Free and legal MP3: Susto (rugged, tuneful Americana)

Walking the fine and often unwarranted line separating Americana from country rock, “Acid Boys,” with its sure backbeat and rugged tunefulness, reveals the perennial power of solid songwriting and straightforward instrumentation.

Susto

“Acid Boys” – Susto

Walking the fine and often unwarranted line separating Americana from country rock, “Acid Boys,” with its sure backbeat and rugged tunefulness, reveals the perennial power of solid songwriting and straightforward instrumentation. History will have the last word, of course, but I can’t believe that computer technology is so consequential that it eliminates the human appetite for accessible melody and music played in physical space. Sure, let’s celebrate and explore the sounds our devices can make. Just don’t throw out the guitars, okay? Or the rough-hewn voices either, for that matter.

From the musically underrated city of Charleston, South Carolina, Susto is a full-fledged six-piece band, and it is the spacious, intentional interplay of a half-dozen genuine musicians that fuels this song’s confident momentum. For example, when there is a dedicated keyboard player, the keyboard parts are inherently more thoughtful and engaging, or at least should be. Here, I like the rinky-tink piano we hear at the outside but even more I like the classic rock organ that oozes into background as the song unfolds. Likewise, a band with a lead guitarist and a rhythm guitarist can, ideally, create richer textures—sounds that you don’t always hear specifically but that add deeply to the ear’s sense of completion and certainty.

Susto has its roots in front man Justin Osborne’s trip to Cuba last year. Previously lead singer in the band Sequoyah Prep School, Osborne ended up back in Charleston to flesh out music that originated during his Cuban sojourn, first hooking up with his friend Johnny Delaware and soon adding four others to create the six-piece Susto. (Fingertips followers may remember Delaware from his most excellent song “Primitive Style,” which was featured here last year and later landed at number four in the year’s top 10 favorite list.) “Acid Boys” can be found on Susto’s debut, self-titled album, which was released in April. You can listen to the whole thing and purchase it directly from the band’s web site.

photo credit: Paul Andrew Dunker

Free and legal MP3: Team Me (vibrant, smartly-textured Norwegian pop)

Resplendent indie pop for people who might think that they’ve gotten a bit tired of resplendent indie pop.

Team Me

“Show Me” – Team Me

Resplendent indie pop for people who might think that they’ve gotten a bit tired of resplendent indie pop. So that once and for all we might all realize that it’s not a type of music that gets tiresome, it’s boring or uninspired music that gets tiresome. Not a genre, not a type, not a style.

But I digress. “Show Me,” from the new-ish Norwegian sextet Team Me, has a marvelous momentum to it, rooted in its smooth chord progressions and its unexpected grounding in a 12-measure verse melody. I’m not saying there’s any other connection but I will note that 12-measure melodies are uncommon in pop while of course being the prototypical construction for the blues (thus the phrase “12-bar blues”; a bar is another word for a measure). “Show Me” is not the blues, by any means. But the unfolding of a melody through 12 measures is something we tend to experience, whether we even recognize it or not, in a blues setting. And here instead is this vibrant, smartly-textured, hopeful-sounding (but not necessarily hopeful) song. I’m not sure what this means but felt it worth noting. Oh and of course in a blues setting, the melody is spare, ritualized, all but preordained, and sung by one voice, while Team Me here serves up a swooping, involved melody with harmonies, double-tracking, and the occasional gang shout. And yet, too, there is a seriousness hiding here in the ebullient flow and playful vibe. Could this be what 12 bars does? Nope, probably not. But it’s fun to consider.

“Show Me” is a track from Team Me’s debut full-length album, which came out in Norway in October and is due to arrive in the US in March on the Oslo-based label Propeller Recordings.

Free and legal MP3: Eatliz (meaty prog-pop from Israel)

Alternately spacily contemplative and grindingly heavy (there are three guitarists at work; watch out!), “Sunshine” offers up some of prog-rock’s sonic vocabulary while avoiding veering off into anything too baroque.

Eatliz

“Sunshine” – Eatliz

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something a bit less straightforward, a bit less three-chord-y. But I still want melody; I still want the sense of a band making an effort to engage the ear, versus a band so wrapped (and/or rapt) in its vision that all effort to connect is left to the audience.

At times spacily contemplative and at times grindingly heavy (there are three guitarists at work; watch out!), “Sunshine” offers up some of prog-rock’s sonic vocabulary while avoiding veering off into anything too baroque. Notice, for instance, that for all the rhythmic hijinks on display, the song never strays from its 4/4 beat. Front woman Lee Triffon, meanwhile, sings effectively both at the whispery and the shouty ends of her delivery, avoiding histrionics in both cases. Note the saxophone’s unexpected entrance at 2:04, because the song’s single instrumental spotlight will shine on that under-utilized instrument a minute and a half later, as we are then treated to 40 seconds of rough-toned, reverbed honking. It sounds like early Psychedelic Furs working up a Thelonious Monk tribute.

Eatliz is a six-piece band from Israel, formed in 2001. (In Hebrew, the name apparently means “the butcher shop.”) “Sunshine” is from the band’s debut album, Violently Delicate, which was released in Israel and four European countries in 2008. Their second full-length, Teasing Nature, either came out late in 2010 or is coming out this summer—the web (get used to it) offers contradictory information. The band is currently wrapping up its first-ever North American tour, which started last month at SXSW.