Free and legal MP3: Wesley Fuller (melodic indie rock, seductive chorus)

Melodic, creative, and eminently satisfying, “Melvista,” is as assured a slice of 21st-century indie rock as I’ve heard in a while.

Wesley Fuller

“Melvista” – Wesley Fuller

Melodic, creative, and almost giddily appealing, “Melvista,” is as assured a slice of 21st-century indie rock as I’ve heard in a while. Despite its retro-y veneer, and Fuller’s obvious embrace of a certain sort of ’60s/psychedelic look, “Melvista” gushes with contemporary flair. Even the Beatlesque chord progressions at the center of its seductive chorus (first heard around 0:35) feel tweaked and updated in some ineffable and ebullient way. Also, check out the drumming, which manages to feel very ’60s and very ’10s at the same time.

So, do understand that by “contemporary flair” I do not mean the addition of meaningless aural frippery in the cynical pursuit of distracted teenagers—I’m talking instead about an awareness of how the present moment is always a cumulative outgrowth of history rather than some kind of context-free instant of existence driven by lizard-brain reflex. Being willing to funnel sounds of the past through one’s 2016 consciousness (not to mention one’s 2016 audio equipment) is in my mind a far more reliable way to create something truly of the here and now than a slavish adherence to sound-fads of any particular moment. This is exactly why music that too rigidly clings to production choices that are very “now” paradoxically becomes the music that sounds most dated in another five or 10 years.

That said, slavish adherence to past sounds is of course an equally if not more unconvincing way to sound current. Maybe one of the reasons “Melvista” song escapes the gravitational pull of its inspirations is how effortlessly Fuller combines the sounds and vibes of distinct subgenres into a cohesive whole. Which is to say that “Melvista” is not merely Beatlesque—its roots can be found as well in glam rock, garage rock, and (here’s kind of the kicker) new wave. As a matter of fact, the song unfolds as a bit of a history lesson, its British invasion elements craftily transformed in plain sight by new wave injections beginning at 2:08: first, the verse is reimagined with a Cars-ish minimalism; next comes that synth-like guitar line (2:29), which culminates and then closes out the song, the likes of which ran through any number of late-’70s songs on both sides of the Atlantic and doubtlessly in Australia as well.

Originally from Perth, where he played in a series of bands, Wesley Fuller moved to Melbourne a couple of years ago. “Melvista” was his first release as a solo artist, initially out in February as a single and in July resurfacing as the title track on his debut five-song EP, released by the London-based 1965 Records. Thanks to the good folks at the Powerpopulist blog for the head’s up here, and thanks to the Austrlian music site Triple J Unearthed for the MP3.

Free and legal MP3: Gringo Star (old school, updated, w/ Beatley flair)

“Shadow” is like a killer find in the vintage clothing shop—comfy and familiar on the one hand, a damned good statement in the here and now on the other.

Gringo Star

“Shadow” – Gringo Star

“Shadow” is like a killer find in the vintage clothing shop—comfy and familiar on the one hand, a damned good statement in the here and now on the other. As suggested by the name, this Atlanta quartet traffics in a certain amount of Beatlesque-iness, and the best kind, in my mind: a nod to the Fab Four that brings the sound further along, rather than remaining stuck in rigid homage.

So the nostalgia here suffuses the sound without actually being pinpoint-able. The scratchy guitar that rasps out the introductory line has a vaguely retrospective sound, but the specific riff doesn’t conjure any particular place or time. I like the immediate juxtaposition of the rapidly hammered guitar and the laid-back tempo, which takes the classic rock’n’roll backbeat (emphasis on the second and fourth beats of the measure) and offers it up in half-time. The occasional background nuttiness is partially psychedelic, partially just nutty. And the chorus is plain wonderful—a heart-warming descending melody, covering six full whole steps, that resolves through a chord progression so sturdy and steady that your ear barely registers some of the shifts, although it will thoroughly enjoy the glide through the relative minor around 0:53.

Gringo Star is made up of brothers Peter and Nick Furgiuele, along with Pete DeLorenzo and Chris Kaufmann. All four can play guitar and sing, both Petes can drum, and all but Pete F. will play bass. “With the swapping around of the lineup, we end up being actually 10 different bands,” Nick has been quoted as saying. A pretty cool concept, it seems to me.”Shadow” is the lead track on the band’s second album Count Yer Lucky Stars, which is due out in October on Gigantic Records. The album was produced by Ben Allen, who has worked with Gnarls Barkley and Animal Collective, among others. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.

Free and legal MP3: Buried Beds (upbeat, off-kilter, semi-Beatlesque)

Buried Beds

“Breadcrumb Trail” – Buried Beds

So we already knew that Eliza Jones (nee Hardy) has one sweet voice. Buried Beds was featured here in 2006 for the gorgeous, melancholy “Camellia,” and her pure-toned but lived-in presence gave a beautiful song extra depth and meaning.

This time, the band cranks and swings and bashes around a bit, orchestrally speaking, all in the service of some upbeat but slightly off-kilter, semi-Beatlesque pop. It’s less obvious than last time but I think the song still revolves around Jones; she’s a powerful singer, without having to belt or bray to demonstrate command. Her prowess is on display instead in subtle moments, like the way she drags the phrase “He can’t find the man he was” behind the peppy beat (0:14) or the abruptly delicate manner in which she delivers the song’s interesting punchline at 2:29.

Buried Beds is a five-piece from Philadelphia, where the band stays active on stage even as the recordings have been few and far between. “Breadcrumb Trail” is from the band’s just-released second album, Tremble the Sails. MP3 via the band’s site. Thanks to Bruce at Some Velvet Blog for the head’s up.

Free and legal MP3: Pugwash (Beatlesque and XTC-like catchiness)

“Apples” – Pugwash

Here on 9/9/09, with big marketing news regarding both the Beatles and Apple Computer in the air, how can I resist a Beatlesque/XTC-like piece of pop entitled “Apples”? Resistance, clearly, is futile. I love in fact how the XTC-isms and Beatle-isms here are so consistently interdependent as to be inextricable. Because let me interrupt here to note that XTC remains, to this day, the great, largely unacknowledged link between the Fab Four and the entire alternative/indie rock explosion of the last two-plus decades; they were the one band that took what the Beatles did and alchemized it into something truly their own. I’ll go as far as to suggest that they gave us a hint of what the Beatles themselves might have come to sound like had they stayed together a bit longer.

And so: that cheery little ascending motif at the end of the first two verse lines (first heard at 0:12)? Nicely, intertwiningly related to both great British bands. Likewise the effortless weaving of guitar effects, string-like effects, and vocal effects in such a sharp and focused pop song. Note too how Irishman Thomas Walsh tends towards a Lennon-ish timbre but phrases his words in quite the Andy Partridge-like manner. (And isn’t Pugwash itself a sort of XTC-ish word?) The coda-like touches near the end–this song has a definite ending, it doesn’t just stop–is further evidence, if required, of both seminal influences.

And now it turns out that Pugwash–which pretty much is Walsh, plus some friends and guests who help him out when he records–has been signed to Partridge’s own Ape Records, which is why we’re hearing “Apples” now, although originally released in 2002. Ape is first releasing a compilation of the best songs from the band’s four existing albums. “Apples” is the lead track on that album, entitled Giddy, which will be out later this month.