Free and legal MP3: Juniore (cinematic French pop w/ ’60s élan)

With the mischievous energy of something vaguely furtive, “Dans Le Noir” unfolds with an intricate overlay of ’60s influences, from the folk-rock melodies to the spy-movie guitar accents to the psychedelic synthesizer flourishes.

Juniore

“Dans Le Noir” – Juniore

With the mischievous energy of something vaguely furtive, “Dans Le Noir” unfolds with an intricate overlay of ’60s-like sounds, from the folk-rock melodies to the spy-movie guitar accents to the psychedelic synthesizer flourishes. Before we get to any of that, however, take note of the introduction, which effects the satisfying trick of introducing without simply vamping on the main motif—what we get instead is an engaging guitar duet, with a lower-register, half-time melody backed by busy runs in the upper register. The song is thereby introduced, but we still don’t know exactly what it’s going to sound like. I like this.

The song itself is equally likable, driven by front woman Anna Jean’s cool, shadowy vocals, singing a cycling, minor-key melody that seems to keep yearning upward before pitching downward, aiming over and over for something not apparently reachable. The concise chorus, flattened and reverbed and buoyed by nostalgic harmonies, feels cinematic in a black-and-white kind of way. Anna Jean floats through its melodic poignancy with her self-possession unruffled—which actually renders the music all the more poignant somehow. In a similar (or not?) way, the entire song’s surface-level simplicity manages to convey a deepening sense of complexity with repeated listens. Somehow.

Juniore is a new band from Paris about which information remains sketchy, besides the fact that Anna Jean is in charge. She has previously collaborated with an assortment of other French musicians, but this appears to be the first time she is taking center stage. “Dans Le Noir” is one of two songs on the band’s debut 7-inch, released in November. A full-length album and a tour is scheduled for 2014.

Free and legal MP3: Scanners (musically astute & cinematic)

“Salvation” – Scanners

The London-based foursome Scanners make a kind of music once all too common and now all too rare: smartly-produced, aurally interesting, musically astute rock’n’roll. This is music that isn’t trying to be fancy, or arcane, or difficult; and yet neither is it simple-minded in sound or concept. Now, I said that this sort of smartly produced (etc.) rock used to be pretty common, which leaves us with the interesting reality that we are not, in 2009, used to hearing music like this in songs that we don’t already know. (Such a dispiriting genre, “classic rock”–sealed off by definition from the living, breathing world.) Kind of an odd truth, and one which makes a song like “Salvation” all the more appealing.

I like, right at the start, how the song offers depth and drama with such sparse instrumentation: until 55 seconds in, we hear precious little but an itchy acoustic guitar lick and some distant chimes, joined for a bit by a quiet keyboard motif. The atmosphere is fostered by the minor key melody and those resonant backing vocals, which are echoey and mixed in such a way as to sound as if the voices were shouting but the volume was turned way down. It’s a foreboding effect. Keep an ear on the harmonies throughout–they remain central, and get increasingly interesting. And for all the sonic theatrics, discipline rules the day. You don’t hear too many rockers that will dial back halfway into a song (1:19) so that you can only hear, for three seconds, one repeated note on an acoustic guitar.

“Salvation” is from the band’s forthcoming album, Submarine, scheduled for a February release on Dim Mak Records. The band was previously featured here in Aug ’06, around the time of the first album, Violence is Golden. MP3 via Better Propaganda.