December 22nd, 2008 10:05am

Our Undoing Can Be Done

Joan of Arc “Just Pack Or Unpack”

The instruments in “Just Pack Or Unpack” dart, weave, and zig zag, but at a cool, leisurely pace that shies away from tight, mellow harmony or frenetic punk energy. As the title implies, the song is like being stuck in a state of interminable indecision, with overlapping thoughts and impulses moving at the same rate and sparking at the same frequency, thus canceling each other out. The composition does move forward, but even then, it doesn’t resolve itself so much as it collapses into a stalemate, and trails off like an endless ellipsis.

Buy it from Polyvinyl Records.

Joan of Arc “Ne Mosquitos Pass”

Tim Kinsella is not the easiest singer to appreciate. In fact, he’s probably the worst singer whose music I actively enjoy. But here’s the thing: Whereas all too many crappy indie vocalists hedge their bets and sing with timidity and a flat affect, Kinsella emotes and pushes his thin, frail voice to occasionally excruciating limits, often with gutting results. Even still, his style would come off horribly in most musical contexts, and so it’s pretty crucial that it’s in contrast with delicate, imaginative arrangements that balance out gorgeous, graceful instrumentation with uglier textures and unorthodox rhythms. “Ne Mosquitos Pass,” a Joan of Arc gem dating back to 2001, never fails to move me with its gently floating arpeggios, somber piano chords, and absolutely unhinged conclusion. The beat is steady, but it seems to stagger all along the way, as if it can barely hold itself erect, especially when the song gets around to its bitter, ironically anthemic chorus.

Buy it from Amazon.

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