Free and legal MP3: Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird (evocative rocker w/ juxtaposed tempos)

Evocative rocker that manages to feel old-school and brand-new at the same time.

Cousin Tony's Brand New Firebird

“Soothsayer” – Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird

Evocative rocker that manages to feel old-school and brand-new at the same time. While you are probably first going to notice the emotive and elastic vocals of front man Lachlan Rose, the song itself, upon examination, is a more than worthy vehicle for his talents.

To me, “Soothsayer”‘s charms are rooted in the way that, tempo-wise, it moves at a good clip on the one hand while not seeming to be in any hurry on the other. Interesting juxtapositions like this are often fun and rewarding in a pop song; this one in particular is accomplished, I think, by three different means. The first is the double-time accompaniment: while the song appears to be written in a moderately-paced 4/4 time, the rhythm guitars and some of the percussion are moving at twice that pace. Another element that reinforces the faster/slower sensation is how spread out and unrepetitive the verses are; the lyrics are given musical space, while the music comprises three separate sections, each picking up pace from the previous one. The overall effect is a 45-second, 16-measure melody that draws you in to a compelling but ambiguous story.

The third and perhaps most obvious thing creating this fast/slow tension down is the chorus, which feels like it slows the song down although doesn’t—all that happens is we lose the double-time backing: front man Lachlan Rose now sings with minimal assistance, but the song’s pace never actually changes. Most choruses in pop songs aim to burst forth with volume and energy, the better to come across as “catchy.” “Soothsayer” instead gives us a chorus that all but brings the song to a halt. “Catchy” seems suddenly besides the point when “arresting” is happening. (Such thinking might also underscore the recalcitrant fact that what might be the song’s most fetching moment, when the lyrics speed up with the phrase “thinking about yourself,” at 1:02, is never repeated.)

Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird is a trio from Melbourne. “Soothsayer,” their first single, has been out for a number of months, but their debut EP, Queen of Hearts, on which you’ll find this song, was released just last month in Australia. You can listen via SoundCloud. Thanks to Triple J Unearthed and the band for the MP3.

Free and legal MP3: Emily Jane White (hypnotic, acoustic, reverbed)

The insistent yet elusive “Black Silk” pulls you into a magical past that somehow blends the Victorian and the medieval.

Emily Jane White

“Black Silk” – Emily Jane White

At once insistent and elusive, “Black Silk” unfolds in a reverbed acoustic setting that evokes a sense of bygone remoteness; we feel immediately pulled into a magical past that somehow blends the Victorian and the medieval. And yet this sound is likewise very 2010s. Go figure.

At the center of the song is White’s spacious, slightly smoky alto. She sings as if to hypnotize you. The music assists, as she backs her soothing, folk-like melody with a river of double-time finger-picked arpeggios that lull us so with their diligence that we almost don’t notice the rather threatening entrance of the electric guitar about midway through. The song’s very structure, in fact, leads us along as if spellbound, lacking a true chorus while flowing through a mostly unrepeated series of interrelated pieces. The listener can feel both lost and dizzy by the time we get to the climactic clearing. At which point, all White has to say is “oh oh oh,” as you’ll see.

Born in California, White ended up launching her solo music career while living in France in the ’00s, and still has a larger following overseas than in the U.S. “Black Silk” is from Ode To Sentience, her third album, which was released on the Talitres label in France last year. The American release is slated for May on Antenna Farm Records. White was previously featured on Fingertips last March.

Free and legal MP3: Orenda Fink (evocative and folk-ish)

“High Ground” – Orenda Fink

Orenda Fink returns, not long after her technologically experimental O+S project, with a solo record that grounds her firmly back in a world of acoustic instruments and evocative songwriting. “High Ground,” with its minor key orientation, purposeful picking (both mandolin and banjo, from the sound of it), and group vocals, unfolds with the offhand seriousness of a back-country folk song. The title, and the central metaphor therein, implies both threat and survival; Fink’s lovely, careful singing voice, is, by song’s end, all but swallowed by the vocal wave around her, but she keeps singing, and doesn’t raise her voice. And we still hear her, all the more so because we have to try.

“High Ground” is a track from Fink’s forthcoming album, Ask the Night, to be released next month on Saddle Creek Records. And the ever-active, prolific Fink has also been playing with Maria Taylor as Azure Ray again this summer; the word is that a new Azure Ray album is in the works for next year.