Free and legal MP3: Nancy (psychedelic romp)

With a haunted, psychedelic flair, “When I’m With You” chugs to a friendly beat before busrting, in the chorus, into a wall-of-sound carnival of echoey organ and sing-along lyrics.

“When I’m With You (I Feel Love)” – Nancy

With a haunted, psychedelic flair, “When I’m With You (I Feel Love)” chugs to a friendly beat before bursting, in the chorus, into a wall-of-sound carnival of echoey organ and sing-along lyrics. The Brighton-based Nancy keeps personal details to a minimum but surely pours his heart and soul into music that manages to feel at once tightly designed and loosely thrown together. This warped melange of a song also performs the wonderful balancing act of sounding both vintage and up-to-date at the same time, adding idiosyncratic 21st-century frenzy to a classic core of melody and riff. The fact that the tune clocks in at 3:33 feels like a purposeful hat tip to the trippy ear worms that made their way to the radio back in the late ’60s. One half churning atmosphere, one half catchy pop song, “When I’m With You” does its business and gets out. Bands that feel the unaccountable need for beat-heavy intros and endless repetition should take notes.

Nancy is a musician who uses just the one name, and it might be an homage to Nancy Sinatra, but, as noted, details about the guy are sketchy. He doesn’t mind describing his music, however; this song he calls a “swirling head rush, a shot of adrenaline, an oscillating distorted cacophony of noise and melody.” I’ll go along with that.

“When I’m With You” was released early last month via B3SCI/Cannibal Hymns. And earlier this month, Nancy released two more tracks, which you can find up on SoundCloud. An EP is in the works for the spring.

Free and legal MP3: Uncle Roman’s Jetboat (well-built, from good parts)

Look at how many distinct moving parts “Fearless Like Yourself” puts immediately into motion: the whistle, the snaky bass line, the itchy guitar, the brisk stuttering drumbeat, the haunted-house organ, all before the singing starts.

Uncle Roman's Jetboat

“Fearless Like Yourself” – Uncle Roman’s Jetboat

Look at how many distinct moving parts “Fearless Like Yourself” puts immediately into motion: the whistle, the snaky bass line, the itchy guitar, the brisk stuttering drumbeat, the haunted-house organ, all before the singing starts. A lot of rock bands allow their collective sound to pretty much mush together, which can be its own kind of fun. But I always like it when the ear can distinguish the individual parts even as they coalesce into one compelling musical narrative, which is what is going on here quite marvelously.

Then Thomas Beecham starts singing and in this case, too, the ear is immediately hooked; he begins: “While you were out/I was going through your shit/to find something to stick on you.” A first line that surely keeps you listening. Beecham has something of Thom Yorke’s nasally twitchiness, but channels it here through a less arcane song structure than the mighty Radiohead tends these days to favor. The song moves, has hooks, and interesting sounds, and nicely connected segments. We are also treated—don’t miss it—to an honest-to-goodness guitar solo, beginning at 2:39, which is squonky and delicious.

Uncle Roman’s Jetboat is a new project that combines four-fifths of the defunct Seattle band The Kindness Kind with Beecham, who is British, and was formerly in the band The Raggedy Anns. “Fearless Like Yourself” is from the debut Uncle Roman’s Jetboat release, a six-song album entitled Floodlights in the Sunlight, which is arriving in March on Don’t Be A Lout Music. MP3 via Don’t Be A Lout. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.

Free and legal MP3: TW Walsh (insistent minor-key groove)

After a delay for some ambiant, setting-up noise, “Make It Rhyme” hits upon an insistent, minor-key groove and boom, it’s got me.

TW Walsh

“Make It Rhyme” – TW Walsh

After a delay for some ambient, setting-up noise, “Make It Rhyme” hits upon an insistent, minor-key groove and boom, it’s got me. Maybe it’s the jangly tone of the electric guitar, maybe it’s the snare-free drum beat, or maybe it’s that spooky organ sustain that anchors the song’s rhythm section in something both humorous and unsettling, but this one has that great combination of being both instantly likable and deeply appealing. Speaking of humorous and unsettling, take a listen to the lyrics, which chronicle a dysfunctional relationship in a series of sardonic couplets, one of which is the titular “You sing the song/But I make it rhyme.” The extra joke here is that there are a couple of lines in the song—listen carefully and you’ll catch them—in which the rhyme is actually missing.

And the extra extra joke here is that the song is very specifically about Walsh’s long-standing friendship/musical relationship with David Bazan, erstwhile leader of the band Pedro the Lion. Walsh was the only other official member of that band; he calls this song “the worst version of myself complaining about the worst version of Dave,” with the benefit of some bemused hindsight.

Born Timothy William, Walsh recorded some solo material 10 years ago or so, and also headed a project called The Soft Drugs in the mid-’00s. He has spent more time and energy in recent years on his work as an audio engineer; his specialty is mastering, which he has done for the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Gabriel Kahane, and the Mynabirds, among many dozens of others. He has at long last put himself back in front of the microphone; “Make It Rhyme” is from the album Songs of Pain and Leisure, which was released this month on Graveface Records. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.

Free and legal MP3: Caveman (sweet & driven, w/ accoutrements)

The song moves along in 4/4 time, at a brisk clip, and then in the chorus, the drive remains but something’s awry, extra beats sneak in and then out in a way that creates a kind of hiccup in the rhythm.

Caveman

“Old Friend” – Caveman

Sweet and dreamy, but with a sense of drive and purpose, not to mention a playful sense of time, “Old Friend” starts in the middle of the story (“And I sat down on the wall…”). I like that. I also like the haunted-house organ and those ghostly harmonies and those scary synthesizer washes and how Matthew Iwanusa offers up his sugary tenor as if he doesn’t hear any of that. He’s not scared, not him.

Most of all I like the time-signature-based hook in the chorus. The song moves along in 4/4 time, at a brisk clip, and then in the chorus, the drive remains but something’s awry, extra beats sneak in and then out in a way that creates a kind of hiccup in the rhythm. Two things seem to be happening. First, the melody line has been skewed even further away from the beginning of the measure than it already had been in the verse; in the chorus, each new line starts two beats before the next measure starts, rather than a beat and a half in front. Okay, doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it’s different. Second, the chorus begins with two measures of 6/4 before proceeding as previously in 4/4. The 6/4 measures start at 0:47, around the word “around,” and then bump back into the 4/4 stream at the lyrical seam between the words “right on time” and “it was just an old friend.” As usual with this kind of stuff, it sounds clunky and hard to follow as I describe it, but what you’ll hear is delightful and engaging.

Caveman is a five-piece from Brooklyn that formed in January 2010. (Yes, we are getting there, folks: listening to bands that did not exist even in the ’00s. Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not.) “Old Friend” will be found on band’s debut album, CoCo Beware, coming out next month.