Free and legal MP3: The Roseline (Wilco-like charm)

Launched off a sneaky, descending riff, “How To Be Kind” exploits the underutilized tool of the interrupted verse.

The Roseline

“How To Be Kind” – The Roseline

So immediate is this song’s command that it feels familiar and fresh simultaneously, right from the opening bars.

Launched off a sneaky, descending riff, “How To Be Kind” exploits the underutilized tool of the interrupted verse. Check it out: the first verse begins with an amiable echo of the intro’s riff, and proceeds melodically through a standard four measures. At 0:24-0:25, the vocals resolve the first section and launch directly into what sounds like a repeat trip through the same melody with new lyrics—standard operating procedure in a rock song, or pretty much any song for that matter.

Only here, after two measures, the verse melody is interrupted (0:29) as we transition without fuss into what appears, upon reflection, to be the chorus, although when you first hear it it sounds like an intriguing augmentation to the verse. And here is where “How To Be Kind”‘s low-key Wilco-ness turns up a notch. Front man Colin Halliburton doesn’t sound like Jeff Tweedy per se but projects a charming Tweedy-like aura as the song ambles its way along, all soft piano fills and drumming that finds an edge between gentle and bashy.

In the end, that edge speaks for the song as a whole, as it achieves through vibe and craft an appealing balance between geniality and purpose. It was, again, Wilco that most notably pioneered the use of the language of Americana to transcend the genre. These guys aren’t going that far, necessarily, and there’s no saying that they have to or need to. But I am feeling something of that nonchalant vigor in the air, of music with a depth that belies its laid-back surface.

The Roseline is a five-man band from Kansas. “How To Be Kind” is a song from their fifth album, entitled Blood, which is coming out in this week.


photo credit: Stevie Jackson

Free and legal MP3: Golden Bloom (affable, Wilco-y rocker w/ structural depth)

“You Go On (& On)” has a comforting, familiar sound—think Tweedy in his Golden Smog phase; can the name in fact be a complete coincidence?—and if you don’t listen carefully you wouldn’t notice that the multi-instrumentalist doing business as Golden Bloom is up to anything curious.

Shawn Fogel

“You Go On (& On)” – Golden Bloom”

Shawn Fogel didn’t get the memo about verse-chorus-verse. How it’s supposed to go is this: sing the verse, repeat it with some new words, sing the chorus, go back to the verse, perhaps with some new words, and so forth. Maybe throw an extra section in about two-thirds of the way through and call it a bridge. That’s it, there’s your song, no need to fiddle with a proven formula.

Except maybe why not. “You Go On (& On)” has a comforting, familiar sound—think Tweedy in his Golden Smog phase; can the name in fact be a complete coincidence?—and if you don’t listen carefully you wouldn’t notice that the multi-instrumentalist doing business as Golden Bloom is up to anything curious. But check it out: after the intro, we get a verse (0:18), then we get something with a bridge-like feel and perhaps the song’s best hook (the “Look away from all that’s surrounding you” part, at 0:34), then we get something that feels like the bridge’s bridge, if there could be such a thing (0:50); and then we cycle through these same three melodically distinct sections—all with different lyrics this time—before we arrive at something that at least partially resembles a chorus (1:54), if for no other reason than that it delivers us the titular phrase at its conclusion.

And, actually, don’t overlook the introduction either: its stringed melody is a separate theme, independent of the four aforementioned melodic sections (verse, two maybe-bridges, chorus), and when it returns as a guitar solo at 2:06, you may then more fully appreciate its ELO-meets-George Harrison demeanor.

So this turns out to be pretty complicated and yet Fogel’s easy-going, ’70s-like sense of melody and unforced vocal style offer affable misdirection. Nicely played. “You Go On (& On)” will appear on Golden Bloom’s forthcoming EP March to the Drums, due in August. Fogel has one previous full-length Golden Bloom album, released in 2009.

Free and legal MP3: Shiv Hurrah (Wilco-ish & melodic)

Shiv Hurrah

“Oh Oh Oh” – Shiv Hurrah

This is a brand new band but they don’t sound like it. Because in a way they’re not—four of the five guys in Shiv Hurrah grew up together in Rochester, New York, and played in a band there in the early ’00s. Ten years, two cities, and one additional band member later, they regrouped in Brooklyn early this year, and early this month released the first results of their renewed labors—a five-song self-titled digital album, available for free, that includes this unknown beauty of a song.

Or call it, more accurately, a diamond in the rough. The production is a problem, and I don’t just mean the mixed-down vocals (which some of course do on purpose). I don’t mind a bit of DIY but the oddly recorded drums are surely more accident than strategy; I suggest not turning the volume too high so that tom that reverberates weirdly every now and then is less distracting. And yet I keep coming back to it, charmed by the relaxed ease of the Wilco-ish groove and, truly, slayed by the strength of the songwriting. What a great great melody, and how quickly it arrives! Most songs need a lot more set-up time, but this one gives us a brilliant, back-door resolution right at the end of the first line of the verse (first heard from 0:44 to 0:46). It’s the kind of resistance-melting melody that enhances the lyrics so that they zing and pierce—get a hold of how it supports the line (1:04) “But I’m the one who taught you how to tie that knot.” Brilliant. Another strong sign is the fact that this homely song from an unknown band offers a great new rock’n’roll lyric, near the end, too: “I never get homesick/I just get sick of my home.” Production challenges and all, front man David Bechle sometimes sounds like a million bucks, and shows me that his new (old) band is well worth keeping an eye on.

“Oh Oh Oh” is the fifth and final song from the band’s debut EP, a digital-only release that is available for free via Bandcamp.