Free and legal MP3: Blonde Redhead

Dreamy, with deep appeal

Blonde Redhead

“Here Sometimes” – Blonde Redhead

Some bands have an uncanny ability to delight–something in the sound, the vibe, the singer’s voice, the combination of melody and rhythm, or something even more elusive, feels just right, entices the ear before any actual “hooks” or “catchy parts” arrive. Blonde Redhead is that kind of band. There are no hooks or catchy parts in “Here Sometimes,” a song that appeals deeply, at a level likely beyond analysis.

But me being me, I’m still going to try to break it down a little. And so first: listen to the opening section, in which Kazu Makino sings over a rhythmic accompaniment that itself is an inscrutable blend of an organic and electronic beat. She sings a leisurely, wistful, slightly complex melody that stretches out over 20 measures, with a couple of thoughtful pauses. A synthesizer joins very subtly along the way, but 49 seconds pass before the music starts in earnest–a mix of disparate keyboard sounds and a deliberate, syncopated bass line. And listen now to how the chords described by the instruments floating through the background change the melody dramatically. (Compare, for instance, the sound at 0:24 to 1:04—same melodic point, entirely different experience.) It’s an odd song, instrumentally, come to think of it, lacking any obvious “lead” instrument or even any sort of dominant sound; we get one 15-second synthesizer break (2:00) but even that is elusive, featuring sounds that evanesce if you listen too closely. I think the instrumental vagueness is part of what gives “Here Sometimes” its dreamy force, not to mention thematic resonance (the idea of being “here sometimes,” but not all the time).

Makino has been in Blonde Redhead with twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace since 1993. The band used to be larger but has been a trio since the mid-’90s. “Here Sometimes” will appear on the album Penny Sparkle, which is coming in September on 4AD. It’ll be their eighth album, and their first since 2007. MP3 via Better Propaganda.

Free and legal MP3: MiniBoone(energetic neo-new wave, w/ harmonies)

Energetic, crisply executed fun, filled with rhythmic dissonance, echoes of 1978-ish American new wave music, and large-scale harmonies falling somewhere on a line connecting Queen to Sparks (but not, to my ear, Animal Collective, as per some of the band’s press).

“Devil In Your Eyes” – MiniBoone

Energetic, crisply executed fun, filled with rhythmic dissonance, echoes of 1978-ish American new wave music, and large-scale harmonies falling somewhere on a line connecting Queen to Sparks (but not, to my ear, Animal Collective, as per some of the band’s press). And hey I really like how effectively this shifts the mood from Hadestown‘s heavy-hearted tragedy even as it delivers a synchronistic lyrical alignment (which believe it or not I didn’t notice until I’d already laid this week’s songs out in order).

I especially love the guitars here. From beginning to end they play prickly, often rapid-fire chords that seem never to align quite with the melody either sonically or rhythmically. Listen, for instance, to the choked-neck sound you hear at the beginning, just past the organ opening: the engaging noise made by a guitar used more percussively than tonally. None of the actual notes that emerge jibe with what the song theoretically would want harmonically but the kinetic insistence of it becomes its own logic. The sound continues into the verse but note how the guitar steadily comes to life, the choked hammering giving way, around 40 seconds in or so, to fuller-fledged chord slashes that any music writer worth his or her salt would be tempted to call “angular” except maybe for how lively an atmosphere the band is churning up at this point. Typically, angular guitars are heard in a less flamboyant setting. One more example of creative guitar work comes in the chorus, when the layered harmonies take over center stage, pushing the guitar into making odd little offbeat exclamation points.

MiniBoone is a five-piece from New York City. “Devil In Your Eyes” is a song off the band’s new EP, Big Changes, which was released at the end of January on Drug Front Records. MP3 via the band’s web site.