and the deadpan yet also semi-melodramatic club vibe. Oh, and maybe throw Split Enz in the blender too, since these guys are from New Zealand and lead singer Nick Johnston has a bit of a Tim Finn-ish yelp going on there, especially in the chorus. (Yeah, okay, it’s a big blender.)

I’m fascinated, as I always tend to be, by the ‘wall of sound’ sound—the overall effect is conspicuous but when you try to pick it apart, the specifics kind of scurry away. What is it that’s making the sound, anyway? A big, rumbling drum and a distinct echo is part of it; clangy but indistinct guitar sound is part of it, as is a choral-like backing noise, coming from either voices or instruments or both. Mixing a bell in with the beat–always a good touch, for some reason. Whatever’s doing it, Cut Off Your Hands is here to deliver it to us; on the quartet’s MySpace page, next to “Influences” is one name: Phil Spector.

“Happy As Can Be” is the title track to the band’s new EP, their third, scheduled for a digital release on Frenchkiss Records this week. Their full-length debut is expected out in early 2009.