Free and legal MP3: The Bittersweets

Well-crafted alt-country, with great vocals

“Wreck” – the Bittersweets

Hannah Prater has a voice made to sing the words, “Why’d ya go and wreck this all?”: firm but with a little crack to it, at once bright and dusky, hurt and resilient and maybe a little existentially exasperated too. Why’d ya go and wreck this all? She’s sad, and disappointed, and pissed off, and her rich tone nicely captures the overlay of emotions independent, even, of what she’s saying. Over the Rhine fans should pay particular note; Prater sings with something of Karin Bergquist’s idiosyncratic verve, and “Wreck,” come to think of it, does have the vibe and polish of one of OTR’s smooth, capable rockers.

And make no mistake: smooth and well-crafted it is, from the gratifying melodies of the verse and the release of the chorus to the precisely played instrumental parts laid down by guitarist and keyboard player Chris Meyers (the group’s main songwriter) and drummer Steve Bowman (who has played with Counting Crows, among others). Interesting how the “indie” umbrella by 2008 gathers in everything from buzzy, jarring lo-fi to well-produced, radio-ready numbers such as the Bittersweets play. The irony, as music aficionados know, is that the internet all but overflows with radio-ready songs that few if any terrestrial radio stations are in fact ready to play. Blame deregulation in this case too; and I only wish that were a joke.

“Wreck” is from the Nashville-based trio’s second CD, Goodnight San Francisco, which was released this month on Compass Records. MP3 via Compass.

Free and legal MP3: The Blue Eyed Blacks (fuzzed up power pop)

“The Wrong Thing” – Blue Eyed Blacks

A sprightly piece of neatly crafted power pop, fuzzed up by some 21st-century effects. Front man Jason Moon Wilkins has an amiably droopy sort of voice and a keen knack for hooks. The way he breaks the chorus up by repeating the word “always”? Ending one musical phrase with the word, then beginning the next musical phrase with the same word? Love that.

The Blue Eyed Blacks are a trio from Nashville not shy about utilizing the talents of their peers on the always active local music scene; Justin Townes Earle and Garrison Starr are among the many guests who sat in on the band’s debut album, Black Eyed Soul, which is due for release in October on Chicken Ranch Records.