Free and legal MP3: Dum Dum Girls (lovely, spacious, reverb-drenched)

Front woman Dee Dee sings with an arresting air of wounded majesty about her, not hinted at in the upbeat ditties I’ve previously heard from this promising band.

Dum Dum Girls

“Lord Knows” – Dum Dum Girls

Lovely, spacious, reverb-drenched ballad with an air of old-time rock’n’roll about it—not to mention the guitar riff from “Crimson & Clover.” Front woman Dee Dee sings with a trace of wounded majesty about her, not hinted at in the upbeat ditties I’ve previously heard from this promising quartet. This is a simple song, and powerful in its simplicity. We stay rooted in the alternation of two chords (the IV and I chords, to be precise) through both the verse and most of the chorus. These two chords drive us, anchor us, move us inexorably towards the required V chord, riding the back of a stately, steadfast bass line that adds voice as much as rhythm to the proceedings.

When the harmonies arrive in the chorus, it feels like pure release, even as the melody hasn’t yet resolved. We have been set up from the beginning for the long-delayed arrival of the V chord, on the words “Lord knows” (1:15); and see how each of the three chords now feels like its own part of the resolution—the V chord at 1:15, the IV at 1:19, and the I at 1:22. Directly after this is where the “Crimson & Clover” homage enters, its landmark riff being an inverted incarnation of a I-V-IV progression. In the background, meanwhile, if you haven’t noticed yet, what’s with all the blurry noise? It’s hard to put your finger on, but contributes to the song’s weary grandeur. As do the accumulating vocal harmonies, which often themselves seem to dissolve into the backdrop. Do not miss the climactic harmony at the end of the last verse, at 2:26. Worth the price of admission.

“Lord Knows” has been bouncing around the internet since the summertime, but the EP on which you’ll find it, End of Daze, is just coming out next week, on Sub Pop Records. This is the bi-coastal band’s fourth EP; they also have two full-length albums to date, the most recent being Only in Dreams, released in September 2011, also on Sub Pop. MP3 via Sub Pop.

Free and legal MP3: Virals (three-chord headbanger, at once dense & sleek)

I call this a must-listen for any Elastica fans who linger out there, and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, I ask you why not?

Shaun Hencher

“Gloria” – Virals

Straight-ahead summertime rock’n’roll with a definite cool streak—a three-chord headbanger channeled through a soundscape at once dense and sleek. (I’m tempted to call it “fudgy,” for some reason). Bonus points for the unflappable vocals which sound like boy-girl but are front man Shaun Hencher singing in various registers with himself. I call this a must-listen for any Elastica fans who linger out there, and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, I ask you why not? Like that late, great British band, Virals offers up an irresistible blend of punk-ish power and effortless self-possession.

“Gloria” features either three simple but insistent hooks or three variations of one simple but insistent hook; it’s difficult to say. There are heavy-duty power chords and incisive lead lines. There’s unrelenting cymbal. And the most defining element, to my ears, is how each melodic line ends with a veer towards a place that isn’t unresolved as much as, somehow, ironic. This has a lot to do with the harmonies Hencher selects, in all cases a beguiling blend of his upper and lower register, the melody elusively flowing from one to the other.

Virals is a new project for Hencher, previously known (perhaps) as front man for the band Lovvers. It began as a studio-only, one-man-band kind of thing but Hencher has since formed a live band to take Virals on the road. “Gloria” is from the debut EP Coming Up With the Sun, released in May, on London-based Tough Love Records. MP3 via Austin Town Hall.