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: Jane Weaver (an extended magic spell of a song)

The wondrous, hypnotic “Modern Kosmology” rolls over the psyche like an extended magic spell.

Jane Weaver

“Modern Kosmology” – Jane Weaver

The wondrous, hypnotic “Modern Kosmology” rolls over the psyche like an extended magic spell, with sounds from many decades commingling in a most contemporary rock’n’roll stew. Even as the opening drums lope to a human beat (one, I’ll admit, that thrills an ear over-accustomed to digital knob-twiddles), electronics soon thread nimbly through the aural fabric, from droning synths and roughed-up bass lines to space-age twizzles and the masterful use of reverb (truly reverberant, never muddy). The word “psychedelic” is typically thrown around during discussions of Weaver’s music, and while I have not historically been drawn to music of that ilk (whatever that ilk actually entails), Weaver brings such aptitude to the swirl of sound that I surrender without hesitation.

Through this five-minute journey, the single-line chorus of “And now I’m changing my world” presides over the 3/4 swing like an incantation. Weaver’s voice, an arresting mix of sweetness and certainty, is a flawless guide through territory that feels both familiar and unprecedented. I could listen to this song all night. I basically did while writing this.

Weaver is a British singer/songwriter who came onto the U.K. scene in the ’90s as part of the band Kill Laura. John Peel was a fan; the band released but five singles. She formed Misty Dixon in 2002, which lasted a couple of years. She had also begun making some solo recordings in the aftermath of Kill Laura, but did not release a full-length album until 2006’s Seven Day Smile. “Modern Kosmology” is the title track to her eighth solo album, released back in May 2017. The song was featured as a free and legal MP3 on KEXP in September. I don’t know why it took me so long to get this up here. Apologies all around.

That said, Modern Kosmology‘s opening track, H>A>K (a reference to the early modern Swedish artist and occultist Hilma af Klint) was, at least, featured in a Fingertips playlist in August 2017. The entire album is well worth your time and support.

Free and legal MP3: Indianapolis Jones (part discipline, part freakout)

Despite its skittering bass line, centrally employed syncopation, and a smattering of funky guitar riffs, “Not Ghosts Yet” has a pleasing fluidity about it.

Indianapolis Jones

“Not Ghosts Yet” – Indianapolis Jones

Part disciplined indie rocker, part psychedelic freakout, “Not Ghosts Yet” is an accomplished amalgam; despite its skittering bass line, centrally employed syncopation, and a smattering of funky guitar riffs, the song has a pleasing fluidity about it. I’m thinking this has a lot to do with the decisiveness of its two-part verse and two-part chorus, which shift us through the song’s sung sections with energetic finesse. To my ears, the central moment here is the second part of the verse, with the falsetto voice and the delightfully syncopated melody line (first heard at 0:46). There’s something in this that sounds so smart and apt that it reminds me why I personally love leaving music to the professionals.

“Not Ghosts Yet” features two extended instrumental breaks, which might seem either aimless or hypnotic, depending on your mood. The first features spacey synthesizers and prerecorded voices, the second, which closes out the song, leaves off the voices and manages to evoke any number of ’70s bands in a rather pleasant and surprising way.

Indianapolis Jones is an Atlanta-based trio rather over-ambitiously being billed as a “supergroup” based on the various bands with which its members have been previously associated. I’ve only heard of two of the 10 “name” bands mentioned myself; your mileage may vary but I vote for gently withdrawing them from supergroup consideration and just enjoying the music they are now making together.

“Not Ghosts Yet” is from the debut Indianapolis Jones EP, self-titled, which was released at the end of April.

Free and legal MP3: Sam Roberts Band (quasi-funky neo-psychedelia)

An assured piece of quasi-funky neo-psychedelia, complete with ear-grabbing guitar licks and a brain-sticking chorus.

Sam Roberts Band

“We’re All In This Together” – Sam Roberts Band

I would understand if Sam Roberts feels he was born in the wrong time and place. His accessible, smartly-produced, effortlessly melodic brand of rock’n’roll would’ve been all over the radio 40 years ago. Today, such music struggles for air. And it’s not like SRB is selling nostalgia; their songs have as crisp and contemporary a sound as music can have in 2014 while making no effort to pander to the EDM crowd. Good thing these guys happen to be from Canada, where they have a good strong following, and where popular taste remains admirably catholic, at least compared to what goes on here in the U.S.

“We’re All In This Together,” in any case, is an assured piece of quasi-funky neo-psychedelia, complete with ear-grabbing guitar licks, a brain-sticking chorus, and the buoyant vibe of a quintet still happy to be playing together. (I love, as one example, how the spiffy lyric “It’s a phenomenon/That goes on and on” [1:23] is so casually offered and moved on from; this is a band used to having tricks up its sleeve.) While the verses sound like a sped-up retake of David Essex’s “Rock On” (not a bad thing!), the song breaks open on the unexpectedly aspirational chorus, which—neat trick—encourages joining in both literally and figuratively, working as an almost touching reminder in our hyper-partisan times. I mean sheesh, yes. We are: in this together. How oblivious or narcissistic do you have to be to disregard this most basic truth? And sorry. Didn’t mean to get all soapboxy. It’s just a pop song. Have fun.

“We’re All In This Together” comes from the fifth Sam Roberts Band album, entitled Lo-Fantasy, which was released in February on Paper Bag Records, but lacked any free and legal downloads until recently. You can grab the song above, as usual, or download it via SoundCloud. The band was featured previously on Fingertips in 2006.

Free and legal MP3: Quilt (fidgety, ’60s-inspired quasi-neo-psychedelia)

For a minute and a half, “Tired & Buttered” pounds away with a fidgety, psychedelic claustrophobia that seems counter-intuitively liberating.

Quilt

“Tired & Buttered” – Quilt

For a minute and a half, “Tired & Buttered” pounds away with a fidgety, psychedelic claustrophobia that seems counter-intuitively liberating. I don’t think we’re hearing more than two chords here, and the section that seems to be the chorus appears to be getting by with just one. Notice too that a lot of urgency is created without, actually, that much noise. No wailing or bashing, just a steady beat, some atmospheric vocal effects, an elusively non-Western guitar line, and two chords. Keep an ear on the harmonies, which are casually trippy.

At the precise halfway point, things change (1:30). The song slows and quiets, the woozy vocals get a bit woozier, the drumming gets careful and winsome. Soon an electric guitar snakes to the foreground with an informed ’60s flair for the pop-exotic, and leads us with an abrupt lack of fuss back to the opening tempo and ambiance. Now the guitar seems more clearly in charge, its background flourishes suddenly keys to the entire song. Having no clear idea what “tired and buttered” means will not detract from the song’s charms.

Quilt is a trio from Boston. “Tired & Buttered” has been floating around online since the fall, finally to emerge on the band’s second album, Held in Splendor, in late January, on the Mexican Summer label. MP3 via NPR’s fine selection of free and legal downloads from 2014 SXSW acts.

(As a P.S., the band had a bad accident in their van recently. They are all okay but their van, upon which they rely to tour, is not. You can read more details at http://quiltmusic.org/quiltmusic/HOME.html and contribute some amount, big or small, if you are so inclined.)

Free and legal MP3: Gringo Star (woozy, melodic neo-psychedelia)

From its chirpy, distorted intro to its abbreviated yet definitive coda, “Find a Love” packs a lot of off-kilter goodness into its archetypal pop song length of 2:45.

Gringo Star

“Find a Love” – Gringo Star

From its chirpy, distorted intro to its abbreviated yet definitive coda, “Find a Love” packs a lot of off-kilter goodness into its archetypal pop song length of 2:45. This is achieved in part through uncommon succinctness—less than 30 seconds total, for instance, are spent delivering the song’s verses, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or heard that before. At the same time, the song’s woozy, melodic neo-psychedelia gives off a feeling of warmth and expansion; the song lopes along, backbeat converted into a clattery shuffle, and we appear to have plenty of time for lagniappe like a hidden-in-plain-sight “Penny Lane” riff smack in the middle of things (first heard at 1:36), or that science-fiction-y end to the instrumental break at 1:56, or, for that matter, a chorus so laid-back it almost doesn’t bother with lyrics.

Gringo Star is a band from Atlanta led by brothers Peter and Nicholas Furgiuele. Founded as a foursome in 2001, with the name A Fir-Ju Well, they took the name Gringo Star in 2006; after two full-length albums, they became a trio. “Find a Love” is from the band’s third release, Floating Out to See, which was recorded at home and self-produced, unlike the first two albums. Gringo Star was previously featured on Fingertips in August 2011. MP3 via the good folks at KEXP.

Free and legal MP3: Dead Meadow (assured, midtempo psychedelia)

Sometimes, against all reason, ploddy muddy songs just sound so good—the blurry vocals, the minor-key prudence, it’s all communicating something, all the more so when you don’t actually know what the singer is singing about, which you usually don’t in these kinds of songs.

Dead Meadow

“Yesterday’s Blowin’ Back” – Dead Meadow

Sometimes, against all reason, ploddy muddy songs just sound so good—the blurry vocals, the minor-key prudence, it’s all communicating something, all the more so when you don’t actually know what the singer is singing about, which you usually don’t in these kinds of songs.

And because I don’t know what the singer is singing about, and because today is October 1, a day smart people someday will look back on with incredulity (provided there are any smart people left someday), I’m going to hear “Yesterday’s Blowin’ Back,” without any actual evidence, as a blistering indictment of the dangerous idiocy of extremist politicians. Just because I can. And just because we should.

“All your dark thoughts, they bring this on…” Indeed. So: you don’t like a law, you represent at best 18 percent of the U.S. population, and you shut down the government? Contrary to many reports, this is not a partisan issue. No reasonable person in a democratic country believes that hijacking the government is a valid oppositional strategy. Perhaps we will at some point begin the climb back towards civilization by reintroducing ourselves to the idea that news coverage is supposed to help us discover facts and truth, not simply report on what people say. People say all kinds of stupid shit nowadays, and in the strangest places (the Senate floor, for instance). And hm I guess by day’s end I am not in much mood for music analysis, which is too bad, since this assured piece of midtempo psychedelia by the veteran D.C. trio Dead Meadow is rich with musical pleasure. If only the dignified ache of the chorus—or, perhaps, the extended, intertwining guitar solos that begin at 3:22—could make me forget the despicable egotism of the cowards who shamefully scuttle the integrity of our fine country; but, alas, they don’t quite. Maybe if I just keep listening…

“Yesterday’s Blowin’ Back” is from Warble Womb, Dead Meadow’s seventh studio album, arriving later this month. This album features the return of drummer Mark Laughlin after 11 years away from band mates Jason Simon and Steve Kille. Dead Meadow was previously featured on Fingertips in December 2004. MP3 via Rolling Stone.

Free and legal MP3: Richard Hawley (swirly, neo-psychedelic rocker)

“Leave Your Body Behind” has a sturdy, satisfying momentum that is felt in the stomach.

Richard Hawley

“Leave Your Body Behind You” – Richard Hawley

A swirly shot of neo-psychedelia, “Leave Your Body Behind You” drives an eddy of trebly noise across an assertive, “While My Guitar Gentle Weeps” bass line. And lives to tell about it. Hawley’s vocals happen somewhere in the middle of all this; he’s present more as a rich baritoney buzz than as a discernible storyteller. Which is no doubt purposeful, given the song’s much-repeated title lyric. He sounds halfway there. (To leaving his body behind, that is. I sometimes can’t tell if I’m being too subtle for my own good.)

So I will leave subtle behind now and say that “Leave Your Body Behind You” is a great song—inexplicably moving, with a sturdy, satisfying momentum that is felt in the stomach. I was won over in particular, on first listen, by the melisma that Hawley employs on the word “leave” at the beginning of the chorus (first heard beginning at 0:40). To begin, he holds the note while the familiar bass line guides us through those persuasive chord changes. But then, staying on the one word/syllable, he slips in an elegant twist that resembles nothing so much as an artfully deflected pass setting up a perfect strike on goal (and perhaps you can tell I’ve been watching a bit too much of Euro 2012). Where he ends up at 0:43 is wondrous and lovely even in the midst of the general psychedelic churn. This moment seems to me to be the song’s wily fulcrum, upon which its multi-faceted greatness rests and/or depends. As befitting the psychedelic soundscape, we get a slow, spacey break in the middle, during which the chorus is turned into a ghostly chant. Lots of fun follows, including a certain amount of freak-out instrumental goodness, and a bit more chanting to boot.

“Leave Your Body Behind You” is from Standing at the Sky’s Edge, Hawley’s seventh studio album, which was released on Mute Records in the UK last month, and then digitally in the US this month. Thanks again to Largehearted Boy for the lead. MP3 via Indie Rock Cafe. Oh, and while it is awesome with all its expansive, psychedelic instrumentals intact, the song functions nicely in hit-single mode too, without sacrificing its spacey middle break, as you can see from the version performed on Later…with Jools Holland last month, below.

Free and legal MP3: Gringo Star (old school, updated, w/ Beatley flair)

“Shadow” is like a killer find in the vintage clothing shop—comfy and familiar on the one hand, a damned good statement in the here and now on the other.

Gringo Star

“Shadow” – Gringo Star

“Shadow” is like a killer find in the vintage clothing shop—comfy and familiar on the one hand, a damned good statement in the here and now on the other. As suggested by the name, this Atlanta quartet traffics in a certain amount of Beatlesque-iness, and the best kind, in my mind: a nod to the Fab Four that brings the sound further along, rather than remaining stuck in rigid homage.

So the nostalgia here suffuses the sound without actually being pinpoint-able. The scratchy guitar that rasps out the introductory line has a vaguely retrospective sound, but the specific riff doesn’t conjure any particular place or time. I like the immediate juxtaposition of the rapidly hammered guitar and the laid-back tempo, which takes the classic rock’n’roll backbeat (emphasis on the second and fourth beats of the measure) and offers it up in half-time. The occasional background nuttiness is partially psychedelic, partially just nutty. And the chorus is plain wonderful—a heart-warming descending melody, covering six full whole steps, that resolves through a chord progression so sturdy and steady that your ear barely registers some of the shifts, although it will thoroughly enjoy the glide through the relative minor around 0:53.

Gringo Star is made up of brothers Peter and Nick Furgiuele, along with Pete DeLorenzo and Chris Kaufmann. All four can play guitar and sing, both Petes can drum, and all but Pete F. will play bass. “With the swapping around of the lineup, we end up being actually 10 different bands,” Nick has been quoted as saying. A pretty cool concept, it seems to me.”Shadow” is the lead track on the band’s second album Count Yer Lucky Stars, which is due out in October on Gigantic Records. The album was produced by Ben Allen, who has worked with Gnarls Barkley and Animal Collective, among others. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.

Free and legal MP3: Hopewell (throbbing, neo-psychedelic lullaby)

“Stranger” – Hopewell

A noisy, disciplined exercise in 21st-century genre-bending, this throbbing, neo-psychedelic lullaby probably kills in concert. Even on a recording, concisely churned and pummeled into three and a half minutes, even with Jason Russo’s restrained, whispery tenor, “Stranger” is a bracing, vehement number. The instrumental parts have an almost feral quality, even as the overall vibe is tight as a drum; when the five guys in this Brooklyn-based band crank up the volume, one gets the feeling that while any one of them may not know exactly what he’s going to play next, the other four always do. That’s what you get when you’ve been together for more than a decade. (Okay, there’s me again, singing the praises of experience over “hot-new-thing-iness.” It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.)

Oh and then, after all that unfettered intensity, check out how the song ends, with that one homely, lonely gong-like cymbal. Unexpectedly smile-inducing.

Hopewell was featured on Fingertips in 2007 for the song “Tree.” “Stranger” is the latest MP3 available from the band’s Good Good Desperation CD, their sixth, released in May on Tee Pee Records. MP3 via Tee Pee.