There’s something spine-tingling here in the assurance of the composition, the elegance of the arrangement, and the beauty of the vocal work.
With the air of Celtic folk music about it, “The Devil Wears a Suit” is a haunting piece of smart, beautifully-crafted pop. There’s something spine-tingling here in the assurance of the composition, the elegance of the arrangement, and the beauty of the vocal work. And it’s not just the music but the lyrics too which crackle with purpose. The chorus is central, and striking, and it’s that line in the middle that really moves me—
He’s not underground
He’s not in the air
He’s not in that book
You take everywhere
The devils wears a suit
He lives in our town
He lives on our street
In your home
In your bed
“He’s not in that book/You take everywhere”: it’s a nonchalant kind of line, almost a throwaway, and yet in its casual, observational adroitness, it just about breaks the heart. And I’m not even sure why, but it’s the kind of moment in a song that compels me to thank the universe that talented musicians still exist who can do this, whatever “this” actually is.
An established star in Australia, Miller-Heidke remains a fringe figure at best here in the U.S., largely because the market has (temporarily, one hopes) turned away from any song in which the intelligence behind it is audible in the music itself versus the technology or the beat. I’m still optimistic on Miller-Heidke’s behalf because someone with this much polish, musical know-how, and personality is bound to find a sizable audience sooner or later, and definitely deserves it. “The Devil Wears a Suit” is a song from her fourth album, Nightflight, which was released in April in Australia and is coming later this month in the U.S. Thanks to Muruch for the head’s up. Note that this is Miller-Heidke’s fourth appearance on Fingertips; she was here most recently this past November. Note too that the entire album is currently streaming on SoundCloud; go there and you’ll also find two other free and legal MP3s to download.
From the opening lead guitar salvo through the effortless, deadpan pre-chorus hook, “Younger Than America” feels just about perfect.
Do we need crazy all the time? Do we need gimmicky, do we need abstract, do we need unusual and/or odd? All the time? I don’t think so. In any case, crazy and gimmicky and strange only work when there’s a benchmark of normal and straightforward to operate against, right? And so here’s your benchmark: the admirable, long-standing Scottish band Idlewild. They’ve never quite had their moment here in the U.S.—although 2000’s 100 Broken Windows came close—but they’ve been at it for 15 years now and their latest release shows us, yet again, the musical benefits to be had when a band can stick it out for a while.
From the opening lead guitar salvo through the effortless, deadpan pre-chorus hook, “Younger Than America” feels just about perfect—a brisk, embracing rocker with an active, ringing lead guitar and unexpectedly effective female backing vocals. Front man Roddy Woomble has a Dickensian name and a husky depth to his voice, sounding at once weary and inspired. Although singing about America, there’s a Celtic undertone to the music, which only accentuates (to me, anyway) a clear echo of the old Horslips song “The Man Who Built America.” Anyone else with me on that? Okay, never mind. In the meantime, I love the “couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t have” business here (first heard around 0:36)—it’s a sly but definitive hook, grabbing the ear and anchoring the song between the verse and the chorus. Check out also the slow but steady way the song develops an almost Springsteen-esque sort of spaciousness, complete with a new, wordless vocal melody introduced in the coda (3:20).
Although they have churned through bass players and second guitarists a bit, Idlewild’s core of Woomble, lead guitarist Rod Jones, and drummer Colin Newton have been together since 1995, during which time the band has evolved from being neophyte, punk-ish Fugazi wannabes into full-fledged musicians with a warm, nimble sound. “Younger Than America” is the lead track on Post Electric Blues, an album released last year in the UK and last week here in the US, by the Nice Music Group. The album was in fact initially available as a free download, and you can still hear the whole thing on the band’s site. MP3 via Insound. Note that this is a direct download, but the song will not play in the Fingertips player because of how Insound links to its MP3s.