Free and legal MP3: Blondie (spacey, w/ heavy guitar & potent melody)

A spacey, meditative thing with a heavy-guitar core, the song features Harry in dreamy mode, voice further altered by distortion–an effective sound for late-era Blondie.

Blondie

“Bride of Infinity” – Blondie

The legendary NYC rock band Blondie has been around long enough to have had by now not one but two different reunion incarnations. The first came in 1997, with the unexpected release (and success) of No Exit. The reformed band, featuring four of the original six members, took six years to record a follow-up, the smartly-titled but less successful The Curse of Blondie. Shortly thereafter, they lost original keyboardist Jimmy Destri to rehab. Another hiatus ensued, until the remaining threesome—Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke—were roused into action by the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the release of the group’s breakthrough album, Parallel Lines, in 2008. Word at the time was that the band, reformed with two new members, was working on a new album, which eventually became 2011’s Panic of Girls, another mixed bag at best.

So what’s a long-time fan to do? Blondie in their heyday were sensational, but their heyday was 30 years ago. It’s weird enough when our rock heroes grow old but it’s one thing when they’ve been making an effort to stay in the musical stream of things, so we can kind of (sort of) get used to their aging (Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are the models here). It’s another thing when they disappear for 20 years or so and then come back and say “Here we are!” when it’s not at all clear who “we” are, and where exactly “here” is. I found one song on The Curse of Blondie I’ve wanted to listen to more than once or twice (“Rules For Living”). Panic of Girls struck me as okay but unremarkable, but maybe I’ve haven’t given it enough of a chance. Thing is, I’m not sure I’m as happy, yet, listening to Debbie Harry’s 65-plus voice as I was her 30-something voice; the change is subtle but noticeable. But I’m going to stay with her still because, well, she’s Debbie Harry for crissake.

And so, finally, we arrive at “Bride of Infinity,” one of three songs the band abruptly released as free and legal MP3s this month. A spacey, meditative thing with a heavy-guitar core, the song features Harry in dreamy mode, voice further altered by distortion. This is an effective sound for late-era Blondie, especially when coupled with the kind of strong melody that made their best songs so deeply pleasurable. This one is an unusual six measures long, with an instant repetition; thoughtfully-paced, the melody glides fully up and down the scale, using all eight notes (where one and eight are the same note, an octave apart), which is both graceful and uncommon. There is no chorus, just two instrumental breaks in between the three run-throughs of the verse, and get a load of that second instrumental break (2:20), an understated world-music hoedown featuring what sounds like a sitar and some alternative percussion. Blondie was always at its best when flaunting a humor so deadpan you can’t always be sure it’s even there.

You can stream and/or download all three new tracks via the band; one of them is a cover of the David Essex nugget “Rock On.” Note that I’m offering the MP3 above as usual but I will encourage you to use the widget below for downloading because I’m not actually sure I should be hosting this but I felt compelled to. Having Blondie on Fingertips is an honor.

Free and legal MP3: Lindsey Buckingham (gentle melody, fierce fingerpicking)

A beauty and a grower, “Seeds We Sow” is all bittersweet wisdom and musical depth. Put it on repeat and soak it in.

Lindsey Buckingham

“Seeds We Sow” – Lindsey Buckingham

“Seeds We Sow” couples lullaby calm with instrumental ferocity as bona fide rock legend/guitar hero Buckingham supports his gentle, whispered melody with some vigorous fingerpicking. The guitar work is so fluid that you might miss how likewise maniacal it is, working alternately with and against the complex time signature (12/8, maybe?) to soothe and unsettle in equal parts. The lyrics appear to serve a similar purpose.

And for whatever reason, the thing that nails this down for me is the wordless addendum to the chorus that he employs (first at 0:58)—the “ahhhh, ta ta ta,” part, which seems at once curious and perfect. Why “ta” versus the standard “la”? How would that even occur to someone? This is also the moment at which Buckingham unleashes his most characteristic vocal sound; it’s like an old friend abruptly appearing at a party you hadn’t known he was invited to. In any case, the song is a beauty and a grower, all bittersweet wisdom and musical depth. Put it on repeat and soak it in.

“Seeds We Sow” is the title track to Buckingham’s new album, his sixth as a solo artist, which he self-released (using the imprint Mind Kit Records) earlier this month. MP3 via Magnet Magazine. Note that Amazon is selling the MP3 album for $4.99 right now if you’re interested.

Free and legal MP3: Grace Jones (splendid return of the trippy ’80s icon)

Grace Jones

“Sunset Sunrise” – Grace Jones

Sounding like a Marianne Faithfull for the club set, Grace Jones re-emerges as a singer after 20 years without an album release. Always somewhat ageless, not to mention androgynous, the now-63-year-old Jones pulls off this slinky, bass-driven shaker without breaking a sweat, her voice huskier and chestier than previously, her mystique unharmed for the long absence. The sheer musical presence and power of this song is a surprise and a delight, combining a sinuous playfulness with an almost oracular austerity. “Is it yours?/Is it mine?/Is it ours/To divide?” she sings, deliciously off the beat, voice vibrating with menace and experience. Grace Jones remains a trip.

Jones was always as much a visual artist as an aural one; the flat-top haircut and angular clothing she favored became quickly iconic in her new-wave era heyday; that she was both an early MTV favorite and a cartoon-ish silver screen villain is no surprise, and no one should underestimate how much a certain present-day pop star, with the fake name and the outlandish costumes, owes her act to the pioneering Jones. But here’s a big difference: Jones pulls off her persona by seeming genuinely odd, not to mention authentically bad-ass. Everyone who has followed her seems instead to be purposefully setting out to be odd, as if checking off a qualification on a resume. Not the same thing.

I mean, just take a look at this video, for the song “Corporate Cannibal,” which, like “Sunset Sunrise,” comes from the forthcoming album Hurricane. Crazy, yes? But also almost beautiful. In a trippy kind of way. Hurricane has actually been out since late 2008, but had only previously been offered up in Europe. It finally gets a U.S. release in September, via PIAS America.