Free and legal MP3: Snailhouse (smooth, swanky, melancholy)

Best of all, I do believe that this song offers up an as good if not better use of the “sentimental”/”gentle” rhyme than the familiar, if rather forced, one we got oh so long ago in the Bob Welch-penned classic that this song is a winning homage to.

Mike Feuerstack

“Sentimental Gentleman” – Snailhouse

Smooth and swanky and melancholy, this wise/weary homage to the old Fleetwood Mac/Bob Welch chestnut “Sentimental Lady” is a sneakily wonderful work in its own right. I love its rubbery, lazy-afternoon vibe, sprinkled with unresolved lead-guitar chords, unhurried horns (or horn-like sounds), and some built-in applause that one can truly call a smattering. Best of all, I do believe that this song offers up an as good if not better use of the “sentimental”/”gentle” rhyme than the familiar, if rather forced, one we got oh so long ago in the Welch-penned classic.

The voice and guitar we are hearing here belongs to Mike Feuerstack, of the veteran Canadian band Wooden Stars; Snailhouse has been his lo-fi-ish side project since pretty much the same time Wooden Stars got off the ground, back in 1994. With both a slight tremble and a pleasing richness, Feuerstack’s voice emerges from his throat so effortlessly he seems merely to be talking, an effect accentuated by his wry, conversational lyrics, which seem at least in part to deal with what it’s like to be an experienced but still pretty much unknown rock’n’roller. “We lied to the promoter/Said we’re packing them in,” he asserts, dryly, along the way.

“Sentimental Gentleman” is the title track to the sixth Snailhouse album, which was released in April in Europe on Mi Amante Records, and then in May in Canada through White Whale Records and Forward Music. MP3 via Mi Amante.

Free and legal MP3: Matt Longo

Sweet, melancholy, concise

Matt Longo

“The Night” – Matt Longo

Sweet, melancholy, and concise, “The Night” is half ballad, half lullaby, with a lovely, organic melody that links the verse and chorus so seamlessly that it sounds like one long outpouring of thought, breath, desire, regret. Longo’s light, expressive tenor works equally well with the simple guitar accompaniment that begins the piece and the string- and drum-enhanced arrangement in the middle.

The song sounds like something you might stumble upon at a late-night party, where a guy with a guitar breaks into an easy, heartfelt tune, is joined by a couple of other friends with instruments, while a quiet roomful of people nod their heads in musical sympathy. There’s nothing complicated about it except its power to move you without being complicated. To kind of go meta on you for a moment.

“The Night” is one of seven songs on Longo’s debut album, Alexandria, which was released in November and available for free via Bandcamp.

Free and legal MP3: The Medders (sweeping, melancholy C&W-ish ballad)

“Gunslinger” – the Medders

A sweeping, melancholy ballad with solid (but not annoying) country-western roots, “Gunslinger” tells a woeful tale with care, finesse, and canny harmonies. Constructed without a chorus, the song steadfastly repeats an eight-measure melody, with some instrumental breaks, all the while building in intensity both musically and lyrically. I like the great combination of deliberation and power on display, which gives this slower-paced song a vehemence normally achieved, in rock, through speed and volume. And the male-female harmonies are not just a boon but may well be the ultimate key to how well “Gunslinger” works, adding to the song’s pathos and musicality simultaneously. The all-male Medders employed singer Priscilla Jeschke for the job; note she is also lead singer Cheyenne Medders’ girlfriend.

The Medders are a quartet from Nashville featuring three brothers–Cheyenne, Carson, and Will–who themselves are the sons of singer/songwriter Jule Medders. Their self-titled, self-released, and self-assured debut album is scheduled for a September release.

Free and legal MP3: Faunts (sweet, glum, soaring neo-shoegaze from Edmonton)

“It Hurts Me All the Time” – Faunts

Breezy and melancholy is a seductive musical combination, trickier to master than it may at first seem. The big problem when aiming for both pretty and glum at the same time is avoiding glib pastiche; in this day and age when knob-twiddlers rule the world, it’s easy enough to combine disparate moods and sounds and harder than ever to make it sound a convincing whole.

“It Hurts Me All the Time” blows right past any difficulties from the get-go: first comes that extended intro mixing sprightly synths and low-level dissonance, and then (eventually) the decisive opening lines: “You could never love me/The sky is black above me,” sung with pitch-perfect doleful-sweetness by Tim Batke (one of three Batke brothers in this five-man band). Scored or sung the wrong way, lyrics like that might set off the twee alarm, but not only is Batke’s voice burnished with a subtle throatiness one might not expect from a soaring pop tenor, get a load too of that clanging guitar noise going on as a backdrop to the bubbling synthesizers accompanying him–a visceral signal of the song’s mixed message. And then there’s also the smooth, repeated synthesizer theme that’s more or less an instrumental hook for the song–a pretty line aired with an eerie, organic fragility; a line which, as well, carries with it a distinct echo of Joy Division’s famously melancholy “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which further undermines the sweetness.

“It Hurts Me All the Time” is a song from the CD Feel.Love.Thinking.Of., the Edmonton band’s second album (not counting last year’s remix album), to be released next week on Friendly Fire Recordings. MP3 via Friendly Fire.