Free and legal MP3: The Happy Hollows (ingratiating, noisy, whimsical song-as-journey)

“Lieutenant” – the Happy Hollows

I am no fan of indie music that veers too sharply into the DIY camp, as my ears will forever be jarred by sloppiness, however disguised by claims of authenticity or shred guitar prowess. When I first heard “Lieutenant,” I was attracted by its left-turn hooks but wary of its seeming disjointedness. For a five-minute song, this one unspools in an unnerving number of directions; it’s hard to get a handle on too quickly, and I was not initially convinced that there was any larger sense of purpose keeping the song from simply flying apart. (I am by and large unswayed by shredding.) And yet I surely did like lead singer Sarah Negahdari’s trilly, pixie-like (or Pixies-like?) sense of drama, the trio’s Belly-esque blend of heaviness and lightness, and the sly, quasi-martial swing of the song’s stickiest hook (first heard at 1:10).

I’m still not completely sure which side of the line between sophistication and random craziness that “Lieutenant” lands on, but the moment, probably, that won me over was this: the minute and a half in the middle of the song that features the most jumpy, unglued material climaxes, at around 4:00, with all three band members singing together and then just sort of shouting with jump-in-the-pool abandon. Weeeeeee. It cemented the song-as-journey concept, and I liked where it led: into a coda with a new, unexpectedly soothing melody. Well, okay, it gets wacky again for the last five seconds. They can’t help themselves.

“Lieutenant” is the lead track off the L.A.-based band’s second EP, Imaginary, which will be released by the band next week.

Free and legal MP3: Land of Talk (urgent indie rock w/ subtle twitchiness)

“Some Are Lakes” – Land of Talk

Elizabeth Powell is a mighty guitar player, a compelling singer, and the front woman for a Montreal-based band that appears destined for big things.

Last year’s Applause Cheer Boo Hiss EP was a spunky, spiky debut; “Some Are Lakes,” the title track to the band’s forthcoming full-length CD, sounds a bit smoother on the surface than did the songs on the EP, but Land of Talk’s appealing sense of roughness and urgency remains, now channeled into the workings of the song itself. Instead of lo-fi atmospherics–basically, loud/soft and fast/slow changes–“Some Are Lakes,” with its wistful air and a muted drive, offers a subtler sort of twitchiness in the form of open-chorded melodies, a dissonant, cymbal-heavy chorus, and the buzzy undercurrent of Powell’s gravelly guitar playing. And Powell sings here without vocal processing this time, allowing us to hear more than ever the heart and soul in her powerful voice.

Some Are Lakes will be released next month on Saddle Creek Records. MP3 via Saddle Creek.