>> Well, the Christmas tree went up at Clicky Clicky HQ this afternoon, so we're ready now to turn our attention to the music of the season. A reliable pleasure for the last few years has been a holiday offering from Boston dream pop giants The Hush Now, and we were pleased to receive recently the slow, serene rumination "I'm Always Broke In December." It's the first Hush Now Christmas jam to feature a lead vocal from drummer and polymath Barry Marino. The title communicates the sentiment aptly, but it is the band's patient, nuanced delivery that sells "I'm Always Broke" and distinguishes these guys -- again -- as consummate pros. From founder and guitarist Noel Kelly's barely there vocal harmonies and gentle horn solo, to lead guitarist Adam Quane's spectral, mildly dissonant sonics shading the chorus, to keyboardist Jon Rosen's brilliantly subtle layers of organ that commence at about 2:30 in the tune and ride it out, The Hush Now's latest holiday offering is a perfect case study of the band's formidable songcraft and pop chops. The band is midway into the recording of a planned fourth full-length, which we reckon you will see in 2013 barring unforeseen circumstances; "I'm Always Broke In December" makes us that much more eager to here what the band has up its 10 sleeves. Dig the tune via the Bandcamp embed below, and click through to download the thing to have for your very own -- for free, the guys know you're tapped out. The Hush Now's last long-player Memos was one of our favorite records of 2011.
>> Just nine months in the wake of this year's well-conceived Shy Pursuit, Delaware institution The Spinto Band make a breathless return with yet another album of high-quality, upbeat indie pop. Titled Cool Cocoon, this new set is out digitally (presumably also physically) Feb. 5th on the band's own Spintonic Recordings. The band's efficient release schedule and tight, catchy songwriting both stand as evidence the quintet continues its present stretch of focused, independent work. "Shake It Off" is a solid choice for the first single from Cool Cocoon, with its instantly memorable vocal melody and stark, yet full piano and drum production. For a band that once made use of a dizzying number of different electric guitar lines, Spinto Band's recent efforts are notable for utilizing the instrument less. Instead, we get satisfyingly over-driven organ stabs (in the chorus) and deceptively funky snare cadences along with the group’s characteristic, classy vocal harmonies and subtle key changes. The slick production and classic-pop touches echoes certain work by Philadelphia's Dr. Dog or tunes from The Apples In Stereo's New Magnetic Wonder. This writer especially enjoys the twisted opening effects and the very short, unresolved verse melody. The Spinto Band are certainly on a hot streak, with productions that sound even more realized than when other labels were footing the bill. Consider them statesmen of the latest, computer-assisted DIY renaissance. If you're lucky enough, catch them at one of their upcoming French shows listed here. Stream or download (in exchange for your email address, a worth-while trade) "Shake It Off" via the embedded widget dealie below. -- Edward Charlton