Free and legal MP3: Jay Arner (both pensive & anthemic)

Brisk, concise, and allusive, “Don’t Remind Me” is a fine song for any lingering summer evenings that remain, while hinting at the chill yet to come.

Jay Arner

“Don’t Remind Me” – Jay Arner

Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Jay Arner here performs the estimable trick of creating a pensive anthem. The pensiveness is heard in the song’s continued reliance on both minor and suspended chords, as well as in Arner’s naturally reticent singing voice. Even the title is oddly introspective for a command, as well as ambiguous: when you tell someone “Don’t remind me,” you are typically talking about something you’re already dwelling on; on the other hand, spoken seriously, the sentence can nearly be a threat.

The song’s stellar chorus serves as a pithy distillation of the entire composition, its air of yearning, sing-along-iness at once undermined and enriched by something more slippery and reflective. Arner keeps his voice mixed a little bit further down than we might hear in a typical anthemic rocker, and even in the chorus keeps finishing his melodic lines on top of one of those suspended chords of his. He even buries the power-poppy lead guitar line nearly below audibility, forcing the ear to listen for something it may not even realize is there. Brisk, concise, and allusive, “Don’t Remind Me” is a fine song for any lingering summer evenings that remain, while hinting at the chill yet to come.

Arner has previously made a career from being in bands and/or producing and/or remixing other people’s music. His self-titled solo debut was released in late June on Mint Records. I like that “Don’t Remind Me” is the seventh track of ten; that alone speaks to Arner’s thoughtfulness. You can download the song the usual way, via the link above, or head to SoundCloud and contribute some bandwidth back to Fingertips by downloading over there.

Free and legal MP3: Golden Bloom (affable, Wilco-y rocker w/ structural depth)

“You Go On (& On)” has a comforting, familiar sound—think Tweedy in his Golden Smog phase; can the name in fact be a complete coincidence?—and if you don’t listen carefully you wouldn’t notice that the multi-instrumentalist doing business as Golden Bloom is up to anything curious.

Shawn Fogel

“You Go On (& On)” – Golden Bloom”

Shawn Fogel didn’t get the memo about verse-chorus-verse. How it’s supposed to go is this: sing the verse, repeat it with some new words, sing the chorus, go back to the verse, perhaps with some new words, and so forth. Maybe throw an extra section in about two-thirds of the way through and call it a bridge. That’s it, there’s your song, no need to fiddle with a proven formula.

Except maybe why not. “You Go On (& On)” has a comforting, familiar sound—think Tweedy in his Golden Smog phase; can the name in fact be a complete coincidence?—and if you don’t listen carefully you wouldn’t notice that the multi-instrumentalist doing business as Golden Bloom is up to anything curious. But check it out: after the intro, we get a verse (0:18), then we get something with a bridge-like feel and perhaps the song’s best hook (the “Look away from all that’s surrounding you” part, at 0:34), then we get something that feels like the bridge’s bridge, if there could be such a thing (0:50); and then we cycle through these same three melodically distinct sections—all with different lyrics this time—before we arrive at something that at least partially resembles a chorus (1:54), if for no other reason than that it delivers us the titular phrase at its conclusion.

And, actually, don’t overlook the introduction either: its stringed melody is a separate theme, independent of the four aforementioned melodic sections (verse, two maybe-bridges, chorus), and when it returns as a guitar solo at 2:06, you may then more fully appreciate its ELO-meets-George Harrison demeanor.

So this turns out to be pretty complicated and yet Fogel’s easy-going, ’70s-like sense of melody and unforced vocal style offer affable misdirection. Nicely played. “You Go On (& On)” will appear on Golden Bloom’s forthcoming EP March to the Drums, due in August. Fogel has one previous full-length Golden Bloom album, released in 2009.

Free and legal MP3: Alex Winston (bashy & engaging)

Winston is 21, and was born and raised in the Detroit area. She’s now in New York City and watch out. I suspect we’ll be hearing from her.

Alex Winston

“Sister Wife” – Alex Winston

How and why do some songs grab you right away? It’s a mystery. This one has a bashy, kitchen-sink-y feeling to its wordless vocal intro that makes me quickly happy. And then there may be something in the octave span that deepens the introduction’s allure. That is, Winston’s “oo-oos” descend an entire scale in that opening section; and I think the ear is engaged when a melody encompasses the whole scale, just like our eye is engaged by a black-and-white photo that utilizes the entire range of gray.

And when she starts singing the actual lyrics, watch out. I am now hooked by new mysteries: her rich yet slightly baby-ish voice, calling up echoes of early Kate Bush recordings; a lyrical audacity that launches us into the middle of a song that seems to be about polygamy; the xylophone that augments the “oo-oo” section the second time we hear it. There’s something big and brash on display here, but it’s a sweet sort of brashness, the kind borne of young talent, talent that just does things because they seem right. I could pontificate about the slidey sort of verse that we hear and how it’s sung largely off the beat and out of the center of the measure, and then how it pairs so effectively with a front and center chorus, nearly anthemic in its melodic inevitability; and it may have nothing to do with how she just wrote the damn thing.

Winston is 21, and was born and raised in the Detroit area. She’s now in New York City and watch out. I suspect we’ll be hearing from her. “Sister Wife” is the title track to her debut “mini-LP,” coming in March on Heavy Roc. MP3 via NME.