Well, it didn't take me very long to get way behind in posting, did it? Anyway, as an apology, here are three really kick-ass songs for your listening pleasure. (Also, I kind of got progressively wordier with each one, sorry.)
Tennis - Origins
I'd heard of this band awhile ago but never really listened to them because I got the impression they were super twee and precious. And while Alaina Moore's voice is very girlish and sweet and their songs are chock-full of quirky synthesizers and catchy pop choruses, the duo's true talent for writing keeps their music from becoming too overbearingly sugary. This song in particular is just... immensely glorious and is actually what made me consider giving them a bit of my attention in the first place. It perfectly marries a modern, synth-drenched electronic pop sound with one that borrows more heavily from the past: those boppy, infectious background vocals are straight out of the sixties. Basically, it's just one of the best pop tunes I've heard all year - in fact, their entire new album, Young and Old, is bursting with fantastic pop songs - and if it doesn't have you immediately reaching for the repeat button, well, then, you must have a heart of stone.
Whispertown - Parallel
Morgan Nagler is a difficult woman to keep tabs on. Early on in her musical career, she performed under the joke moniker of Vagtown2000, which eventually transformed into a fully-fledged band called Whispertown2000. They then released a rather charming little debut album, Livin' in a Dream, but reached their peak with its follow-up (and another pointless name change, this time to The Whispertown 2000), 2008's alt-country/pop mash-up Swim. Since then, the band's been rather low key, releasing a few songs here and there and undergoing some line-up rearrangements. Pared down finally to just Whispertown, the band is now basically back to being Nagler on her own, with a little help from her friends when appropriate. Despite the decrease in numbers, the richness of Whispertown's sound has thankfully not suffered at all. Nagler still has a knack for writing songs that are poignant, charmingly simple and often incredibly catchy and Andy LeMaster's skillful production makes her new EP, Parallel, a real treat for the ears. Standing out to me as especially memorable is the title track, a lush, lovely ballad which is perhaps not particularly adventurous but that's not the point of it; what's so spectacular about Nagler's songwriting and singing is how completely earnest and believable it is, even as it sometimes slightly misses the mark, especially as it sometimes misses the mark, for the appeal lies in her rawness and honesty. (Also of note are LeMaster's understated but gorgeous backing vocals - because we all know I'm a bit of a devotee and, Christ, it's going on six years since Dark Light Daybreak; a girl's gotta get her fix somewhere.)
Parenthetical Girls - The Former
Listen, you are all incredibly lucky that I've held out on posting more Parenthetical Girls this long. If I gave into my urges, I'd have posted basically every song they've ever released by now. So it's really not too soon for another at all. Besides, you need to hear these songs. Because a. they are incredible, hence b. after being in the game for so long, this band should really have five times as many fans as they actually do. I now consider it my duty to promote the shit out of them until everyone is converted. Anyway, this track is from 2008's Entanglements, which, by the way, is a delightful little gem of an album. The thing I love most about it is that it doesn't overstay its welcome. It would have been easy for the band to go overblown and epic what with an entire orchestra at their fingertips but instead they chose not to indulge on a single unnecessary second and at under thirty-five minutes, succeeded in producing a cohesive whole that is incredibly satisfying and, for the most part, beautifully subtle. This song in particular is absolutely crushing. Between the heartrending string arrangements and Zac Pennington's knack for poetic turns of phrase, it somehow leads the listener to sympathize with the narrator when he finds out that his former illicit teenage lover is now marrying another man (that instrumental subtlety? Pennington more than makes up for it with the theatrical bent of his lyrics). Speaking of those lyrics, I just think the man is an incredible wordsmith. He's no Joanna Newsom but he plays around a lot with various techniques like internal rhyme and dissonance and assonance, which allows his lyrics more flexibility within the confines of sticking to a certain melody. They roll off the tongue so easily and are just really aesthetically pleasing, both heard and read, while also being incredibly clever - all aspects which I very much appreciate in lyricists.
Engraved, appraised and upraised
So engaged you became
Displaced in haste and surname
Sir, her name hath claim lain
From thumb counts three, like clicked feet
Efface we from memory
Unsure, unchaste, and waylaid
In vague ways with what remains
Impressed with pleasures of the flesh
And slept in beds you'd soon regret
He's genuflect and pledged to death
Though not whom you'd come to expect
"As you kneel before him, love..."
"Through hopes, through harms I've dealt you..."
"...With spent affections on your tongue..."
"...Through borrowed arms you've clung to..."
"...Sunbed–skinned and lost of love..."
"...Now helpless to remind you..."
"...As below, so too above..."
"...There's room for two inside you..."
You strive for happiness, I guess
Though never blessed of much success
Wed two abreast, yet who'd suspect
Which strains still swell beneath your dress?
Bonus time! If, like me, you cannot get enough Zac Pennington, download this new song from Jherek Bischoff for free! Taken from his upcoming release, Composed, it's lovely first and foremost because Bischoff's string compositions and arrangements are absolutely gorgeous. Secondly, Pennington has contributed his lyrical and vocal talent to the track and sounds as fantastically idiosyncratic as ever. Oh, also, Soko guests too, if you're into her.
- Song(s) of the Week #4