Rumbly, insistent slice of indie rock
It’s been a minute or two but here we are again with the download thing. Anyone interested? My beleaguered soul may only be able to fight the flow of inexorable technology for so long; even as I remain convinced that MP3s are an important part of the music listening landscape, I’m not sensing a lot of agreement outside of my own head. The more practical issue: whether I can continue to source enough MP3s that delight me to be able to continue to post about them in any regular way. If KEXP discontinues their MP3-attached “Song of the Day” feature I may have precious little left to offer.
But, let’s move along for the time being. And we’ll start here in October with this rumbly, insistent slice of indie rock from a founding member of the Walkmen, out on his own ever since the band entered its “extreme hiatus” stage in 2014. To anyone familiar with the Walkmen, the echoey ambiance and loping, syncopated pace will feel heartening; we can remember at least for four minutes and forty-six seconds that indie rock still inspires (some) people. An organ sustain beneath a bashy drum riff underscores Bauer’s distant, layered vocals and stately chord progression in an arrangement careful enough to create tension and purpose–you can all but intuit the guitar solo lying in wait (1:44). And worth the wait it is, with its patient melodicism and slow-boiling intensity.
“Skulls” is a song from Bauer’s third solo album, Flowers, released last month. Check it out via Bandcamp. Born in Washington DC, Bauer has, according to his website, done a significant amount of “esoteric work as a writer and astrologer,” influenced by Jung and Jodorowsky, among others. Knowing this may help you hear the lyrics–which skip across the ear without connecting to a discernible narrative or graspable meaning–in a different light, generating a vague sense of something potent lurking beneath the surface. In any case, for me–positioned against 21st-century pop music’s tiresome fountain of inspiration–well-chosen words even lacking any obvious connotation are preferable to lyrics detailing trivial issues of attraction and betrayal. Just saying.
MP3 via KEXP.
I have decided that composure is drastically underrated in the realm of rock’n’roll.
Ah if only all songs were as immediately interesting and engaging as “Don’t Come to Me.” This blog would write itself.
First we have the odd, sparse, toy-piano like pre-introduction, which folds itself underneath a descending guitar melody with a deceptively involved cadence—which, in turn, folds itself into a flowing yet syncopated arrangement with a vaguely islandy ambiance. The lyrics, starting up, have an affable, run-on quality even as they resist any kind of spilling-out feeling. All in all a measured jauntiness is in the air, and that’s what really delights me. Here is a song that bops with a spry bounce (it’s great to desk-dance to; try it!), yet with an abiding sense of control. I am deciding on the spot that composure is way underrated in the general realm of rock’n’roll. You can have most of those guttural screams and overheated guitar solos and such; me, I’m enchanted by restraint and discipline. And so naturally enough we end up here with a most disciplined and easy-going guitar solo (1:35) and a climax featuring nothing more or less than a serious of truly interesting chord changes (1:55). All this in service of a song with a chorus anchored by the lyric “Don’t come to me with your bullshit excuses.” I mean, isn’t control in this context deeper and more interesting than wild-ass bedlam? Maybe?
Nick Jaina is a Portland, Ore.-based musician, composer, and essayist. He has composed music for ballet, theater, and film. “Don’t Come to Me” is a song from his new album, Primary Reception, which will be released later this month on Fluff & Gravy Records, a record label and recording studio also based in Portland. It is his eighth album, not counting a release featuring music he wrote for the play Girl Who Drew Horses; all are available via Bandcamp, including an album of interesting covers he recorded that is available in its entirety for free. Another good song from the new album, “Strawberry Man,” is available as a free download from his web site. Jaina was previously featured on Fingertips in 2008