A critic mixes his recent favorites.

Songs you've got to hear.
Jan. 13 2006 11:00 AM

The Songs in My Head

A critic mixes his recent favorites.

(Continued from Page 1)

The Norwegian My Bloody Valentine? Not exactly, but listen to this track from Serena Maneesh's self-titled full-length debut and you'll understand why folks are bound to employ that sort of shorthand. On the whole, the album emits a buzzed on midnight caffeine atmosphere, as though it were filtered through the Jesus and Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, and Spacemen 3. (It was actually recorded over six months between Oslo, New York City, Stockholm, and Chicago.) The main songwriter, 25-year-old Emil Nikolaisen, pens angelic harmonies before splintering them into a million sunspots. To create such a cacophony, he couldn't go it alone. On record, the band includes two of his peers, Sufjan Stevens and Daniel Smith of the Danielson Famile, as well as the regular Serena Maneesh lineup. One of the longer tracks, "Sapphire Eyes High," showcases the band's swirling, dynamic melodic tendencies.

Young People
Five Sunsets in Four Days EP (Too Pure, 2005) Listen to "Sudden Fear."

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Young People's 2003 album, War Prayers, was one of that year's overlooked indie gems. At the time, the band was a trio; since then, the group's whittled itself down to the bicoastal duo of Katie Eastburn (New York) and Jarrett Silberman *(Los Angeles). The remaining members are both multi-instrumentalists—only Katie sings, though, and her voice is Young People's biggest hook (think Björk and Cat Power in a downer Lars von Trier musical). She's also part of the dance troupe Leg & Pants Dans Theeatre and has curated the danced-based Starter Set DVD put out on the Olympia, Wash., label Kill Rock Stars. That performative backdrop finds its way into Young People's minimal but theatrical sound. The spare mix of voice, percussion, harmonica, and guitar in "Sudden Fear" is one of the group's patented fleeting fragments. Halfway certain pulses in its atmosphere are reminiscent of Roy Orbison's ghost. Mostly, though, it sounds like the lonesome, last-second finale to some skeletal stage production.

Correction, Jan. 12: The article originally and incorrectly identified Jarrett Silberman as Jarrett Rosenberg. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

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