Free and legal MP3: Color of Clouds (lovely blend of acoustic and electronic)

With a hint of glitch seasoning its spry intimacy, “Brother” is the work of a band with a gift for uncomplicated complexity, if that phrase makes any sense. Great pleasures await here in straightforward juxtapositions. For one immediate example, listen to how the beat glides seamlessly from a chime-like electronic stutter into a cozy 4/4 with a wistful bounce, driven by the gentlest of drumbeats. And then, without fuss, enters singer Kelli Scarr, arriving as if she’d been here all along, starting the story just about in mid-sentence, in tones of bittersweet honey. She has us at hello.

“Brother” – Color of Clouds

With a hint of glitch seasoning its spry intimacy, “Brother” is the work of a band with a gift for uncomplicated complexity, if that phrase makes any sense. Great pleasures await here in straightforward juxtapositions. For one immediate example, listen to how the beat glides seamlessly from a chime-like electronic stutter into a cozy 4/4 with a wistful bounce, driven by the gentlest of drumbeats. And then, without fuss, enters singer Kelli Scarr, arriving as if she’d been here all along, starting the story just about in mid-sentence, in tones of bittersweet honey. She has us at hello.

And things only get better from here in a song blending the acoustic and electronic in a most gracious manner–the instrumental palette here is nothing short of delightful–and building towards a brilliant, light-footed chorus. I still can’t tell if that’s some sort of steel guitar in there or a nuanced synthesizer, but those are definitely stringed instruments that arrive for a first visit at 0:57, returning with the chorus to mesh almost heart-breakingly with that steel-guitar-ish sound and, most nimbly, that subtle persistent electronic glitch in the beat. And yes I’m afraid this is one of those songs that’s far more trouble to describe than to listen to. Rest your eyes and reward your ears with repeated listens.

All three band members were previously in the electronic band Moonraker, and Scarr has also been a frequent collaborator with Moby. “Brother” is a song from the debut Color of Clouds album, Satellite of Love, released digitally this week via Stuhr Records. MP3 via One Track Mind.

Free and legal MP3: Lay Low (twangy Icelandic toe-tapper)

“By and By” – Lay Low

Doing musical business as Lay Low, Icelandic singer/songwriter Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir combines a genuine feel for–of all things–classic country and western with the ability, consistently shared by musicians in her home country, to tap into something marvelous and otherworldly.

On the surface, yes, the song is an upbeat, twangy little thing, but me, I am for some reason paying extra attention to how Lovísa meanders away from the regimen of the sprightly beat that appears at first to define the song. In the verses, only the first two words of each line are firmly on the beat; by the end of the verse, she willfully ignores the momentum of the song, her voice all but purring with an unusual blend of intimacy and puckishness. The chorus, meanwhile, sounds like a return to alignment (0:59) but for the life of me even when the melody appears to be in lockstep with the beat I swear she sounds like she’s laying off ever so slightly. And then soon enough (1:04) she lets it go entirely. Listen to how she manages the transition between the words “before” and “I”; I cannot describe it. And behind her it’s all just perky country playing, as if nothing is awry, as if it’s maybe just a big guy in a cowboy hat who’s on stage and we’re group-imagining this (marvelous, otherworldly) Nordic visitation.

“By and By” will be found on Lay Low’s second album, Farewell Good Night’s Sleep, due out in March on Lovísa’s own Loo label.