Arcane Fire Vol. 6

The Empty Boat by Caetano Veloso. I looked for this record for a few years and finally found a copy. I love Caetano Veloso, and had heard that this record, which he recorded in prison (the backing tracks were added later) is early work that’s partly in English. This particular song is mesmerizing and sad, repetitive and dark, with an ostinato acoustic guitar riff embellished with all kinds of minimal and subtle reeds, percussion sounds, and the like. It expands into more of a classic early 70’s fuzz guitar freakout. Contains the line: “My hand is empty from the wrist to the nail….”

Break This Time by Alejandro Escovedo. Damn straight! This is like something off of “Some Girls”: straight up, roadhouse, crowd-pleasing rock music, but happily Escovedo brings a sensibility to the music that keeps it from devolving into pandering (anyone who knows the work of this great American songwriter knows to expect nothing less). This is “pulse-check” music: hard to deny the power of this kind of chugging I-IV thing in the typical American reptilian brain. Throw the kids in the back of the pickup and meet us up at the lake! We’re havin a bonfire!!

Fly by Blind Guardian. Uh oh! Like Queen meets 80’s Yes. Super clean, technical, German “fantasy-tinged power metal” (All Music Guide). This song poses the tired old question: “will there be fairies or things to feel?” If I hear that one more time… Excellently, gave the EP from which this song is taken 1 measely star! Sweet! I don’t know, I somehow love this song because it’s both hilarious and refreshing. It’s also incredibly, ridiculously well-done.So I guess there’s some irony in my fond feeling for this song, but it’s also just a matter of giving in to the cheesy tsunami… and the guy can sing like Geddy Lee!

A Night on Earth by Brave Combo. This is funny and cheerful polka-fusion music, which is much better than that description makes it sound. The songwriting is good, the melodic sense is quite nice (starting with a major 7th in the melody always wins points with me, anyway…. Nerd alert.) This blends the faintest tinge of Ray Davies’ genre pieces with a more low-key American attitude.

Wrestling Match by Carolyn Edwards. Interesting piano pop, with intelligent chord changes and melodies that manage to avoid intellectualism. Some of the lyrics are a bit arch, but that’s part of the schtick here, I think. This is a really strong record that deserves to be listened to in its entirety. Check it out!

Deep Safety by Chas. Mtn.. Bedroom droney acoustic guitar groove that manages to be both appropriately narcotic and also abrasive enough to keep the mind engaged. Like Nyquil spiked with a bit of no-doz. Or something… Anyway it’s cool, right?

Steel Guitar by Chris Smither. Some guitar-based, rootsy Americana. There’s a fine line between being generic and being traditionally authentic, and Mr. Smither is clearly on the right side of that razor’s edge.

Makeba Revisited by Mumbles. From the excellent Sound in Color label, this is Mumbles, spooling out elegant, sensual downtempo instrumental hip-hop / electronica that will slow you down in the choicest way. So much attention to texture in this stuff, it’s incredible!

Panis Et Circenses by Os Mutantes. More Brazilian perfection, this time in the form of a colorful psychedelic song in English from the greatest Brazilian psych pop band, and in fact one of the greatest Brazilian bands ever in any genre. This one’s charmingly simple, with recorders, lots of vocal harmonies, and organ. It sounds a bit like Nico-era velvets, but it sounds warmer and sunnier. mmm. The best part, though, is the lyrics: “I sent the lions to my neighbor’s back yard, but all the people having dinner inside are very busy with their food…. I told the man to make of stainless steel a very sharp sword to kill my girlfriend… and I did at five o clock at that same crowdy bus stop but all the people having dinner were very busy with their food.” Oh dear, it’s all about violence and murder. Beautifully subversive. I LOVE this.

Cha Cha Cha by The Little Ones. Pretty much every song on this new band’s strong 6-song EP is incredibly smart and also super memorable. Very much in the vein of The Shins and similarly melody-oriented indie songsters, this band is doing excellent work and really should be heard farther and wider! Pass the word!

One Day You’ll Dance For Me, New York City by Thomas Dybdahl. Fingerpicking guitar, a dark and swirly sonic field, a beautiful voice set into a rich, tasteful (nearly too tasteful) arrangement. Pretty impressive start. Things get a bit lush (and dangerously saccharine at points), but the sonic beauty of this recording somehow justifies all of that for me. Dybdahl is big in sweden but not well known here.

Construcao by Chico Buarque. Finishing things up with an absolute stunner: one of the most incredible songs I’ve heard in a long time. First of all it has the typically irresistible coolness and beauty of so much Brazilian music, but touches of dissonance emerge in the harmonic and melodic choices, and foreshadow the astounding orchestral and vocal james bond touches that jump in later. Holy Rio di Janeiro, Batman! Magnificence.

until next time,

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