Free and legal MP3: The Hush Now (subtly contagious neo-power pop)

“Hoping and Waiting” – the Hush Now

After a church-like organ intro, “Hoping and Waiting” turns upbeat and unexpectedly contagious. I had to live with it a while for the catchiness to sink in, however; it’s not a completely obvious hook. But after listening to it on and off for a few weeks, I noticed that it was beginning to pop unbidden into my head. This is almost always a sign of a song that I am liking more than I initially realize I’m liking it.

The part that kept popping into my head: that particular place in the chorus where the melody takes a leap up on the word “heart” (first heard around 1:19). Talk about uplifting–just hearing that word sung with that upward leap settles something in my soul. And then the immediate follow-up, the word “anticipating” sung (on the second syllable) with that same up-leap. Brilliant. As for the operatic tenor interlude (2:42), it shouldn’t really work, but it does, precisely when (and because) the tenor ramps up into a classical frenzy concurrently with singer Noel Kelly repeating the lines “Did you feel? Did you feel? Did you feel?” Also brilliant. And then suddenly a trumpet that had been lurking in the background materializes front and center, adding the feeling of an offbeat fanfare to the closing measures. I like it.

The Hush Now is a quartet from Boston. “Hoping and Waiting” will appear on their second album, Constellations, due out as a self-release in October. (If you’re interested, the band started giving its self-titled debut album away for free online earlier this year; you can still grab it here.)

Free and legal MP3: Marissa Nadler (beautiful, mysterious, atmospheric toe-tapper)

“River of Dirt” – Marissa Nadler

A master of atmosphere, Marissa Nadler can maintain her delicate, otherworldly vibe even when she adds percussion and electric guitar to her spidery sound, and even when the music chugs along at a toe-tapping pace. A lot of the aura has to do with that spooky voice of hers, encased in reverb, and the words that voice is singing–weird words, full of romance, escape, and sorrow (the titular metaphor appears to be referring to death itself). The echoey, keening lap steel that hovers in the background heightens the familiar strangeness of it all.

Nadler may be adding band-like instrumentation to her sound, but it’s hardly a standard sort of rock band she’s got going here. Listen, first, to the drumming, which moves forward with an idiosyncratic blending of rims and toms, and a most judicious use of cymbals–what you hear in the intro from about :06 onward is what propels the entire song; it’s a subtly peculiar sound, seeming at once mechanical and homespun. Then check out the aforementioned lap steel guitar, which howls and sings with uncanny luminosity, mixing in and around an electric guitar and also Nadler’s own backing vocal tracks, often stressing notes that set it apart from the melody and harmony and yet join everything mysteriously together. Beautiful, compelling music we have here.

Fingertips regulars may recall Nadler from the oddly gorgeous 2007 song “Diamond Heart,” which ended that year among the top 10 favorite free and legal MP3s here that year. “River of Dirt” is from her forthcoming (and fourth) CD, Little Hells, which is slated for release next month on Kemado Records. MP3 originally via Kemado, but no longer available there. You can still grab a free and legal download of it via Stereogum, but it’s no longer a direct link, so you can’t sample it in the player here.