Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

June Acoustic Campfire

July 3, 2015

1. “Arizon” – La Cerca. Thoughtful, walking-speed Western music: gentle keys, reverbed clean electric guitars, thrumming bass, easygoing vocals. Sometimes the title (sic, by the way) is all you need to know.

2. “Jimmy & Bob & Jack” – Edward David Anderson. Some songs don’t need or deserve lyric videos, but this rollicking tale of three would-be criminals had me hanging on every word from Anderson’s mouth. The swampy, country instrumentation that floats the lyrics is pretty great too.

3. “Need a Break” – David Myles. I don’t get sent that many old-school, rapid-fire, talking-country tunes, but David Myles has delivered me a tune that I can’t stop tapping my foot to.

4. “Falling in Love” – Nathan Fox. Right what it says on the tin, with raspy/gritty vocals reminiscent of bluesy hollerers.

5. “Beacons” – Scott Bartenhagen. Structured, mature, serious acoustic music that made me think of Turin Brakes for the first time in a long time. Regardless of what happened to the “Quiet is the New Loud” movement, I’ll still be a fan of intense, focused acoustic singer/songwriter work.

6. “Lazy Moon” – Brave the Night. If you’ve ever (secretly or unabashedly) enjoyed an ’80s Billy Joel ballad OR were enamored with Norah Jones OR don’t think “lounge” is a bad word, this tune will tickle your fancy. Sweet trumpet, too.

7. “One More Time” – Cape Snow. Bree Scanlon’s voice sounds so composed and mature in this tune that it’s tough to not start assigning positive moral qualities to it. She guides this gentle tune through its four minutes, sounding like the direct descendants of Mojave 3 the entire time.

8. “Easy on Me” – Runner of the Woods. The premiere of this song includes songwriter Nick Beaudoing coining the term countrygaze. As this mashes up country and shoegaze (and, by my own personal extension, chillwave), I am on board with this term. I want to believe.

9. “Origins” – Jesse Payne. Excellent widescreen, engaging indie-folk calling up The National comparisons as easily as of the obvious Fleet Foxes/Grizzly Bear woodsy bands.

10. “White Queen” – Benedikt and Friends. You’ve had a hard week. You need a song that gets that, as well as helping you slip into relaxation. This tune offers tons of pathos to empathize with, as well as crisp melodies and tight engineering of the nuanced, subtle arrangement. And it’s Norwegian.

11. “RMDN” – +Aziz. Linking ancient religious practice with social media and traditional acoustic guitar with gentle beats results in a song that realizes its lyrics in its sound and vice versa. It’s an intriguing song that never lets the concept take away from being a good tune.

June Pop Party

1. “Find My Way” – Jinja Safari. The sort of exuberant, gregarious pop music that seems unavoidable and unhateable. Tropical vibes, mid ’00s MGMT-esque melodies, and overall fun had by all.

2. “Petrichor” – Light Music. This one’s the sort of indie-pop-rock tune that rides a great vocal hook, intricate-yet-fun arrangements, and sheer ebullient charm to great heights.

2. “Visions of Plumerias” – Rudy De Anda. Wistful, lazy, slow-motion days now have one more song for the soundtrack: De Anda’s vintage pop sounds just retro enough without getting tribute-band-y.

3. “Guess You Never Thought of It That Way” – Theo Berndt. Overstuffed, zinging, exuberant, vocals-and-instruments-in-the-same-melody pop songs aren’t the exclusive products of Scandinavia, but it sure seems like they have a big claim on the territory. Theo Berndt is a band from Sweden, and thus parlay their mandate into a wildly entertaining track that just keeps throwing more stuff at you.

4. “Virginians” – IOLA. It’s always fun to hear a song go in a completely different direction than I expected. This indie-pop tune goes from 0-60 and back in a most satisfying way.

5. “Trisha Please Come Home” – Advance Base. Lo-fi ideals and hi-fi production co-exist in this meandering, endearing tune from this post-Casiotone for the Painfully Alone project.

6. “Eye to Eye” – Astronauts, etc. More and more indie-rockers are coming around to how funky, soulful, and fun R&B can be. It’s working its magic on me too: I’ve not historically been huge into R&B, but this track is a sweet jam that sounds amazing.

7. “Our Bodies” – Ghost Lit Kingdom. Affectionate, big-melody ballads can eat a whole lot of elements from different genres and still be recognizable: this one pulls in some tropical vibes, R&B grooves, and indie-folk instrumental arrangements.

8. “A Dead Man’s Song” – Roger Lion. Joe Pernice and Budo (Macklemore) come together to create a head-bobbin’ down-tempo tune with ’90s Brit-pop and trip-hop influences.

9. “Gunsmoke” – Ancient Warfare. A good transition can make a song: Delicate, traditional piano taps leads smoothly into the huge, noisy, guitar-bound chorus. The moment works.

10. “Ghost Legs” – Dreamcoat. Some band names are just ways to differentiate one entity from another, but Dreamcoat’s name fits the sound of this tune perfectly: a round, warm, gently rolling indie-rock tune grounded by unobtrusive pad synths and lightly accented by slapback guitar and distant vocals. It feels like I could wrap myself up in this and go to sleep–hence Dreamcoat.

11. “Parliament” – Sunday Lane. Insistent bass notes create a pleasing tension against Lane’s gentle, patient vocals. In a parallel development, a skittering electronic beat pushes on careful piano chords. The resulting tune fits together like a puzzle, somehow turning out a surprisingly cohesive dream-pop whole from a variety of parts.

June Rock List

June Rock List

1. “Whine of the Mystic” – Nap Eyes. Major-key guitar-rock infused with so much martial tension from the drums and the wavering high guitar part that it feels like it is always about to explode–with the exception of the preternaturally calm vocalist that tethers the tune the ground. The tune never explodes in giant guitar fury. I’m impressed.

2. “Getaway” – Jaill. Bass-heavy surf-rock that eschews much of the whining treble that categorizes the genre: suddenly, it just sounds like tip-top driving pop-rock music.

3. “Be What You Are” – The Cairo Gang. The less garage-y garage rock gets, the more it sounds like ’60s rock and pop. This has Beach Boys, Beatles, Kinks, and more influences crammed into it. Rock on.

4. “Incarceration Casserole” – Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. Uncorked James Brown-esque soul/funk complete with sax meets blast-off ’50s rock in a high-energy blender of a song that’s about not knowing how to make food and eat because his wife is in jail. This is the first time you’ve heard a song like this.

5. “Creature” – It Looks Sad. Every now and then a punk song jumps out of the ether, slaps me across the face, and demands that I cover it. This one, with its towering choruses, huge-yet-not-abrasive guitars, and early ’00s/White Octave-esque emotional palette did that to me.

6. “Kashyyyk” – We Take Fire. A mind-bending genre blender of a song that combines post-rock, post-hardcore, dance-rock, and Coheed & Cambria-esque flights of fancy into one massively headturning rock song.

7. “Smokesignals” – The Feel Bad Hit. Here’s an punk-inspired instrumental rock tune that has nothing post- about it: the band just crushes it without vocals. ‘Nuff said.

8. “Love Like Crazy” – Jessica Lee Wilkes. Wilkes offers up some sax-powered, vaguely surfy vintage pop that sounds fresh as anything.

9. “Crossing on a Bend” – Bourbon Street Beat. Not a big rockabilly fan? Try this track, which includes enough modern melodic sentiment to seem less uncomfortably foreign and more exotic and interesting.

10. “Port City” – I Am the Albatross. Buoyant acoustic rhythm guitar, crunchy electric guitars (complete with guitar solo!), jubilant chorus, creaky vocals, big drums: this is an old-school rock tune, y’all.

11. “Business” – The Good Field. I have an ambient understanding of what ’70s AM radio rock sounded like: warm, major-key, fuzzed out, concerned with formal songwriting tactics, and generally hooky. The Good Field fit my impressionistic ideas of what that style sounded like to a T.

12. “Aubrey” – Lake Malawi. Low-slung but still peppy, chilled-out but still energetic, this sounds like a Strokes-ian indie band accidentally getting lost in ’80s radio pop and emerging with an artifact that isn’t either genre, exactly.

13. “Young” – Kyle and the Pity Party. This song declares “I’d do anything for you/I’d even listen to Brand New/if that’s what you want me to.” Without waxing poetic about the early 2000s (Deja Entendu forever), I can confidently say that this sort of emotional rock and roll is a direct descendant of that scene (with some of the angular edges worn off).

Quick Hit: Angelo De Augustine

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Angelo De Augustine, a 22-year-old Los Angeles native, recently released his sophomore effort, How Past Begins. Augustine took one single (“How Past Begins”) off his debut album, Spirals of Silence, and paired it with two previously unreleased tracks that didn’t make the cut (“Most Of The Time,” “If I Could Fly”) and voila!

The raw feel of Augustine’s alt-folk music really draws the listener in and makes them feel at home. You know when you walk into someone’s house for the first time and your senses immediately feel at peace? Your nose smells your favorite warm apple pie. The temperature of the home is the perfect “not too cold, yet not too hot” middleground. You just get this feeling of being in a place that feels oddly familiar, even though you may have never even been there before. That’s how all of Angelo De Augustine’s music feels. His music feels homey and peaceful, as if you were always meant to be there.

Perhaps Augustine’s calming Bon Iver-esque voice is what really adds to the ambience. Maybe the simple instrumentation–mainly Augustine’s great guitar picking and strumming–makes all of his songs feel so comfortable. Or is it his raw, poetic lyrics that make his listeners feel at rest? Whatever it is, Angelo De Augustine really knows how to make a listener feel at home. His three-song collection, How Past Begins, is out now! —Krisann Janowitz

June Electro Drop

July 2, 2015

1. “Take a Dive” – By Day By Night. Big, friendly synth-pop that’s a mix between M83 dusky drama and Chad Valley exuberance.

2. “You’ve Got Somethin‘” – Air Bag One. I don’t know if it’s just my vantage point, but it seems like we’ve moved from big synth-centric ’80s jams to big vocal-centric ’80s jams. If so, Air Bag One is on point with this tune.

3. “Time (feat. La Petite Rouge)” – Haring. Wavering chillwave synths create a blissful mood before a neat and tidy beat comes in to give the song motion and structure. It grows from there, without ever overwhelming the initial mood. Beautiful.

4. “A Berry Bursts” – Twin Hidden. This enthusiastic, difficult-to-classify track sits somewhere between gentle indie-pop, low-key electro, and Tokyo Police Club’s giddy pop-rock attack. It’s way fun, whatever it is.

5. “Kangarang” – Casual Strangers. This psych-rock tune explores the more ambient, experimental, almost electronic vibes of the genre–eschewing huge guitars for a deep groove, this song is a burbling, thoughtful instrumental jam.

6. “Start Again (ft. Amy)” – Stefansson. I can’t resist an EDM song that is tasteful and restrained with the more stereotypically brash audio elements of the genre.

7. “Lackluster No.” – Nova Heart. A stark, sparse landscape gives way to an elegant, pristine, magnetic body of the song. It fuses electronic elements and live bass in a surprising way. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

8. “World Government” – Heptagon Heaven. Do you need six minutes of arpeggiated synths, great sound washes, and general “cool” vibe? Of course you do.

9. “Indian Summer” – Jai Wolf. The stuttering optimism of Gold Panda fused to ODESZA’s artsy, high ideals post-dub makes for a deeply impressive track.

Lane 8’s Rise: Masterful control of deep house moods

Lane 8

Rise, from the San Francisco-based producer Lane 8, is a sleek, dreamy gem of a house record. From the emotion-packed pacing to several male and female vocalists to the thought-out track lengths, Lane 8 has taken into consideration every aspect of the listening experience.

The first track, “Loving You,” is a slow-building standout with dazzling, commanding cooing from vocalist Lulu James.  “Are we gonna be here forever/Wrapped up, captivated,” she sings, comparing love to suspension and treading on water as a dance-inducing techno beat escalates. “I’m a fool for love. I’m a fool for loving you,” James confidently proclaims like a man-eating ‘80s R&B/pop singer, launching an uplifting vibe that pulses throughout the album.

“Diamonds” seduces with hollow percussion that drips like wooden rain, contrasting beautifully with the breathy vocals by duo Solomon Grey. The pair is also featured on “Hot As You Want,” where jabbing synth drops in and out between their misty vocals. The lovingly honest lyrics, “You’re all I need, you’re all I need/You’re all I see, you’re all I see,” compliment the driving nature of the track.

Lane 8 incorporates just as many melodic elements as his heavy tonality. “Klara” uses the same dark, steady rhythm and metallic percussion that you’d hear playing in a Roman aperitivo bar. “Cosi” distorts like a VHS tape being rewound, breaking and pausing only to stir back up again. “Sunlight” and “Rise” are other melodic tracks, the title track blending both dreamy vocals and computer synth for an enchanting, upbeat club quality.

On “Ghost,” a galloping beat canters underneath slow piano; emotional vocals from Patrick Baker give it an Odesza feel at first. It ends up weighing in on the blissful side of deep house though, emitting such happy plucks that it could easily go tropical. “All I want is just to feel you/Everything just looks so see-through,” Baker sings like a ballad on this shorter, feel-good track.

“Undercover” also has that versatility to it. Matthew Dear’s raspy vocals, which balance the track’s high-pitched pop synth and progressive house builds, make this a throw-on-repeat song. Dear’s breathtaking vocal presence on “Undercover” shines at a perfect time on the album, reminding you that there’s a calculated journey Rise is taking you on. If a pan flute or sax was added, this could be a tropical house track ready to lick salt and squeeze limes.

The best way to describe Rise is versatile, like the multi-purpose cleaner of house records, except a lot sexier than that. Lane 8 hits on many varying aspects of deep house, all while staying loyal to his clean, heavy style and proving, once again, that the man masters mood. —Rachel Haney

June Video Playlist

July 1, 2015

I don’t usually do this, but I have so many videos to cover this month (a good problem to have!) that I’ve listed them like I would MP3s. Instead of commenting thoroughly on them, I’ve posted the main takeaway from each video as a description. Enjoy!

1. “Modern Man” – Brian Lopez. Intergenerational friendships are cool.

2. “Ghost (feat. Patrick Baker)” – Lane 8. Love triangles affect even biker clubs.

3. “Something Good” – Dead Sara. If the dancing, the camerawork, and the song all evoke the same era, it’s gonna be a fun video.

4. “Cops Don’t Care, pt II” – Fred Thomas. Concepts as simple as “hey, pour tons of sprinkles on me in slow-motion” can work in the right conditions.

5. “Magnifying Glass” – Girlpool. Sometimes the right conditions for a simple concept is a 36-second song.

6. “Hold Up For” – The Silver Lake Chorus. There are still clever concepts that keep me watching a video to find out what’s going on.

7. “Frayed” – Waterstrider. You can make a rad dance video out of 40,000 still images stitched together.

8. “Underwood Milk” – Kieran Leonard. Self-aware, self-deprecating humor is still very funny.

9. “Secret Friend” – Grounders. You can make a trippy, abstract video really interesting (I’m not sure what the formula is, but they make it work here).

10. “Broken Bones” – Daycare for Jedi. Somewhere in my heart, there’s an small but undying flame for the exaggerated enthusiasm and adrenalized pogoing of the pop-punk performance video.

11. “Pink Blossoms” – Connecting Stars. I am a sucker for a sad, romantic song and video.

12. “Dancing Star” – Lilies on Mars. Digital modeling is way cool.

13. “Moony Eyed Walrus” – Cayucas. It is difficult to surf in a redwood forest.

Quick Hits: Young Legs / Battle Ave.

June 30, 2015

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Young LegsPromise of Winter starts off in summer with the uber-perky “Resolution” but travels through the seasons to the depth of winter by the close of the album. During the journey, Steven Donahue shows off deft control of mood and impeccable melodic skill. These tunes circle the central node of Donahue’s confident, breathy voice: whether it’s employed in a frantic, minor-key indie-rock tune [“Ring of Salt (Youth Culture Dummy Version)”], a major-key jangle-rock tune (“The Apple Stem”), a banjo-led folk tune (“Book of the Lethe”) or a complex a capella venture (“Northfield”), Donahue’s voice shines. (Wiry, quirky, zooming synthesizers appear in several well-chosen spots, giving this a friendly, unusual texture.)

Even though there are a wide variety of styles here, the core of the album is composed of Donahue’s voice and a guitar. “Goodbye, John Ryle,” “Round the Root,” and “Seasons of Giving” fall firmly within the folk camps, ranging from Nick Drake-ian lightness (“Round the Root”) to Songs: Ohia gloominess (particularly as you go farther into the album). The melodies throughout each style are compelling, showing that Donahue isn’t a one-trick pony. From whispery folk to brash indie-rock, the songwriting here never falters. It’s a charming release, through and through. Anyone who’s into acoustic-led indie music will have a field day with Promise of Winter.

yearofnod

Battle Ave.‘s Year of Nod is the opposite of Young Legs’ wide-ranging genre fiesta: instead, it’s a laser-focused exploration of a particular sonic space. Jesse Alexander and co. have made an album that explores the whispery, sleepy, eerie spaces in-between dusk and dark, or between dark and dawn. This is the sort of thing that the phrase indie rock was built for: it’s got the underlying assumptions of rock, but it’s not taking them in a stereotypically riff-bound, v/c/v structure. Alexander’s weary, wailing voice fits perfectly with these tunes, from the perky “Summer Spear” to the intimate, quiet “Helen (This Isn’t Meant to Offend).”

Everything in between those sonic poles (“Zoa,” “In Evil Hour,” “Say Say Oh Enemy”) plays with the tension between hissing found sound, misty ambient noises, and traditional indie-rock vibes–the 7-minute “Zoa” includes both an upbeat clapping section and an arhythmic melancholy interlude that is best characterized by Alexander’s wordless sighs and vocal noises. Battle Ave. has both of these things inside themselves, and the resulting tunes are the tension between them. Year of Nod is a frequently elegant, occasionally dissonant, always interesting indie-rock album–those interested in thoughtful, careful sonic art would do well to check this out.

Ivan and Alyosha: Distinctive and Attractive

June 29, 2015

ivanalyosha

Ivan and Alyosha‘s It’s All Just Pretend is deeply American music. The songs here take cues from straight-ahead major-key rock (“All This Wandering Around”), country (“Drifting Away”), piano-hammering ’50s pop (“Let Me Go East”), and timeless balladeering (“Tears in Your Eyes,” “Don’t Lose Your Love”) to pull together an attractive, affecting collection. The diversity of song styles and structures is held together by Tim Wilson’s inviting voice and the familial lyrical themes.

Wilson’s tenor has a uniquely magnetic quality: vocalists that are both distinctive and attractive in their tone are rare. It’s tough to describe the X factor, but it’s all over the chorus of “Bury Me Deep,” the first single and most rocking tune of the album. Wilson’s excellent delivery is one of the things that draws me back to the album over and over. The lyrics also help: the album explores the thoughts, fears, and joys of having a family and growing older. The moving expression of familial love in “Come Rain, Come Shine” slots it right near Ben Folds’ “Still Fightin’ It,” while the tender acoustic ballad “Don’t Lose Your Love” reiterates that love in pleas/advice. The title track combines the sentiment of “Don’t Lose Your Love” with a sweet guitar riff and another stellar vocal performance from Wilson. In short, It’s All Just Pretend is an album that clicks on all cylinders. Knowing that their live show is excellent (I saw them in Chapel Hill in May–the songs sound just as great live, if not better in some cases), it leaves me very excited for Ivan and Alyosha’s future.

Groenland’s The Chase: Unlike Any Other

June 26, 2015

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Canadian indie-pop band Groenland’s debut album The Chase sets this six-piece powerhouse on an island of their own. Every track delivers a different experience for the listener to take in. From deep contemplativeness to cheery exuberance and everything in between, The Chase is an emotional, instrumental, and vocal adventure.

The album does not have one consistent mood, and in that way it perhaps represents the array of emotions we all have. Take the moody, heavy “Immune”: the lyrics explore the inner back and forth occurring within the heart of someone in a passionate relationship. The line that most stands out everytime I press replay is, “I’ll shoot my brains out again if you come back around/ But I won’t suffer the blame to watch us go down.” Although the visceral image of shooting one’s brains out is very negative and dark, the lyric exposes that not only is this a pattern, but it is one that is painful to replay. So although it causes the person pain for the relationship to start up again, it causes equal pain to see it end. How many of us can relate to this masochistic/love-sick pattern that “Immune” explores?

Many of us also know the taste of desire and the hopefulness that comes with believing in something. “The Chase” encompasses the optimism that comes with believing in yourself. Whatever job, love-interest, life you’re chasing after, “The Chase” represents the playful self-assurance that comes along with the quest. The song provides a very different mood that “Immune,” with lyrics like, “You may think you are done with us/ But it’s only just begun” paired fittingly with playful, old-school Mario video game sounds playing in the background. Through lyrics and other aspects such as instrument pairing, each song on the album places the listener in a different emotional state.

The instrumentation of The Chase is an adventure in and of itself. There are piano-heavy tracks (“Our Last Shot,” “Our Hearts Like Gold”), ukulele-led songs (“Don’t Fix Me Yet,” “Superhero”), and appearances of full orchestra (“La Pieuvre,” “Immune”). The varied percussion, particularly in the drums and tambourine, add flavor to many of the songs. The instrumentation found in The Chase contains depth and scope similar to Arcade Fire’s Funeral-era thick instrumentation. It’s a tough standard to be graded against, but Groenland takes it on with this album.

Groenland’s lead singer Sabrina Halde has an uncanny ability to change the feel of the song, just by how she changes her voice. Halde’s voice has depth and soul akin to soulful artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse. “26 Septembre” and “Superhero” both show off this deep, powerful side of Halde’s voice: on the bridge of “26 Septembre,” she goes up and down the scale on just one syllable. “Our Hearts Like Gold” exposes the softer side of Halde’s voice, as she is a bit whisperier for much of the song. Halde allows her voice to sound strong at moments, but she quickly returns to the softer, more delicate side of her voice. As a result, the song ends sweetly and gently, unlike the more powerfully soulful endings found on the album.

Listening to Groenland’s The Chase is certainly an adventure. The lyrics explore many delicate human emotions that we often don’t give enough time to. The diverse instrumentation gives every track a different feel, and Halde’s vocals can bring your spirits to the highest of heights. I highly recommend purchasing Groenland’s The Chase: its diversity will be sure to give you a unique, exciting listening experience. —Krisann Janowitz

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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