Free and legal MP3: Bombay Bicycle Club (curiously satisfying, w/ a hypnotic groove)

Being obsessed with reuniting with your band in times of trouble seems, indeed, more righteous than just being another 21st-century guy eager for his lover’s body.

“Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)” – Bombay Bicycle Club

Here, in the midst of a buzzy, quasi-anthemic piece of late-issue indie rock, I’m finding that the moment that sells me is when an abruptly perky synth lick grabs the ear at the top of the mix after the third of the three-word choral incantation (“wake,” first heard at 0:34). If you re-listen you’ll hear how well set up the moment is, a climax emerging from the rubbery noodling the synthesizer has been doing from the start. And yet when you first hear it it’s this marvelous upward prompt that punctuates and re-sets the piece in a curiously satisfying way.

In fact let’s call the entire song curiously satisfying, starting with how its hypnotic groove, emphasized by a nearly sub-aural bass line, is no mere sonic affectation, but is in fact germane to lyrics that speak of obsession so thorough as to render days a rote ritual of waking and sleeping, as if hypnotized. And even though this may seem to be about someone in thrall to an absent lover, front man Jack Steadman is actually here expressing his desire to get back together with his band mates, as Bombay Bicycle Club had been on a hiatus for a few years. This seems a helpful distinction, and to me accounts for the musical uplift of the aforementioned synth lick; being obsessed with reuniting with your band in times of national uneasiness (they’re from London) seems, indeed, more righteous than just being another 21st-century guy singing about his lover’s body.

I’m also taken with Steadman’s vocal delivery, which conveys a shaky determination, half resigned and half resolved, reminiscent of Conor Oberst on a sturdy day. The verses acquire a claustrophobic momentum, with Steadman barely taking a breath, but we are always led back to the chorus and that mind-clearing synth lick. Note too another song that does not overstay its welcome; I’ll never understand why some bands take the positive quality of insistence and depreciate it into redundancy. (In fact, all four songs this month clock in within the perfect 3:33 to 3:49 range. Well done, everyone!)

A quartet whose origins date back to 2005, Bombay Bicycle Club recorded four albums between 2009 and 2014, to a good amount of critical and popular success, did a bunch of touring, then decided to go their separate ways in 2016. Both singer/guitarist Steadman and bassist Ed Nash pursued solo projects, but after three years the group found its way back together. “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)” is their first new recording in five years, and will be found on their the album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong, which is due out early next year. The song was produced by John Congleton, known in recent years for his work with St. Vincent and Alvvays. MP3 via KEXP.

Free and legal MP3: Son of Stan (smartly, smoothly crafted out of lo-fi parts)

Like a magician knowingly guiding our attention away from a trick’s “secret,” Richardson uses the sound of his song to distract us from its bewildering framework.

Son of Stan

“Corsica” – Son of Stan

The familiar but unplaceable instrumental sound that introduces and accompanies “Corsica” is not just an instantly engaging sound—its tone resembling a cross between a guitar and a human voice, maybe—but a strong, melodic riff that works as the song’s predominant hook. While I am not any kind of a gear geek (the “obscure and antiquated pedals” used to create the sound don’t intrigue me), I am a sucker for instrumental hooks, which have never been all that common in rock’n’roll, and have gone almost entirely MIA in 21st-century indie rock. While most songwriters prefer to put words to their hookiest melodies, I find that an instrumental melody line or motif at the song’s core adds richness that is at once notable—you can’t help hearing it—and elusive, since you can’t easily sing along to it. Making it that much more notable, says me.

While the hook pretty much carries the song, Jordan Richardson’s vocals are a complementary piece of the puzzle. A purposefully low-quality mic may have generated the thin, overmodulated sound, but check out how effectively this vocal presentation is installed within its aural habitat. Like a magician knowingly guiding our attention away from a trick’s “secret,” Richardson uses the sound of his song to distract us from its bewildering framework: there are verses, and alternate verses, and two related one-line segments of which one or the other may or may not be the chorus, and instrumental breaks, and unnameable extra sections. The two reliable unifying elements are the instrumental riff/hook and Richardson’s oddly processed voice, and they see us nicely through, and make me happy to listen again.

“Corsica” is from Divorce Pop, Richardson’s debut album as Son of Stan. He plays all the instruments on the album, but will tour with a live band. Originally from Fort Worth, Richardson, a drummer by trade, is based in Los Angeles, and has worked with Ben Harper and Ringo Starr, among others. Divorce Pop is slated for release next month on Wizardvision Records, which appears to be Richardson’s imprint.