Free and legal MP3: TV Girl (21st c. DIY becomes classic rock’n’roll)

While the muddy/scratchy DIY ambiance feels solidly of the moment, there’s something around the edges of this boppy, summery song that comes across as pure classic rock’n’roll.

TV Girl

“She Smokes in Bed” – TV Girl

While the muddy/scratchy DIY ambiance feels solidly of the moment, there’s something around the edges of this boppy, summery song that comes across as pure classic rock’n’roll. The effortless, half-time verse melodies are a good start—while the music chugs along with a misleadingly busy feeling (there aren’t really that many sounds in play), the lyrics offer an unhurried narrative on top, buffeted by the ever-underrated trick of octave harmonies. Note the verse has two separate but related melodic sections, which keeps the ear engaged, and sets up the simple chorus with its one (titular) lyric and then those carefree but carefully constructed wordless lines that follow. Another small sonic touch that delivers a nice payoff to my ear is that slightly misaligned keyboard or synth sound that hovers in the distance, particularly in the intro and the chorus. It barely registers unless you’re listening carefully, but it adds materially to the aural palette.

For all its easy-going charm, “She Smokes in Bed” appears to take a tragic lyrical turn; while the words here tend to be swallowed by the mix, there’s no missing that the last visit to the chorus changes the verb to the past tense.

TV Girl is the San Diego-based duo of singer Brad Petering and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Trung Ngo, who grew up in the same neighborhood and went to high school together. They released their debut, self-titled, sample-oriented EP in 2010, which included an internet buzz-track (“If You Want It”) that got scrubbed from the web for its illegal use of samples from the old Todd Rundgren standard “Hello It’s Me.” A second EP followed in 2011, and then a full-length in 2012—The Wild, The Innocent, The TV Shuffle—that the band called a “mixtape” and gave away for free due, again, to its sample-reliant construction. “She Smokes in Bed” is a song from TV Girl’s new five-song EP, Lonely Women; this one is for sale and appears less obviously built by sampling. (Note that there is nothing inherently wrong with sampling but there is something inherently wrong with copyright infringement.) (Don’t get me started.) You can listen and purchase via Bandcamp. Thanks to the free and legal MP3 veterans at 3hive for the head’s up, and the download.

Free and legal MP3: The Morning Benders(musically astute pop w/ crunch & charm)

“Promises” – The Morning Benders

Chunky, loping, and unaccountably engaging new song from a long-time Fingertips favorite. But never fear, I will try to account for it. First, note how the octave harmonies (I always love octave harmonies as you may know by now) set up the first kind-of-hook, which is at 0:25, when the melody shifts from something low and slinky to something higher and more forceful. The melodic shift hooks the attention precisely because of the octave harmonies: the first half of the melody naturally focuses your ear on the lower harmony voice but when the higher-register section starts the ear now latches onto the higher voice. So it’s like we hear a more pronounced displacement than is actually happening. It may not be a hook per se but it’s subtly compelling. You want to keep listening.

Next point on the tour: that crunchy, unresolved chord that both ends one verse and starts the next (0:31). And then, notice that as the second verse unfolds, it doesn’t play out like verse one, and now for the first time we get phrases that stand out both musically and lyrically. The first is when Chris Chu sings “They say it’s only natural,” and then, even better: the linchpin point to which the song has been building (0:58), at the lyric, “I can’t help thinking we grew up too fast.” Things deconstruct a bit after that, with shifting time signatures and accumulating noise. And round about now I’m noticing how thick with musical detail this song actually is–there are engaging guitar licks, hidden keyboard flourishes, unexpected percussive accents, stray sounds, and an ongoing parade of nifty chord changes. These guys know what they’re doing.

The Morning Benders, a quartet from Berkeley, are no strangers here, having been featured twice previously–in June ’08 and, for the sublime “Grain of Salt,” in December ’06. “Promises” is from the Big Echo, the band’s second full-length, and first for Rough Trade Records, due out next month. MP3 via the Beggars Group, of which Rough Trade is a part.