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.