Free and legal MP3: Bear in Heaven (driven yet spacey indie rock)

“Lovesick Teenagers” – Bear in Heaven

Can a song be spacey and determined at the same time? “Lovesick Teenagers” seems to manage this unusual effect. Determination is heard through the relentless pulse of the snare-free beat along with front man Jon Philpot’s purposeful tenor, which sounds like someone with a wavery voice trying not to waver. And the melody itself seems also to possess an endearing sort of tenaciousness in the way it keeps leaping up a fourth on every syllable it seeks to emphasize.

But the spaciness too comes in various guises. Echoey, rocket-like synthesizers, sure. You’ll hear those right away. But it’s also there in the synth’s ongoing throb, which moves at twice the pace of the drumbeat, and lends a sci-fi-cartoon-iness to the proceedings. The chorus, when it arrives, arrives in a wash of psychedelic effects–soaring synths, fuzzed-up vocals, glitchy accents–even though, if you listen, you’ll see that the driving drumbeat persists underneath it all. And look how the song’s final moment pretty much encapsulates the underlying aural paradox, being at once the epitome of driving determination–a “sting,” as we used to call it in radio (meaning a sharp, abrupt ending)–and moony vagueness, since the sting echoes afterwards with the faintest of synthetic wind sounds.

Bear in Heaven is a quartet of Southerners who landed in Brooklyn and have been recording since 2003. “Lovesick Teenagers” is a song from Beast Rest Forth Mouth, the band’s third album, released this month on Hometapes Records.

Free and legal MP3: The Idle Hands (casually brilliant neo-Britpop)

“Loaded” – The Idle Hands

Simple, driving, and evocative, “Loaded” has the cool dry makings of an underground anthem about it. Embodying a musical vector that starts in the late ’60s with the Velvets (Loaded, in fact, was the name of the last true Velvet Underground album) and runs through ’70s Bowie, ’80s Smiths, and ’90s Oasis, The Idle Hands here deliver a casually brilliant, sharply-produced bit of neo-Britpop that’s positively resplendent in its matter-of-fact-ness, if that makes sense. Surely it outshines the majority of the either under- or over-thought-out indie rock music that’s all but strangling the internet (not to mention, this week, the city of Austin, Texas) by decade’s end. Almost always the amount of naiveté or frippery on display in a song is inversely proportional to the underlying musical solidity of the enterprise. “Loaded” is nothing if not sleek and to the point, even if the point is a world-weary one.

The ongoing trick for quality rock’n’roll, however, is how to keep the simple from being, simply, boring. “Loaded” catches and holds the ear in a number of ways. I like the rubbery synth line that traces a satisfying upward and downward path in the intro; I like the forceful but blasé baritone of singer Ciaran (no last name given), a voice at home with lyrics alternately cultivated and dissipated—bringing Morrissey (no first name given) to mind yet without sounding like a mindless acolyte. I like the somewhat unusual (in indie rock) use of internal rhyme—there’s nothing too strict going on here, but if you pay attention you’ll hear words being rhymed that do not always end a lyrical line. I like the perfect balance of fuzz and jangle in the guitar sound, and how neither sound overwhelms the song. And most of all I like the direct but vivid chorus, built upon the most basic three notes in the musical scale, just do re mi, but it’s all about putting them in the right order, to the right rhythm, with the right chords.

Featuring two Irish brothers and three Americans, the Idle Hands are based in Minneapolis and are readying their full-length debut for an American release this year. “Loaded” was originally on an EP released only in the U.K. in 2006; it will appear on the new CD as well. MP3 via One Track Mind.

Free and legal MP3: Hooray For Earth (driving, inventive, fuzzy-edged indie rock)

“Take Care” – Hooray For Earth

With a dense one-two beat, a tumble of words that sound concrete but don’t tell us much of anything, and no introduction whatsoever, “Take Care” foists itself upon the listener without warning, and takes a while to make musical sense.

But the chorus’ll hook you in, I think. The song is still driving fuzzily along, but a grand, anthemic melody rises up in the midst of the chugging fuzz, like the sun breaking through on a stormy day. Or, at least, it stopping raining a bit. Almost perversely, the chorus happens the first time without any lyrics (starting at 0:36), a wash of shimmering noise serving as the tune; you have to wait for it to come back again to get the full effect (at 1:29). With words, the clarity and (dare I suggest) beauty of the melody is revealed, if a bit coyly—those extended pauses between lyrical lines keep everything a bit off-balance, even in the midst of the grandness, while Noel Heroux sings, among other things, “This is not the song/That I want to sing,” then offers the titular phrase as almost an afterthought, providing modulation to the bridge more than anything else. But, talk about grand: get a load of that prog-rock-y instrumental break which starts at 2:18, complete with what sounds like a choir of heavenly voices in the distance. From here, “Take Care” takes off on pure inventive energy, revisiting the chorus with a variety of accompaniment schemes, acquiring an almost majestic momentum as we are led at long last back to the “When I take care” lyric, which now, repeated, sounds like a triumphant realization.

Hooray For Earth is a quartet with three of four members based in Boston, one in NYC. The roots of the band go back some ten years, when bassist Chris Principe and singer/guitarist Heroux were in a high school group together. Hooray For Earth’s current formation was finalized in 2004. The band issued a self-released debut CD in 2006 without any national distribution; with some updating and remixing, the album was re-issued this fall, digitally, on Dopamine Records; the physical CD will be released in January.