Free and legal MP3: Your 33 Black Angels (rock’n’roll at once rough-hewn & precise)

At once precise and rough-hewn—like something Ron Sexsmith would write if he were in a band with Neil Young.

Your 33 Black Angels

“Patient Love” – Your 33 Black Angels

I’ve got a news flash. Rock’n’roll is not dead. Enough with that already. No it’s not what it used to be, no it’s not at the center of the pop cultural universe but can we stop with the witless headlines that arise pretty much every year about rock being dead, or indie rock being dead, or whatever preferred “death of the month” is being declared. I mean sheesh. It is a meaningless and idiotic editorial trope and any editor who runs it is lazy and any writer who writes it is a narcissist. There. I said it.

Rock’n’roll is not dead because there are still rock bands making it, and if you are one of those people who need your rock music to be revolutionary and without precedent well boy have you come to the wrong genre in the first place. Rock bands have been reworking the classics since before Led Zeppelin was ripping off Willie Dixon. So, okay, here’s Brooklyn’s Your 33 Black Angels, and this one just kills it: the vibe is terrific, the guitar riff insistent, the lyrics slippery but compelling, and the organ fills are perfect. (Do not underestimate the organ in the rock’n’roll bag of tricks.) And then there are the little, unutterable things. One example: early in the song (0:26), when the singer sings, “I was just reminded,” and there’s that long and perfect pause between “just” and “reminded,” and it’s exactly the kind of thing you do if you really know how to write songs. In the end there is something so precise and exquisite about this seemingly rough-hewn song. It sounds like something Ron Sexsmith would write if he were in a band with Neil Young.

Your 33 Black Angels is an elusive and idiosyncratic crew, encompassing at least eight musicians, who prefer to go by names like JW, D. Zots, and (my favorite) J. O! (exclamation point included), while apparently utilizing the additional services of “countless others.” “Patient Love” is a song from their fourth album, Moon and Morning Star, which was self-released last week. The band was previously featured here in October 2008. MP3 via the music site Consequence of Sound, and although the link looks generic and sketchy, this was an official premiere so it’s all above board.

Free and legal MP3: Regrets & Brunettes (brisk & world-weary LA rock)

“Tough Love” – Regrets & Brunettes

“Tough Love” does so much so effortlessly in its first 15 seconds that a casual listener may not hear much more than an intriguing mood. But check it out: first the brisk minor key guitar strum, at once mellow and urgent; then the slightly dissonant second guitar line (harsher and crunchier but also somewhat distant); then–out of left field but instantly perfect–the wistful, Bacharachesque horn motif (and that could be a keyboard sounding like a horn, but no matter). It’s an extraordinarily compact introduction; Richard Bivens begins singing, with the compellingly blasé tone of any number of great rock’n’roll singers–at 0:16. Better believe I’m listening.

The opening’s terrific atmosphere sustains. This is one of those unusual pop songs in which the chorus is less catchy than the other elements, and truly this seems part of the plan–as Bivens repeats “I can’t shake it,” I can just about feel the physical gesture suggested and it’s not supposed to be entirely pleasant. Everything works together here; in fact, I’m half convinced one reason the music withdraws a bit in the chorus is to give us a chance to ponder the curious lyric Bivens left us hanging with: “You used to take off your clothes/You used to curl up your toes with me.”

“Tough Love” is as song off the L.A.-based band’s debut album, At Night You Love Me, which was self-released last month.