Free and legal MP3: Tele Novella

Melodic, intricate, deeply appealing

Tele Novella

“No Excalibur” – Tele Novella

A lopey, quirky, walk-in-the-meadow kind of tune, “No Excalibur” is all meandering melody and intriguing metaphor and if by the end you haven’t been charmed out of your socks you probably just aren’t wearing socks.

Lacking an introduction, the song opens with front woman Natalie Gordon singing a teetering tune over a purposefully clunky, vaguely old-fashioned backbeat. The first hint of the robust adventure to come is in the unexpected chord progression that accompanies the end of the opening lyric (“crying so softly in this quiet,” 0:16). And then, when a normal song would go into a standard second verse, we get a variation and an offbeat hook on a new, repeating lyric (“Oh, I have known so many nights like this,” 0:18), after which arrives a series of linked motifs, one more interesting than the next, leading to the song’s central metaphor (“I’m no Excalibur/I’ll get out on my own”), which serves as the titular phrase but is not a chorus—we don’t hear it again.

The song’s first 50 seconds repeat musically, but not lyrically. And now Tele Novella is only getting started. The increasing melodic richness of what follows from here is matched by its intricacy—there are all sorts of juicy but not sing-along-y passages, sold with snowballing certainty by Gordon’s plainspoken, ever so slightly husky voice. I was hooked for good when she gets to the lyric “I can feel it rise/It brings tears to my eyes” (2:03), which, when it reemerges triumphantly at 2:56, after a second Excalibur reference, feels almost goosebumpy in its lyrical and musical rightness. That Gordon rhymes rhododendrons with tendons somewhere along the way is icing on the cake.

Tele Novella is a new band from Austin, with a personnel chart only somewhat less intricate than their music. In addition to singer/guitarist Gordon, formerly of Agent Ribbons, the band consists of ex-Voxtrot members Jason Chronis (bass) and Matt Simon (drums), and keyboardist Cari Palazollo, of the band Belaire, which also includes Chronis and Simon. “No Excalibur” is one of the first two songs the band has recorded and released. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.

Free and legal MP3: Annuals (intricate, satisfying, melodic)

“Confessor” – Annuals

Annuals prove yet again their capacity for producing intricate pop songs that defy standard structures while still offering catchy refrains and a satisfying sense of firm ground. “Confessor” develops upon two disparate rhythmic conceits: a stuttering, almost syncopated rhythm, which we hear for the first 26 seconds or so, accompanied by a melody featuring small intervals and drawn-out syllables; and a smoother, swaying beat, which you’ll hear for roughly the next 26 seconds. That second part features full-bodied vocal harmonies, a distinctive string section, and the song’s most prominent and inviting hook, starting around 0:30, which is the melody associated with the words “Through the windows in the chapel.” So the song’s a half-minute old, we’ve already experienced a how’d-that-happen? musical shift, and have come to a wonderful, old friend of a hook without quite knowing where we even are–verse? chorus? some mysterious other thing?

The somewhat XTC-like journey we’re on continues as the syncopation returns, the background music swells, and then–neat trick, around 1:21–we get the melodic hook overlaid onto the syncopated beat, aided and abetted by tight harmonies and a concise instrumental accompaniment, which feels full but not overcrowded. I like, after this, the swirling, climaxing instrumental section, and how it all but crashes ashore, wave-like, receding before the triumphant return of the “windows in the chapel” section. And with a few more swirly, wave-like swooshes, the song ends, less than three minutes after it has begun.

“Confessor” opens the new Annuals CD, Such Fun, which will be released next week on Canvasback Music, which is a Columbia Records spin-off. MP3 via Stereogum.