Free and legal MP3: Marti West (gauzy surface, robust depth)

Underneath the gauzy surface lies a robust and rewarding composition.

“Give Me Light” – Marti West

It might nearly be its own genre: music featuring delicate male vocals in an acoustic setting. I am not inherently a fan of this sound—which can get too whispery-slight for my ears—but it turns out I’m a big fan of “Give Me Light,” because underneath its gauzy surface lies a robust and rewarding composition.

The song launches with urgent finger-picking, strings held relatively high up on the guitar neck; the aura is of reverberant glass. West adds vocals at 0:17, in a tenor register mirroring the spangly guitar line. The verse melody is concise and potent, circling towards a solid but unresolved end point, which leads in turn to a chorus (0:49) pitched around the same melodic space, with now the added sway of percussion. And listen here to how carefully the lines this time build one by one into a firm resolution (the steps proceed from 0:55 to 0:59 to 1:03), so satisfying in its payoff precisely because of the subtle uncertainty propagated by the earlier unresolved melodies.

Another thing I appreciate here are the careful harmonies West provides for himself, which begin in the chorus. Note how they start as same-note harmonies, then separate into beautiful, affecting intervals as the phrase “Give me light” unfolds, twice. Note too how the harmonies then draw back into the melody on the closing phrase (first at 1:03 and then, as the chorus repeats melodically, at 1:17). In an elegantly crafted song like this, these harmonies provide their own gorgeous hook. Yet more elegant craft: the electric guitar that floats in, twice, as structural support (1:24, 2:45)—and, all the better, each guitar break is its own construction, not just one solo repeated.

Born in England, West lives in Göteborg, Sweden. He has previously released two EPs and one eight-song mini-album. “Give Me Light” is the first single to be released off his next EP, coming later this year. You can listen to everything, and buy what you like, on Bandcamp.

Free and legal MP3: Lali Puna(lustrous electro pop)

“Remember” – Lali Puna

Lustrous electro-pop from the veteran German quartet Lali Puna, but the first new song heard from them since 2004. Centered on a recurring sound that has the aspect of a wordless question, the introductory beat is oddly poignant-sounding, and nicely launches this smartly orchestrated mix of rubbery aluminum synth lines and understated percussion. Everything’s electronic but not too blippy or scratchy; there’s instead something palpably formed about the sound, something that gives this the feel of musicians actually playing instruments rather than twiddling knobs. There are even sounds mixed in–am I making this up? I don’t think so–that resemble the sound of fingers changing chords on guitar strings.

Meanwhile, Valerie Trebeljahr’s wistful vocals find their whispery place in the hypnotic mix, neither too forward nor too restrained; and listen too to the shadow of male harmony accompaniment all the way through, most clearly heard on the recurrent refrain, “Will you remember me?” Oh and don’t miss what happens at 1:29 when for seven seconds or so the smooth electro stylings are stripped away and we’re left with a most idiosyncratic aural skeleton, as if beneath the limpid facade is a deviant alien core.

“Remember” will be found on Our Inventions, Lali Puna’s fourth album, scheduled for an April release on Berlin-based Morr Music. MP3 via Morr Music.