Free and legal MP3: Niki and the Dove (dark yet resplendent synth pop from Sweden)

At once sludgy and resplendent, “The Fox” thunders and sparkles, blending darkness and light in a most uncommon and indelible way.

Niki and the Dove

“The Fox” – Niki and the Dove

At once sludgy and resplendent, “The Fox” thunders and sparkles, blending darkness and light in a most uncommon and indelible way. Rock’n’roll advances rarely via the bolts from the blue most critics and bloggers seem to demand, much more often through absorption, and there is something in “The Fox” that reverberates with a number of classic influences, from Kate Bush (the fox reference is just part of it) and Siouxsie Sioux and Björk to David Bowie and Radiohead. This is good stuff. Theatrical too. Equal effort is paid here to catch the ear—to be “pop,” essentially—and to challenge it. Check out that abrupt segue between the lighthearted glissando that opens the song and the chunky, lagging, deep-voiced guitar (or guitar-like sound; no guitarist is associated with the band) it bumps into. That’s part of what the whole piece is about—interesting, off-kilter, carefully constructed musical moments, hung onto a sturdy framework of melodic and synthetic know-how. The song has great flow—it really pulls me in—and yet nearly any slice of it, all the way through, has its own singular DNA. Did I mention this is really good stuff?

Niki and the Dove is a Stockholm duo, featuring Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf, founded in February 2010. There have been no albums released to date; the band, furthermore, seems inclined to mystery and minimal information. What can be said is that they signed with Sub Pop in March, and “The Fox” is the first Sub Pop single. While the label is coy about it, there does appear to be an EP—also entitled The Fox —on the way in June.

Free and legal MP3: Rollercoaster Project (robotic electro-goth with a heart of pop)

“Hoods Up” – Rollercoaster Project

Churning, robotic electro-goth, with a heart of pure pop. I’m oddly entranced by the buried, electronic vocals, which hint only intermittently, only ever so slightly, at their human origin; it’s kind of like “Kid A” funneled through a lush carnival of soaring synth pop, on a bed of electronic nails. The wistful, almost heartbreaking melody of the chorus is icing on the electro-cake. Note how the electronic artifice fades into nature noises for the last minute of the track. It’s not a half hour of crickets (see Neko Case) but it’s pretty eco-ambient, and kind of a spooky coda to all the previous machinations.

And all of this, clearly, we should know by 2009, is the result of one guy fiddling with computers in a shed. The one guy this time is a Brit named Johnny White, who otherwise teaches guitar to elementary school students. White has apparently thought a lot about how our recording devices impact our memories, pondering questions such as “Has technology made us nostalgic voyeurs of our own existence?,” according to the press material. “Hoods Up” is a song from the second Rollercoaster Project album, Revenge, scheduled for release later this month on Absolutely Kosher Records. MP3 via Absolutely Kosher.

Free and legal MP3: Juana Molina (churning, hypnotic, expansive, ecstatic)

“Un Día” – Juana Molina

I suggest giving yourself some time and space to take this one in. Being in an altered state might help, although this song, if you open yourself to it, might help you achieve one.

A long-time Fingertips favorite, Molina returns with a crazy, churning, ecstatic daze of a song. The Argentinian former sitcom star has, as a musician, pioneered an alluring if evasive sort of folktronica, with lots of loops and repetition. “Un Día” is some of that, but also something else entirely. Despite how rigorously plotted out and worked over this sort of song construction probably is, Molina here sounds almost nuttily spontaneous and expansive, both musically and vocally. Ecstatic, yes: there seems something nearly spiritual in the air as Molina all but chants–her voice sounds freer, more unrestrained than in the past–against a marvelously textured and continually varying undercurrent of voice, electronics, horns, sounds, and percussion. As usual, for English-speaking listeners, the language adds another element of incomprehensibility, but she appears to be aiming in that direction in any case; one of the lyrics here, translated, reads: “One day I will sing the songs with no lyrics and everyone can imagine for themselves if it’s about love, disappointment, banalities or about Plato.”

“Un Día” is the title track from Molina’s forthcoming album, her fifth, due out next month on Domino Records. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing. MP3 via Stereogum.