Free and legal MP3: Rebekka Karijord (rich, rhythmic, & passionate)

But, perhaps most effective of all, there is the slow realization that the musical landscape, while pulsating with inventiveness, nevertheless roots itself in, of all things, the blues.

Rebekka Karijord

“Use My Body While It’s Still Young” – Rebekka Karijord

“Use My Body While It’s Still Young” has a haunting richness to it that belies the edgy electronics that may first grab your ear. Some of this is a simple function of Karijord’s vivid mezzo, with its half-creamy, half-vehement tone; just about anything she might sing is likely to be rich and haunting.

But there’s something deep in the song that moves me as well, something timeless running through its urgent, 21st-century setting. To begin with, “Use My Body…” skillfully blends electronic rhythms with what sounds like organic percussion. That always helps. Note too how the steadfast, familiar sound of an old-school organ works its way to the center of a song characterized otherwise by jittery rhythms. But, perhaps most effective of all, there is way that the musical landscape, while pulsating with inventiveness, nevertheless roots itself in, of all things, the blues. Not that I am any kind of blues fan (at all), and not that this is in any actual sense a blues song (it isn’t), but if you listen attentively you may hear what I hear in both the chord progression (unfolding in a 12-bar verse) and in the primal passion on display.

Beyond the cumulatively entrancing music, the lyrics too bear consideration. It’s not your everyday pop song that addresses the fleeting vigor of youth. Then again, Rebekka Karijord is hardly your everyday pop singer—she is, instead, a Norway-born, Sweden-based composer/performer/writer who has written music for a variety of media, including film, theater, and dance; she has worked regularly as an actor as well. Meanwhile, as a singer/songwriter, she has recorded three albums. “Use My Body While It’s Still Young” is from her second album, We Become Ourselves, which was originally released overseas in 2012. Karijord is releasing a deluxe edition of the album for the United States next month, via her own label, Control Freak Kitten Records.

Free and legal MP3: Bromheads (sharp, economic neo-post-punk)

Something in this song’s scrappy immediacy and complex simplicity brings me back to the post-punk glory days of the late ’70s.

Bromheads

“Holding the Gun” – Bromheads

With its tricky way of counting out 4/4 time, “Holding the Gun” grabs hold of the ears quickly and does not let up for two minutes and sixteen seconds. Something in its scrappy immediacy and complex simplicity—and yes also the itchy guitar sound—brings me back to the post-punk glory days of the late ’70s. But nothing about this song wallows in nostalgia. It’s too playful for that. Playfulness is incompatible with nostalgia. I just made that up but it sounds about right.

The beauty of Bromheads’ particular brand of light-heartedness is that it’s all between the lines, if not completely intangible. The words vocalist Tim Hampton is singing aren’t jokey or humorous and yet, in and around the words, something about his delivery makes me smile. Same with the odd rhythms, which allow the song’s most accentuated moments to happen halfway between beats—it isn’t funny but it makes me smile. That’s one of the best things music can do, in my book: make you smile but not because it’s funny. This whole song is kind of like that, and it’s so short that there’s no point in my going on any further about it.

Bromheads are two guys (Dan Potter is the other) who used to be called Bromheads Jacket when there were three of them. A duo since 2009, they are based in Sheffield. They released 12 free singles in 2010, which were then collected on a CD called The Lamp Sessions. “Holding the Gun” is the title track from their new EP, which was released at the end of October. You can download the song via the link above, as usual, or go to the band’s SoundCloud page for the download, and to hear more songs.

Free and legal MP3: David Ramos (jagged, hip-hop-inflected allure)

It is not clear what Ramos is singing about specifically but the overall vibe is at once troubling and peppy, the sound of a man coming to grips with life’s vicissitudes, or trying to.

David Ramos

“Digital Memory” – David Ramos

With some very computer-like beeps and boops, “Digital Memory” lurches into a jagged, hip-hop-inflected verse, the syllables piling up at the end of each line, and each succeeding line adding more syllables to the pile-up. You rarely hear rapping and singing blended so effectively, as Ramos really does seem to be doing both at the same time. You also rarely hear this kind of rapid-fire outpouring of words so fully framed by the underlying music rather than merely grounded in the confluence of beat and rhyme. It’s cool in fact to hear how Ramos isn’t really rhyming that much here, which to me gives the rapping an unexpected allure. (A confession: my ear has never been attuned to the kinds of conspicuous rhyming hip-hop fans appear to treasure.)

The chorus—concise and mysterious—is sung, the rhythmic hiccup of the verse slightly smoothed out but still intact. It is not clear what Ramos is singing about specifically but the overall vibe is at once troubling and peppy, the sound of a man coming to grips with life’s vicissitudes, or trying to.

Ramos (first name pronounced the Spanish way: dah-VEED) is a drummer by trade; he was in fact named one of the top 10 progressive drummers by Modern Drummer magazine while still a student at Wesleyan University. He played for years in the loose-knit ensemble Anonymous Inc., along with his brother Ceschi. “Digital Memory” is from Ramos’s third solo album, Sento La Tua Mancanza (“I miss you”), which was written in the aftermath of the death of his grandmother, who had been a kind of parent to him (his father was an addict, and not there for him). Ramos had gone to Wesleyan largely because it was not too far from her, and upon graduating he started the label Fake Four right in New Haven, where she lived. With his grandmother’s health declining, Ramos moved in with her and did not leave the state for three years. She died in 2010.