(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January Singles

This month's singles are all video friendly. Each one uses a different approach to illustrate the song: from movie style mini-story to claymation to fly-on-the-wall reporting.

Real Estate - Easy (from Days)

I didn't catch Days when it came out last October, but listening to Easy, I love the Fountains of Wayne relaxed indie pop vibe. The music is cheerfully layered, with utopian lyrics.

Tom Scharpling's video offers a taste of irony that suggests a darker underside to Easy's dreamy peace. We're introduced to Real Estate's street team. They seem nice enough at first, although their love for the band is steeped in intensity. Eventually, a hapless DJ finds himself in the team's crosshairs, setting up the heartwarming end. There's something delightfully perverse about watching a man run for his life to the lines:
Around the fields we grow
With love for everyone
Dreams we saw with eyes of hope
Until that dream was done
Fourteen Twentysix - Little Diamonds (from In Halflight Our Soul Glows, due out next month)

At the start of Little Diamonds, Fourteen Twentysix adeptly channel an understated Replacements sound. The vocals remind me of Paul Westerberg's raw need on Achin' To Be. As the song develops, the sound is more polished than the Mats. But that's okay because they maintain the swaying feel even as they adorn the simple changes and create a richer set of layering.

The animated video, by Ruth Barrett, creates a nice story to complement the song.

Sampling Fourteen Twentysix's earlier music, I can hear the same vulnerability, although some of the tracks are more minimalist than Little Diamonds. I'm looking forward to checking out In Halflight, Our Soul Glows next month.

Mavis Staples, Wilco, Nick Lowe - The Weight

What a treat! Mavis Staples rehearsing The Weight backstage at the Civic Opera House in Chicago with Wilco and Nick Lowe. Appropriately, Staples leads the group through the song (the Staple Singers performed The Weight with the Band on The Last Waltz). She may be in her 70s, but she brings a ferocious soul to the song. Even in rehearsal, her stage presence shines.

During his verse, Nick Lowe's voice is low in the mix. But he still brings a burnished rasp to the song, recalling the edge he always injected into his pop songs. Tweedy gives a solid folky performance, which also has some give and take with Staples.

This backstage moment is what you'd like to imagine happens all the time - musicians jamming with the joyous spirit of a song and creating magic for the lucky few.

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