In Notes from Left of the Dial this week, Nooga.com spends some time with new music from Ciro Madd, There Is No Mountain, Julie Rhodes and Van Damsel. What have you been listening to lately?
Ciro Madd, “Amor Instantâneo”
São Paulo, Brazil-born Ciro Madd yearns for the ’60s psychedelics and pop experimentalism that marked the latter half of that decade. Drawing on influences like The Incredible String Band and Neil Young (and maybe a bit of The Zombies thrown in for good measure), he translates these familiar sounds into a series of modern and thoroughly remarkable rhythmic interpretations. His songs never quite feel as though they’re fully freaking out like the music by The Red Krayola, but they still maintain a restless, pointed creativity that pushes them even further into this warped but communal aesthetic. Incorporating bits of lo-fi folk pastiche with a psych-influenced framework, Madd creates a swirling and hypnotic mélange of sound and texture.
On his new single, “Amor Instantâneo,” he continues to explore this weirdly beautiful psych pop sound, but ventures into territory once held by bands such as Big Star and Teenage Fanclub. It’s power pop but with some wicked psych tendencies. His voice is pushed to the side, surrounded by a host of fuzzy, lo-fi melodies and guitars that sound like they were pulled straight from “#1 Record.” But he hasn’t abandoned the more abstract sounds that marked his earlier work. This song feels vibrant and hazily indebted to classic rock and pop-so that it appears somewhat familiar but upon closer inspection is revealed to be a completely different creature than its influences might suggest.
There Is No Mountain, “Song of Seikilos”
Portland, Oregon, duo There Is No Mountain-composed of drummer/vocalist Kali Giaritta and guitarist/vocalist Matt Harmon-makes music that draws on the fuzzy psych and folk landscapes of the ’60s to fashion a modern, unexpectedly hook-laden set of rhythms. You can hear some of the same oddly textured sounds that bands such as Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear peddle, but There Is No Mountain is able to create a unique and singular expression based on these influences; there’s no sense of imitation or mimicry. They are simply realizing that these sounds can be translated into an affecting and honest homage-one that gives credit where it is due while also allowing the band to form their own rhythmic individuality.
The band released their debut record, “Luna,” back in September, but now is the perfect time to discover it for yourself (if you’ve not already done so). And in particular, “Song of Seikilos” is a wonderfully archaic and persuasive song that gives a good indication of what you’re getting yourself into. Taken from a tombstone found in modern-day Turkey, this song is among the oldest known to man. Written in ancient Greek, the song is purported to be over 2,000 years old, and There Is No Mountain found inspiration in their own interpretation of the words. Guitars zigzag through the haze, bringing in some light percussion and enough distortion to hide its antiquarian nature-history has never sounded this good.
Julie Rhodes, “In Your Garden”
Sometimes you hear a song and realize that there’s something inherently special about it, something that elevates it above the rest of its musical peers. And in regard to New England blues artist Julie Rhodes, that song is the lead track from her forthcoming debut record, “Bound to Meet the Devil.” Everything from the tenor of its blues-influenced tones to the dusty, workingman’s blues attitude causes you to suspect that Rhodes will soon find a much larger audience. She was first discovered when musician Jonah Tolchin heard her singing along to his songs at a concert. They struck up a conversation afterward, and he was soon producing her debut in the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Featuring appearances by Spooner Oldham, Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins and Greg Leisz, the record is a testament to the fiery vision that Rhodes has created around herself. And even with these guests, the soul of the record is carved from her own experiences and ferocious attitude. But it’s “In Your Garden” that perfectly encapsulates what makes her so special. An ode to the brokenhearted and rejected, it’s the antithesis of all the radio love songs that inundate us on a daily basis. The song is dominated by her dynamic and vivacious voice, and backed by a bluesy guitar line that makes you swear it’s sometime in the late ’60s. There’s nothing synthetic or fraudulent, only a pure determination to correct the mistakes of the past.
Van Damsel, “Sophia”
British Columbia-based Van Damsel channels the best of the synth pop and alternative pop acts of the ’80s without resorting to base simulation. Their sound is effervescent and bubbling over with the kind of manic energy you’d expect from a band so indebted to these sounds. But despite the pop and new wave leanings, they’re not adding their weight to an extended pop fad that’s obsessed with ’80s music-they’re reconceptualizing these sounds into something that feels modern but also has its roots firmly planted in that sparkling, fizzy decade. The band is gearing up for the release of their debut in February and has continued to give fans bits and pieces to tide them over until then.
One such offering is their latest single, “Sophia,” a gloriously emotional and poppy track that stands among some of the best pop songs to have been released this year. It’s upbeat without feeling saccharine or overly sentimental. Singer Sebastien Ste Marie’s exuberant vocals lead the charge while his band members provide the backing necessary to pull off this rhythmic sleight of hand. If nothing else, the song is going to get you dancing. But there’s more to it than that (though it does make for a wonderful dance floor anthem)-“Sophia” finds the perfect balance between being the song that wants to give you everything and holding back just enough to keep you anxious for whatever comes next.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.