The High Five: Great New Songs from Of Montreal, NONONO, and More
Summer is not quite over, but don't tell the artists from this week's selection. It seems as though we've already receded into some wintry tones here -- speculations, dark melodies, and peculiar, guarded lyrics. There are a couple hangers-on (Figaro and NONONO, in particular); but make no mistake: Winter is coming.
Of Montreal - "Fugitive Air"
Georgie Fruit, the musical alter ego of Of Montreal's lead singer Kevin Barnes, needs you to know a few things. First and foremost, he absolutely "refuse[s] to be abused by the milieu of blissful decay." Of course he does. On top of that, he's "used to all of my scruples deserting me." This might help explain the smack of boggy of profanity here in "Fugitive Air." We're introduced to "street cats," a little bit of "shitty witchcraft," and of course a woman on a stoop "with her withered old titty out." This sort of grandma-off-her-meds babble could be written off as psilocybin philosophy, were it not for the sheer purity of some of the instrumentation at work behind it. In less than a decade, the band has somehow gone from a gaggle of sonic Technicolor speedfreaks to what sounds like a bunch of dope-smoking Credence enthusiasts. Even though they appear to be pushing toward the past, you've got to hand it to them for still pushing, hard.
There's absolutely nothing unnecessary here: Just a carefully crafted, ruthlessly catchy, falsetto-rich romp. Structurally, the song functions as a sort of inside joke -- a perky, upbeat jaunt that laments its own lack of momentum. But wait: Where exactly is this alleged lethargy? No matter. Figaro is cordially inviting you in on the joke, too.
Rabbit Rabbit - "Hero and a Saint"
Not so much a conventional song as it is a heavily textured acid rant, "Hero and a Saint" plods at first, then explodes into a cluster of Bowie-esque choruses. Amid quacking clavinet, blips of static, and a vigorously strummed acoustic guitar, vocalists Matthias Bossi and Carla Kihlstedt trade abstruse musings, mumbling at times in unison: "Last night the street was all lit up/Johnny backed out, inch by inch/Oh by the light of the fire." The song's abrupt end -- it's only about two and half minutes -- doesn't so much resolve as it does relieve.
NONONO - "Pumpin Blood"
Despite the implications inherent in naming your band NONONO, there's not an ounce of sadness or negativity of any kind in this propulsive track. Where the band's debut single, "Down Under," was a Rubik's cube of dark tones, guarded lyrics, and epileptic syncopation, "Pumpin Blood" reads more like a motivational speech: "It's your heart. It's alive. It's pumpin blood." Pretty straightforward. We are, in fact, beginning to learn a little bit about this Swedish band's world: Sometimes, it is one in which lost love is bemoaned and pain is worn on sleeves and drastic mood swings are par for the course. At other points, like this one, "the whole wide world is whistling." One thing's for sure: NONONO's world stands to get a whole lot bigger very soon.
Jackson Scott - That Awful Sound
Children of the '90s, take note: Jackson Scott's moaned melodies and cruddy, loping drums will yank you back in time with vacuum-suck velocity. Just please try to ignore the fact that Scott himself is just 20 (and was very likely lying on the changing table the second Kurt Cobain ended himself and grunge). In what might be a savvy move, Scott calls his music "apocalypse pop." Still, the influences are right there for the taking: Pavement, Weezer, some selections from the lower-toned Nirvana catalog. If you're the sort who's okay walking down memory lane blindfolded, with a sudsy brew to catch those tears, you'll be right at home with "That Awful Sound."