Pretty Good Dance Moves

P.G.D.M. will, as the title implies, keep the dance floor packed at the silent disco. It’s fitting because the electronic instrumentation approximates The Postal Service while the lovely female vocals will be a warm wooby for fans of Cat Power and Bat for Lashes – in other words, it’s great music for dancing with yourself, even when you’re dancing with the masses. I’m giving the band short shrift with such simple comparisons because I’m in a hurry today, but I ask—nay, admonish—you to not give them short shrift yourself, because beats like these don’t often come with such pretty and smart heartstrings attached.

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We Are Standard

Before you download “On the Floor” from this group of Spain-bred English-speakers that have already invaded Europe and, if their wishes come true, will invade the United States next, you might want to hop into your Mini Cooper and drive back to 2002. We Are Standard’s brand of art-school-post-punk-cool-geek music—they cover “Waiting for the Man” for crying out loud—reached its high water mark around that time, with all of the “The” bands (Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Moldy Peaches, Hives) selling records and getting airplay on terrestrial radio (remember terrestrial radio? You didn’t even have to pay for it!). That’s not to say that they don’t sound good today. On the contrary, lead singer Deu Chacartequi almost makes me believe he really is both a sex symbol and a rock star. The thing that keeps such hubris from being too nostalgic and goofy is that you get the sense that he doesn’t quite believe it himself. But he does a little.

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Ben Kamen

It’s certainly not all-weather folk, but Ben Kamen’s somber strumming and vocalizing mingle nicely with the raindrops on the roof today. Kamen has a new EP that he’s giving away for free on his website, from which the two new tracks below are taken. That’s mighty nice of him. What’s nicer is that if you’re willing to do Kamen a Radiohead-style solid and pay for the music he’s otherwise giving away, he’ll send you a limited edition (1 of 100 — No. 98 is to the left) 3″ CD with a hand-painted cover. Now, perhaps you’re all iTuned out and that offer holds nothing for you. But if you ask me it’s good to remember that music ain’t just something you download – it’s something that’s created—and in this case created just for you.

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American Music Club

In 2001, while I was living in Mark Eitzel’s hometown of San Francisco, I saw him play at the Great American Music Hall as part of the annual Noise Pop Festival. Eitzel is notoriously passionate about his music and stories abound about his being brought to tears by the memory of the songs he sings while he’s playing them. On this night, however, the spirit was more a mix of frustration and contrition. He was trying out new material and just couldn’t seem to hit the right notes. Plus, he’d been preceded to the stage by Bright Eyes and he seemed self-conscious and intimidated by Connor Oberst’s raw yet nearly flawless performance. Eitzel is a consummate musician, and on that night it seemed apparent that the old adage applied and he just didn’t want to have to follow Oberst’s act. Which was too bad, because many times I’ve seen Eitzel, both solo and with American Music Club, play warm, intimate sets that command your attention like the glow of a single candle in darkness. Likewise, the songs that American Music Club have made since reforming almost four years ago after a decade-long break are certainly older, wiser and more refined. But they’re hardly workmanlike — Eitzel and crew are much less concerned about what we all think, and we think it’s all the better as a result.

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Colour Revolt

Colour Revolt are from Oxford, and though you might think from the way they’ve decided to spell that we’re talking about the Anglo-universal seat of education in Jolly Old, we’re actually talking about the other Old Oxford, as in “Ole” Oxford, as in Ole Miss. At first pass you might not hear the Deep South in the very fuzzy guitarry sound, which actually reminds me more of Girls Against Boys and Helmet than anything to come out of the southland of late. But listen to the lyrics and you’ll get a good dose of God. And, as we all know, there ain’t no God party like a Southern God party ‘coz a Southern God party got eternal damnation. Heyyyy. Hoooo.

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Barton Carroll

Due to recent relocations, I’m now the member of the 3Hive crew who’s keepin’ it real in the Dirrrty South. Yet, as it was in New York City with calling myself a “New Yorker,” I imagine it will take at least a few years before I’ll come close to calling myself a “Southernor.” And I imagine that for my friends, family, and neighbors down here, calling me a “Southernor” just ain’t gonna happen while I’m above ground. The Force runs deeply with Charlestonians. Anyhow, Barton Carroll is helping out the transition quite nicely. I’m not sure where he’s from, but Carroll is on the Birmingham, Alabama label Skybucket, and one of his songs posted here is “Brooklyn Girl, You’re Going to be My Bride,” which, even if it weren’t as optimistic and toe-tappable as it is, would have a special place in my heart because that’s the borough where my wife and I were when we got married. Thankfully, the melancholic “Pretty Girl’s Going to Ruin My Life (Again)” doesn’t have quite the same personal resonance. But with his Roy Orbison-esque falsetto and Buck Owens-esque lyrics like “Hair’s falling out and my back’s got a pain/ I been drinkin’ my Scotch in my truck in the rain/ I think it’s fine way to spend the day,” well, it does sound like a fine way spend the day—whether in New York, Charleston, or anywhere in-between.

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The Gang

What does it sound like to have a band of former Jersey prep school kids with great indie DNA joined by a Julliard-trained Icelandic lass? Like a glorious train wreck, actually. The Gang is a Brooklyn-based quintet started by classmates Gary Keating and Rich Bonner, who then recruited Danny Leo (fellow Seton Hall Prep grad and Ted’s little brother), Eva Johannesdottir (not an SHP grad, unless they have a branch in Kopavogur, Iceland), and Patrick Brennan (older brother of Tim in Dropkick Murphys). Yes, they’re all over the place both on the bio sheet and on the MP3s. But don’t worry because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. “One Up the Sun” seems to draw equal inspiration from Gang of Four (perhaps the inspiration for their name as well?) and Billy Joel. And “Sea So” is a cacophonous anthem of screaming vocals, screeching guitars, and a towering rhythm section that barely bothers to keep rhythm. It drives my wife insane even when I listen to it quietly, and that’s more than enough to keep it in heavy rotation on any set of speakers I have that can handle it.

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Canon Blue

You diehard 3Hivers (we love you!) will recall that Canon Blue was originally posted just three months ago. But Daniel James is giving away the new Halcyon EP for free, and it’s so lovely (especially the title track) that I felt it deserved a little more plug time. Unzip and enjoy! Canon Blue is the creation of Daniel James, a Nashville-based do-everything musician who came to my attention not through any tangential southern connection but through his European label Rumracket. That could be because he’s not your typical Nashville kind of dude. Or is he? James may prefer digital to analog, keyboards to six-strings, drum machines to high-hats, but at heart he’s a singer-songwriter in a town that cultivates and nourishes them. Good thing because Canon Blue’s helium-filled harmonies, industrial beats and sweet falsetto deserve all the cultivation they can get.

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Holland Buffalo

Yay! It’s always a good email day when something comes from The Harvey Girls. You’re never sure what it might be – concept album, tribute, covers, et. al. – but you know that it will have a healthy dose of sweetly melancholic harmonies wrapped in a subtle sonic blanket that’ll keep you warm and cozy. Well, it turns out that for the past year or so they’ve been collaborating with the lovely and equally adventurous UK outfit Feedle, latter-day ambient wizards who make lo-fi electronic music that in more devious marketing hands might be called “lifestyle music.” What happens when the two come together? Layers upon layers of pop bliss. Plus, you can download the two tracks here and then go to Amie St. and get the other two for 26 cents, or be a real champ and buy the whole EP for a mere 52 cents. Yay!

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Today’s selection is actually a nice bookend to Lisa’s Hello, Blue Roses post yesterday, albeit 4Hero has always been more of a sweeping club fave than an electronic bedroom dweller. Way back in 1999, I took a job in Los Angeles and drove down the very next day in my Chevy Sprint Turbo (yes, turbo), and 4Hero’s Two Pages, which came out a few months before, was about the only cassette I had that would play in my cheapo radio. Unlike the CD release, the promo segregated the darker drum’n’bass onto one cassette and the more chilled-out, string-laden fusion stuff onto another. As the title suggests, one was a great antidote to the other. In the central Utah mountains? Time for Ursula Rucker’s smooth spoken-word over lovely breakbeats and sweeping strings. Trudging the home stretch through the Mojave? Bring on the sci-fi jungle. Since that bygone era when we were all going to be dot-com millionaires, 4Hero has gravitated more and more toward the groove, and “Morning Child” has the feel of both a return to form and a culmination of the form. It also sounds like a lithe and lovely summer song, so perhaps it’ll warm up your new year a few degrees.

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