Band: The Western Front
Album: Go To Your Desire; Don’t Hang Around Here
Best element: The complexity of the instrumental parts.
Genre: Rock, indie
Label: Self-Released (Pressed in good ol’ Canada)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I read in the liner notes of this album that The Western Front uses a Hammond Organ in two songs and I immediately got excited. Then I listened to the album- and I was blown away. The Western Front is made up of four St. Jesup, IA, teenagers who create complex and meaningful music, with frontman Drew Fischels mixing styles to create a sound that is recognizable yet very original.
The Western Front takes its influences from a number of mainstream artists that at first thought would never fit together. The first recognizable sound I heard belonged to Collective Soul, which I found at the beginning of opener “Brooks Was Here (So Was Red)”. As I moved on though the album I heard lots of chord structures and singing styles influenced by The Goo Goo Dolls and Dashboard Confessional. (Yes, I just admitted that I listen to Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls and Dashboard). Though I could hear all these influences I could also hear that these kids really took pains to put their own spin on the style. Though this gives them originality it also makes the album hard to follow and can really piss you off when you are looking to listen to a single style.
One of Drew Fischels’ little personal twists is to not use a traditional song structure on this album. Only two songs on the twelve-track album contain choruses. The songs also switch style intermittently, which caused me to not be able to follow what song I was listing to. For example, “Youth of Ages, An American Sailor” opens with a sad trumpet and bass duet, then goes into a fast up-beat song, then into a slow but major- dominated piano/guitar solo section, then into a minor-dominated synth part and then back into a up-beat song. Four times I had to check if the song had changed without me noticing. This kind of thing got annoying but did not come close to ruining the album for me.
Go To Your Desire; Don’t Hang Around Here is the best non-studio album I have heard in ages (the album was recorded in “one garage, one living room, one dining room and one high school band room”.) Hopefully it will be good enough to get these kids out of St. Jesup (look up where St. Jesup is and you will understand why they might want to get out.). I certainly think it will be. If it isn’t, the fifty-five minute album will certainly provide entertainment for the kids of St. Jesup.
Indie-pop has been experiencing a coming-of-age recently, as bands like the Decemberists, the Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Postal Service have all been discovered, touted, and subsequently forgotten by mainstream media. The IC’s candidate for the title of “Next big indie-pop hero (at least for one album)” is the Inheritance, a band featuring hammered dulcimer. Yes, they know you don’t know what it is. Casey Cole gave us a bit of his time, and this is what ensued:
IC: First, give me the names (with instruments) of the band memers.
CC: Casey Cole, 20 (vocals, bass); Sara Bohall, 19 (dulcimer, keys, trumpet, bells); Derrick Carnes, 18 (drums, vocals); guitarists constantly in rotation.
IC: How did the band form?
CC: We were basically tired of the hardcore scene reproducing the same thing over and over again. Me (Casey), Sara and our friend Stephen (piano, sax, clarinet from the beginning through January 05) formed an electro-pop trio and played softer music with drum machines in vein of The Postal Service and Stars. Then we realized that it was way more fun to rock. We found Derrick and here we are today.
IC: You’re a band that revels in unconventional instrumentation. How did you decide to put in all the extra sounds?
CC: Me and Sara wanted to start a folk-esque side project. At the start we were just goofing around. I played the acoustic guitar, she played the dulcimer, Stephen played keyboards. Then Steve thought it would be cool if he played clarinet on a track. Then saxophone. From then on, we basically knew there would be no bounds. There’s been talk of accordions and penny whistles, but we haven’t put them into action yet.
IC: How has your unusual instrumentation affected the way people view the band?
I think it catches a lot of them off-guard. When we set up for a show, Sara has this huge wooden thing she’s setting up. At least one person every show has to ask, “What is that thing?” We’ve been thinking about making stickers saying, “It’s a HAMMERED DULCIMER… so don’t ask” but we haven’t. I think it strikes an interest before we even begin to play, and that’s a good thing.
IC: Do you use all the instruments and effects in concert?
CC: Yes, everything we record is what we play live.
IC: Is there much of an indie-pop scene in Columbus, or have you had to create a scene, so to speak?
CC: The scene in Columbus, Indiana is strictly hardcore, just like a lot of the other smaller towns out there. We don’t play much in town because of the closed-minded kids. However, we have definitely made our way around the state, and it seems like the hardcore kids in other towns tend to love us. I don’t know if it’s because they haven’t heard us before or if they’re just a lot more open-minded.
IC: So what’s up with all the hardcore-type art you guys like?
CC: If you’re talking about the skull and robot scorpion logo, that was mainly a joke. Our drummer is big into 80’s hair metal, and he thought it would be funny if we had a logo like that. We had one made. That’s it. Honest.
IC: Explain to me how I keep hearing new music and never an album.
CC: Ah, good question. We went into the studio back in December to record our first EP. When we were wrapping things up in the studio, we learned that we would be losing our pianist to school. Member changes have never really gotten us down, seeing as we’re on our fifth bassist, and our guitarists are constantly coming and going, but when you’re a piano-driven pop band, losing your pianist is kind of a big deal. We decided not to release our EP, get new members and start from scratch. The result is the nine songs we’re in the studio demoing right now. I don’t know how many of the songs will see the light of day, but we figure with nine down, some of them should make it to an EP sooner or later.
IC: Tell me when that album’s coming, by the way.
CC: Haha, well we’re hoping to get it pressed and finished by our tour in July. However, we don’t want to give a specific date until we have them packaged and in our hands. So, let’s just say soon.
IC: Tell me the funniest story you have about the band.
CC: We seriously have so many, it’s not even funny.
IC: Tell me what you’re listening to these days.
CC: Oh man, it varies from band member to band member. Derrick is always listening to Duran Duran or AC-DC. I know he’s been spinning the new Copeland disc a lot too. Sara has been listening to the new Starting Line and Fallout Boy a lot, but it’s just bad timing. That makes her sound like a pop-punk lover, and she scarcely listens to that stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Godspeed, Explosions in the Sky, Rush, Pedro the Lion and Medeski, Martin, and Wood lately. But you just caught me at a weird time too, because I usually listen to the trendy stuff. I won’t lie.
IC: Tell me the ultimate show that The Inheritance could play in (and broken-up/classic bands are okay).
CC: I think we’d love to play with any combination of Copeland, The Starting Line, Folly, Rod Stewart, They’ve Shot Flanigan, Green Day (Derrick) and Anathallo.
IC: Anything else you’d like to add?
CC: The They’ve Shot The Inheritance/The Inheritance Shot Flanigan Tour will be heading to the north-east this summer. Keep checking www.theinheritancesite.com for updates. Look for the new EP out in June (hopefully). And thank you to independentclauses.com for the awesome interview and heads up on good music.
-Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini in the Month of May.
Band: The Cry Room
Best Element: Airtight songwriting
Band e-mail: email@example.com
Art rock is usually a sloppy, pretentious affair- a metaphorical finger to the establishment of commercialized music. But what happens when the crisp, punctual precision of indie bands like The Decemberists and The Shins hits an art-rock band?
The Cry Room happens. Alternating between an airtight indie-rock style and an equally airtight art-rock style, they straddle the line between pretentiousness and earnestness. When listening to straight-up emotional indie songs like “Plane” and “The Runs”, it’s hard to think of the Cry Room as anything but an indie band- they play the style with such bravado, such honesty, and such intimidating security that it’s almost unbelievable. The vocals give the music its security, as Chris Gillis has a voice that he is extremely comfortable with- he knows exactly where his range starts and stops, and exactly how long his breath will hold. His tone is beautiful, and his overall performance throughout the album is stellar. You will have your breath taken away multiple times by his vocal performance alone. If he were the only good thing about the band, the band would still be decent.
But Gillis isn’t the only amazing thing about this band- the music is brilliant as well. When listening to “The Axehead Floateth” or “The Clock Ticking”, the unconventional song structures, unusual riffs, and the intense focus on the groove of the song directs the listener towards the conclusion that The Cry Room is simply an art-rock band- a band this good at art rock can’t be capable of excelling at other genres too. That just wouldn’t be fair to the rest of those who can’t even excel in one genre (or for that matter, have no musical skill).The chemistry between the instruments is phenomenal- at times the piano and the guitars melt into one sound, and it’s impossible to tell where one ends and one stops. The only time the bass sticks out is when they want it to- but if you listen to it, you’ll find that the bass lines are actually pretty complicated in places. The drums? They accentuate perfectly. The drummer knows when to stop playing (and in knowing drummers, I have found that this is a hard skill for drummers to gain).
“The Axehead Floateth” is a lesson in art-rock, from the spot-perfect use of samples (vocal samples fill this album, but unless you’re looking at it objectively, you’ll hardly notice- that’s how well they’re used) to the build and release of tension to the unusual use of guitar noises. The spoken-word section in the middle is one of the more moving passages of music I’ve heard in a long time.
The Cry Room is the standard bearer for the new wave of art-rockers. This album is the proof.
The High Price of Excellence
Ok- here’s the truth: Independent Clauses Music Magazine does not actually ever come out on the third Sunday of the month. The business cards, the banners, the word-of-mouth- all of them carry the slogan announcing our “Third Sunday of the Month” ideal. We try to, we really do. But we know it’s not going to happen. Why? Well, we’re paying the high price of excellence.
Print magazines have full-time staff. Some online zines even have full-time staff. The Independent Clauses has been run by a staff of college/high-school students since its inception almost three years ago. That means the staff isn’t even part-time- we’re less than part time.
But we’re not using that as an excuse. It’s completely possible to churn out an edition and have it done on time- to the second, even. But it wouldn’t be the best that the IC could do. It would be crap if we rushed it. Cause honestly, has anything that’s been rushed ever been right? We rush to get election results through exit polls and speculation and we extend an election out for days past its expiration date. We rush to get there and we get speeding tickets. We rush to get food by setting the microwave on the higher setting and we burn the food. Rushing sucks.
So if it’s the third Saturday and there are singles reviews that aren’t done- get ‘em done right! Don’t screw with a half-done job- that’s like slapping our readers in the face. “Here- you don’t know any better, here’s the least we can do. You’ll probably like it anyway.”
The IC will never stoop to that level. You will get our 100% best effort every time, even if it’s a couple days late. You don’t get to the top by compromising- you get to the top by putting your best foot forward every time. We’re going to go that extra mile to make sure the links are right. We’re going to make sure that there’s not any stray HTML tags hanging around. Will we miss some? Yeah. We’re human. But it’s going to be a whole lot better than a rushed job.
Thank you for your continued support of the IC. We do our best, and we’re glad that you guys keep coming back (for those first-timers among us, thanks for visiting in the first place!). It makes us feel like we’re accomplishing our goal: spread good music.
Album: Two Try Model
Best Element: The fact that it’s so emo I cried stars after listening to it…kidding; really it’s the layered guitar parts.
Label: Engineer Records (www.engineerrecords.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notice: Whenever I refer to Further Seems Forever I am referring to the line-up that included Jason Gleason as the lead singer.
Emo, by definition, is music that has taken influences from hardcore and allowed the instrumental parts to evolve and become more intricate and decipherable. Thus, Squarewell is emo. With triple layered guitars, traditional post-hardcore/ emo drumming, and crying vocals this album is very hard to put back in the jewel case.
I know four things about this band. One: They are named Squarewell. Two: Their original record label is based in Numberg, Germany. Three: They have an English language album called Two Try Model. Four: The album is amazing. I have been able to find out nothing else about this band. But honestly, it doesn’t matter, because the album is art.
The album opens with “A Recommended Memoir”, a piece that made my mind immediately think Further Seems Forever. Right from the beginning I was able to hear the complexity of the music. The band plays with what I hear as three guitars; two rhythm players and a lead player, a bassist and drummer. The two rhythm guitar players play off of each other, playing contrasting chords and making discordant bliss.
The only downfall of this album is the vocals. The vocalist’s voice sounds hollow. From the sounds of things the problem is mostly due to poor mixing of the vocals and instrumentals. It really sounds like he sang in a booth, facing away from the mic allowing the sound to echo into the mic. I chalk this one up to poor equipment.
The icing on the cake for this album is “Realizing What You Mean After All This Time”- a completely instrumental track. Now if you haven’t figured this out yet, I am a complete sucker for instrumental tracks, so I fell in love with “Realizing What…” instantly.
Squarewell came out of the gates strong with this release. I wish I knew more about them, like the number of band members and the names of the band members, but no matter who they are, they make great music.
Note: The CD booklet is incredibly hard to follow. Even though all the lyrics are listed there is no track number listing and the track list on the back is impossible to read.
And for our German speaking readership: www.millipederrecords.de
Emo and Other Mishaps
It’s that time of year again at the IC- the time of year where we put out an edition. That time of year happens twelve times a year actually….so we did some singles reviews. Here’s some tracks that are notable. Enjoy.
Album: 2003 Album
Label: Dependent Music (www.dependentmusic.com)
Bottom Line: Stunning.
Indie is a broad term, but it’s the only fitting term for Wintersleep’s enveloping epic “Orca”. Starting off with some simple acoustic guitar and a fragile, breaking voice, this song seems like a simple little confessional- until the band comes in with a “Creep”-like hit that completely doesn’t fit the song. The lyrics are confessional- but the song is not a self-pity sad-box. The song slowly gains momentum, transforming itself into a thumping, stomping indie-rock angst machine. Just when the song can fit no more angst- the band is pummeling away- the vocals are about to explode- the band drops out and a tortured, fractured, cathartic ‘ah’ comes in over plaintive guitar. The hook lyric is repeated. An ending chord is played. The listener sits back in awe. It’s been 3.5 minutes, but it felt so short and so long at the same time. “Orca” is indie-rock at its angst-ridden finest.
Band: Yours For Mine
Bottom Line: Just when you thought emo was toast…Yours for Mine appears.
I never thought that the day would come that I regret seeing the term emo tagged on bands- but alas, I have. Thus, I was skeptical when Yours for Mine claimed to be an emo band. I listened to “12:58” and was instantly set back in my place. The song begins in a nearly ambient vein, with some warm synth noises and a delicate guitar line- but with a machine gun snare fill, the song abruptly turns into a rocker. Then, YFM meshes both the ambient noise and the rock into one elegant, rocking piece. Then, the intro’s finally over, and the singing begins (you thought I was talking about the whole song, weren’t you?). The vocals aren’t whiny, and with the dreamy, complex backing the vocals receive, it’s easy to get sucked in. The song grows upon itself, until it ends in a chaotic coda of two screamers, some hardcore guitar action, and some great drumming that doesn’t rely on double pedal for the basis of the riff(thank you very much, YFM). This band gives me hope for the emo band- “12:58” shows that there are still ideas to be had. We just need the right people to have them.
Song: Hope in Falling Embers
Bottom Line: Unexpected, yet very welcome.
Valign doesn’t seem like a post-hardcore band, if you give them a casual glance. For one, they have mildly accessible music. Two, they actually have information on their site. Three, they don’t have too many artsy pictures of themselves. Wait a minute, mildly accessible music? Yes, I said that. Their music isn’t dangerously artsy, although it’s still really good. “Hope In Falling Embers” never ‘goes hardcore’- they play an entire 3.5 minute song without falling into the trap of the breakdown. Their sung vocals and screamed vocals contrast perfectly over the mildly rocking backing track (it reminded me more of Showbread than of MeWithoutYou), creating a unique take on the post-hardcore genre. I highly recommend this for fans of the genre, and even for people who haven’t heard post-hardcore before.
Song: I Can’t Love You Anymore
Bottom Line: A good offering.
I was actually referred to Silverman by George Moorey, a British concert promoter and collaborator in Ghosting (www.ghosting.info). One listen to both bands and you’ll see why they go together- both are minimalist mellow songwriters with an emotional bent. Ghosting relies on empty space to create a personal feel, while Silverman creates a vast aural expanse on their track “I Can’t Love You Anymore”. With far-off drums, a repetitious guitar line, and keys that bring the vastness into existence, this is a trip to a very mellow place. Vocalist Anna Dennis comes off almost like a female version of Sigur Ros’s vocalist Jonsi Birgisson with a-lyrical wails that create more emotion than sense (Dennis does have lyrics, unlike Birgisson, but I prefer to not listen to them, because it’s more beautiful without their added weight). Fans of Death Cab for Cutie will find something to enjoy in the similar guitar patterns, while fans of the aforementioned Sigur Ros will also find some new music to enjoy.
Song: War Waltz
Album: Cold Day Waltz Demo
Bottom Line: International does not mean different.
If nothing else, “War Waltz” by Suneral proves that trends are the same all over the world. Suneral, featuring members from Brazil, Texas, and their current residence of Austria, has all the hallmarks of a good, hard-working new-wave emo band, even if they don’t give anything new to the genre. Their riffs are hard-hitting and sound great- especially the lead intro. The low-end is suitably loud, and the drums add just enough frenzy to the sound. The vocals are the best thing in this band, as Suneral defeats the emo clichés by having a vocalist with a low pitch who actually knows how to use his voice effectively. It’s a very effective song, and it’s sure to hit home with fans of Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, and the like.
Song: All The Children Sing
Band: The Toxic Twinkies
Bottom Line: Fun.
Somewhere between jokey 80’s imitation and genuinely interesting power-pop lie The Toxic Twinkies. Their song “All the Children Sing” is such an enigma that it deserves its own paragraph. The instruments in the verses have an odd power-pop feel to them, and the vocals only point out this fact by being equally disjointed and herky-jerky. The chorus smooths out both the vocal line and the instruments, and while the instruments delve intro tried and true power-pop, the vocals come off as a completely 80’s rip. Whether it’s intentional or not is up to the listener’s opinion. There’s not much else here, as the song is only 1:39, but it’s a 1:39 that I think everyone should experience. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, even if it does defy conventional logic and propriety…
Song: Slow Dancing With Your Conscience
Band: I Am Enron
Bottom Line: Good ideas- poor execution.
Many people have said it: “Timing is everything”. In I Am Enron’s case, nothing could be more true. While their guitar lines are unique in the world of post-hardcore, their bassist is great, and their vocalist doesn’t suck, nothing lines up right. The drums and the guitar seem to be at odds, and the vocalist seems to be taking shots at both of them. The bassist seems to be barely keeping up with the guitarist, who keeps ducking notes in his complicated runs. If you’re going to complicate some runs, make sure you can do all of it first. The screaming puts the nail in the coffin- they’re completely out of time when they come in. And all this in the first 1:45. The last 1:30 isn’t bad at all- things tighten up, and it generally sounds like some good post-hardcore-ish rock. Once they work out their timing issues, I Am Enron will be good stuff. At the moment it’s just annoying. Put it in the “Come back to it later” files.
Band Name: Reed KD
Album Name: S/t
Best element: Emotional but full of energy
Label name: Dirty Laundry Records (http://www.dirtylaundryrecords.com)
Band e-mail: email@example.com
Reed KD has all the sensitivity and passion of Elliott Smith but punctuates it with little bursts of energy that wake you from your trance and bring you back to reality all over again.
Taking this CD track by track, there isn’t really one point where it falls apart. The first track, “A Thin Line,” is great because it begins with an almost mysterious voice singing over an acoustic guitar, has a quick burst of surprisingly poppy guitar and singing, then returns back to the sensitive, mysterious voice.
While “A Thin Line” is an excellent song, the highest point is the song “Side By Side”, which incorporates a low-pitched piano and a muffled drum pattern (could be recording quality, could be on purpose- either way it works). The vocals are soothing and the incorporation of a second vocalist creates a really cool harmony. The vocals throughout are emotional without falling into the trap of your typical emo singer and becoming whiney.
There isn’t a track on here which stands out has a “radio hit”, but for the more refined listener, Reed KD definitely has something going for him. In following in the late, great Elliot Smith’s musical footsteps, Reed KD has the ability to gain an underground following who will appreciate his unique sound and spread the word of his talents to others.
Band Name: Radio City
Album Name: Leave the Light On
Best element: A strong, emotive voice.
Label name: Glorious Records
Band e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In being a connoisseur of independent music, I often find a track by an obscure band that I really, really like. I enjoy the song, and then when I go back to find the band later, the band is gone. Vanished. Lost from the face of the internet. It happens way too often. If you know of (or knew of) a punk band named New Society that has (or had) an acoustic song named “Hermosa”, please e-mail me. It’s my favorite song, and I can’t for the life of me find the band that does it.
But there is a point behind all this pleading and pawing. Another of these fatherless tracks is an expansive acoustic song named “For Your Yearbook” by a guy who went by the confusing moniker JCSS. He had an extremely unique voice that caught my attention, and when I lost touch with the band, I thought I had lost the sound forever.
That’s where Radio City comes in. The voice of Sam Polizzi is nearly identical to the voice that JCSS had. It’s low, emotive, and although it can get a bit confrontational (as it does on “Tuck Me In”), it’s a very soothing, hummable voice, as “Color” demonstrates. Both JCSS and Radio City play acoustic songs, furthering the comparisons.Before you groan that it’s an acoustic band, read ahead. The three songs here all have a different feel- “Tuck Me In” is a rollicking car song, “Color” is a ballad, and “So Proud” is a dark confessional backed up with keys, bass, and drums. Not coincidentally, “So Proud” is the best song here, as it ambles along with purpose and clarity for its five-minute duration.
The amount of variation is what I like about Radio City- if he can keep this amount of variation up in a full album, he’ll definitely be one to watch as the underground scrambles for its next big acoustic thing (seeing as Dashboard is gone).
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Band Name: The Professional Americans
Album Name: Point.Line.Form.
Best Element: Refreshing alternative
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: Jason@theprofessionalamericans.com
The Professional Americans hit hard with album-opener “Placebo”, right away putting their alternative rock sound among the ranks of the best. Their sound falls somewhere between the lines of Jimmy Eat World and The Killers- but in most ways, The Professional Americans rock better, flowing steadily from song to song with an onward approach like any of the mainstream biggies.
Every song includes the basic guitar/bass/drums set-up, but it’s just done better when Pro-Am does it. Guitarist Jason Poe does fantastic work, as his approach to the sound of the guitar matches with every song. Sporting witty and cunning lyrics, the level and depth of which rival The Postal Service, Poe doubles as the vocalist. His vocals are among the ranks of many front men in the industry, as he sings his lyrics right. Bassist James Hafner simply does what’s needed for every song; helping the flow, binding the guitar and drums together, and adding more great vocals. Drummer Corbin Petersen adds vocals as well, and his drumming skills fall in the wide spectrum of skill that great drummers have. In sum, this is a very talented trio.
Of the 11 songs on Point.Line.Form., I can truthfully say that not one of them will be disliked by any fan of solid alternative rock, as songs range from piano/acoustic love songs to fast paced, fun rock songs. When accompanied by Rachel Poe in the song “Glass”, The Professional Americans show a new talent by being diverse and fresh, something we don’t see a lot of these days. But in Point.Line.Form everything is done with care, and the end result is comparable to any mainstream band, if not better. Flashy, fun lyrics, great instrumental talent, and perfect collaboration, topped off with some gutsy calls that pay off, make this CD a must have. The Professional Americans’ sound in Point.Line.Form is alternative rock at its best- a sound you must experience.