Saturday, July 22, 2006
Farewell Flight / Amarie Coma / Koji on the Roof / The Mint
The Championship, Lemoyne, PA
Let me just say that this is the first non-hardcore show that I’ve attended in a while, so it was almost a shock to the system when I realized that I could just walk to the front and take pictures without running the risk of being impaled by a windmill kick to the head or something equally as terrible. Indie/rock/pseudo-emo shows to me are not nearly as fun as hardcore shows, and this was no exception.
While not as physical or exciting as some bands, The Mint turned in a solid performance with their piano driven rock. They tend to be a bit on the bland side at times, but the keyboard, in addition to their blatant excitement while playing, was enough to keep the audience engaged during their set. Next was a personal friend of mine, Andrew Shiraki, also known as Koji on the Roof. Koji is his solo acoustic act, and is reminiscent of artists such as the earliest of early Dashboard Confessional, Iron and Wine, and Damien Rice. Despite being a one man act, he commanded the audience with a combination of catchy and heartfelt music, and witty stage banter and crowd interaction.
Amarie Coma might as well be called The Commercials Part Two. They are composed of former members of Breaking Pangaea and the now defunct Commercials, and more or less sound, well, exactly like The Commercials- except now it looks like they have Nick Carter as their vocalist. Ok, ok, I know I shouldn’t base my opinion on the band based on looks, because they can be deceiving, but seriously. Nick Carter in his shaggy haired years. That aside, nothing was exceptionally catchy, but nothing was exceptionally boring either. Everything was very typical for the indie/pop-punk/pseudo emo genre, but their energy was good, despite the Backstreet Boy similarities (So sorry, I cant get over it). Maybe if I was more of an indie kid I would appreciate their music more, but I feel like this scene is played out and they’re not unique enough to be entirely successful. Then again, homogeneity is in these days in the music industry.
The headlining band was from the Harrisburg area; Farewell Flight, who are slowly gaining national recognition from their relentless touring and playing festivals such as Cornerstone. Comprised of relatively young members, this Christian indie rock band have a unique twist to their music that I have yet to put my finger on; and no, I’m not talking about the vocalist/guitarist Luke’s ballerina like stage antics either (but those didn’t hurt). They have a very charismatic stage presence, and play each song as if it was a small odyssey of sorts. Reminiscent of earlier Death Cab for Cutie and a very upbeat Coldplay, Farewell Flight was a joy to listen to and watch, and a great ending to an otherwise somewhat boring evening of music. The two other bands (sans Koji, of course) should take some lessons from their younger counterparts.
Album Name: The Perfectionist Blacklist
Best Element: Ambience and Variation of songs.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Withdrawal Music
Band E-mail: email@example.com
It’s reassuring to know that creative music is still coming out of the Sunshine State of California. Withdrawal, a Fullerton, CA, five-piece proves it with their debut The Perfectionist Blacklist. Released March 2006, these nine songs filled with sonic rapture and inspiring melodies, blending atmospheric passages and all out alternative rock have been nearly two years in the making.
The album flows perfectly in cohesion from beginning to end, yet each song houses a certain level of ambience all to itself. The fine musicianship is structured with Jason Dodge doing the main vocals and covering the low end on bass. His vocals are complimented by the guitarist Jarod Ruston and the outstanding drum work is handled by Ryan Ruston. But it doesn’t stop there… Withdrawal has a few more great texture adding elements to give them an edge over other virtuoso alternative rock bands. Nanda Tierney handles the aura-filled keys and electronics while Todd “T.C.” Crayton handles additional percussion as well as the amazing horn work heard occasionally through the songs (Listen to the end of “I Claudius” for some powerful horn work.).
On top of being creative they also have a good sense of variation. You can bang your head to hard rockers like “Stalker” or the spastic “Oil & Water” or lay back and visit the blissful regions of post-rock territory with songs like “Oct. 23” and “Nova Breeze” or even the progressively styled closer ‘The Struggle”. Then there are tracks like “I Claudius”, “Death of an Oarfish”, and “Macroscopic”, which are all a wonderful combination of both ambient and rock elements. These are really the finest songs the album has to offer, bringing a more forward-thinking creative tone to their overall sound. Now do not take my praise for these 3 songs as an insult to the rest of album… I’m more than impressed with album in its entirety. All the songs were well written and the album itself was well assembled with fantastic production which- believe it or not- was done by the band. And remember as I said above, a good sense of variation is important.
Withdrawal has managed to create something which is both unique in sound yet familiar in its overall scope and in doing so, they should achieve a good level of recognition which they more than deserve.
Best Element: The complete abandonment of the restrains of a genre.
Genre: Experimental/ Post-Hardcore/ Indie
There may not be a single other person who enjoys this album- but it doesn’t matter to me. Ascertain is the album to hear so far this year. The debut full length establishes a place for SleepBellumSonno in a scene saturated with indie/ambient bands that have no hook. SBS has created a sound that will establish a fan base but has kept their first effort from falling into a mold. This characteristic allows this album to be great. SleepBellumSonno has created an album that will be placed alongside greats like Thursday’s Waiting, Gatsby’s American Dream’s Cut the Ribbons, and much of Glassjaw’s work.
This album is good until track 4- “The Eloquent Leaves the Bar with Change”. Then it becomes great. The first few tracks sound as if they were made with a different producer and a different recording studio. The vocals sound a bit hollow and the volume is weak. Thankfully, any problems I noticed in the first three tracks were resolved by track four, where the album takes on a quiet strength that builds to an exceptional level in the final two minutes of track four.
The vocals are the first thing the casual listener will notice about this band. The lead vocals are handled by a man monikered AJT. His vocals on this album range from choir quality to screeching screams, reminiscent of The Blood Brother or The Locust. While AJT has the ability to use either of these extremes exceptionally, he spends a majority of the album using a half sung, half spoken vocal style, allowing a majority of lyrics to be understood.
The back-up vocals are handled mostly by another member. His vocals learn toward hardcore screaming. He also provides intense emotion in a select few songs. The points in which he uses his voice in this way are my favorite points in the album.
Though these different vocal styles are sprinkled sparingly into each song there is plenty of time for them to be used. Though only ten songs, the effort comes out to just over 50 minutes. For all you English majors out there, that’s an average of 5 minutes per song. While the songs average 5 minutes a piece, the range from the depressingly short “3:12” (really only 2:44) to the epic 10 minute and 2 second “An Epilogue Ensures a Beginning.” The later is truly three songs seamlessly put together. The first, a beautiful instrumental piece, leads into hybrid spaz/ indie song. The song ends as SBS pays homage to its post-hardcore roots.
“As Long as Your There” (sic) is another beautiful epic, clocking in at over 8 minutes. It starts out as an acoustic guitar-only piece honoring a deceased friend, but after almost three minutes, the drums come in to establish a 12/8 meter. For those who are not musicians, 12/8 is a triplet-based time signature which is not easy to play in. Later in the song the band breaks down into an emotional elude which could break even the stoniest heart.
The entire album establishes a new sound from new-comers to the scene. This is a sound that has not been attempted before and I am not sure will be successfully attempted again. This album is amazing. Please buy. Not only are these guys great musicians, they also promote peaceful attitudes and a peaceful existence. Ascertain holds true to its name and makes SleepBellumSonno the band to watch in the coming years.
Band Name: The Fades
Album Name: Social Misfits
Best Element: High energy punk rock
Label Name: Dirrty Records (www.dirrtyrecords.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Southwest London’s The Fades is Misfits-esque psychobilly with a pop twist. The aptly titled Social Misfits is a high energy, fun listen that does the genre justice.
Their sound, though, varies from song to song. At times, they have a very brooding, somber feel, yet at other times they can sound more poppy. The contrast can be experienced quite well within the opening track “1995”, which opens with a quick-paced guitar riff, and after a short time, it is accompanied by a darker, brooding bassline, giving it that traditional psychobilly feel. At other times, they seem a little poppier, such as the song “You Say”, a quicker song with a good dance-able vibe to it.
One thing that The Fades does not purport itself to be is complex. It is clearly straightforward fun music with simple lyrics. It is a fun listen, but does not attempt to make any strong political or social commentary. The last track on the CD, “Another Song About a Motorbike”, is just that: another song about a motorbike.
In their lack of seriousness, the Fades accomplished what it set out to do. This was a genuinely fun to listen to album. They have a tremendous amount of energy and catchiness.
It would be a great soundtrack for a rowdy, drunken party (assuming that all the partygoers are of legal age, of course)!
Band: R. Star
Album: Songs From the Eye of an Elephant
Best Element: Emotional piano instrumentalism
Genre: Piano pop
Label: Stone Crow Records
Piano-pop has never sounded this good; awe-inspiring melodies, a grave emotional connect with the ivories, lyrics that could make the Bruce Willis from Die Hard cry like a baby. What can I say? I love Ben Folds.
Ryan Star (who goes by R. Star), on the other hand, is a 27-year-old Long Island native who enjoys combining the noise of grandeur piano-pop with the resurrected vocals of David Lee Roth.
Formerly the lead singer of indie-rock group Stage (I’d never heard of them either), R. Star left the band in an attempt to follow his heart, which he believes to be grounded in a lights-out solo career, “just me sitting at the piano or lying with my guitar.” Growing up in a house filled with vinyl from The Doors, The Stones, and The Who, Star was influenced by the best and the brightest. Unfortunately, nowhere in the album do we hear any trace of them.
Despite amplified praise from the indie-rock world (ABC News Now called him “the next Neil Diamond”), Songs from the Eye of an Elephant is a purely pop album. R. Star has without a doubt and self-admittedly put his true feelings into his first solo album. My criticism comes from the fact that his true feelings are, well, childish and uninteresting, at least in the way in which he writes his lyrics and composes his music. The sullen, rainy day tone that envelops the album feels extremely contradictory to the words, which although true to life are awfully lacking in depth. In this way I compare R. Star to Chad Kroger of Nickelback, whose thirty-something year old mouth should not be singing pre-teen, adolescent lyrics. I have a hard time taking Star seriously when he backs a song called “Psycho Suicidal Girls” with a seriously emotional piano track. And the fact that when riled up and completely wrapped up in his music Star turns into 80’s hair metal god David Lee Roth doesn’t help anything.
Songs from the Eye of an Elephant, Ryan Star’s first solo album and his newly fashioned record label’s (Stone Crow Records) first and only release, is a twenty track album filled with grandiose piano choruses, an occasional acoustic guitar rhythm, and a lot of abrasive crooning over nonsensical issues. But if, like myself, you’ve always wondered what a David Lee Roth solo album would sound like if he was a softcore piano player, you’ll want to give Songs from the Eye of an Elephant a listen.
Purists and Non-purists
A lot of musical purists are concerned about the switch from CDs to MP3’s- they are enraged that the quality of sound is dropping (and they weren’t thrilled with the change from Vinyl to CD in the first place). They’re hacked that music is accessible everywhere- you can put it on your laptop, your Ipod, your cell phone, heck you can even put tunes in your sunglasses now. These purists want music to be a purely aesthetic experience- they want music to be deep and meaningful and perfect- listened to in an environment that is suitable to listening to music. Music should be an experience- not a soundtrack.
I disagree. And I disagree violently. I used to be of that musical purist realm, but I have moved out of it. I left it behind when I realized that I want people to enjoy music. My very goal in life is to get the best music out there so that people can enjoy it. Many people want to enjoy music all the time- while they’re at home and on the go. They don’t care about sound quality- they care about the fact that at any time, they can pull up “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” by the Flaming Lips and rock out to it, whether they be getting lunch, waiting in a line, exercising, driving, whatever. Music makes people happy, and if music on cell phones at a lower quality is what makes people happy, then I’m all for it. Enjoy music, people- it is what makes life great. If you want to put it on your cell phone, go ahead and do so. When you max out your Ipod, you have my congratulations as part of the full-Ipod club. I really don’t care about the details any more- I just want you to love music as much as I do. And if you do it through terrible sound quality, so be it. I’ll see you around- I’ll be the one dancing my way down the streets. Hopefully you’ll be dancing too.
Band: More Animals of the Arctic
Album: An Appendix of Whaling Terms
Best Element: Challenging, yet rewarding listening
Label: Standard Recording Co.
If one were to imagine the kind of music a cold, ice-o-lated, mountain man of the arctic tundra would produce, living completely alone but with the silent, mysterious, winter-weather animals of the frozen outback, it would sound exactly like Michael Tapscott’s first solo album, An Appendix of Whaling Terms, under the title More Animals of the Arctic.
For those of you who have followed Tapscott’s musical passage, it would also sound like his first band Odawas’ The Aether Eater, released in 2005 on Jagjaguwar Records. Tapscott seems to have found a certain knack in creating brilliantly atmospheric music, while at the same time suggesting a very dark and secretive overtone.
An Appendix of Whaling Terms is not an album for the faint of heart. It’s moody, and Tapscott’s blend of folk, experimental, and electronica, although mystical and out of the ordinary, is not easy listening. The entire album, all ten tracks, entails a keen ear and a setting in which distractions are very minimal and/or you are alone. This is due to the fact that 1) To truly appreciate the album you must hear all the parts and instruments used (guitar, keys, loosely-tightened snares, harmonica, piano, horns, flutes, and some sort of conch sounding instrument) and 2) Most of your hits radio-listening friends will hate it and ruin it for you. In other words, this isn’t a party mix.
Most of these tracks would highlight, not so much in the words but in the music, the story of Donnie Darko. There is something about More Animals of the Arctic, perhaps the vocals that become lost in the mammoth amounts of reverb or the fact that at times you feel like your listening to the darkest of the 80’s, that makes you feel like an outsider; that makes you feel alone.
This is great music, and hard music. It also feels like homework. It’s one of those albums that deserves a listen, but you have to be in the mood to truly enjoy its art.
Band Name: Metermaid
Album Name: Live Together
Best Element: Original songs
Label Name: Autonomous Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Metermaid is a high energy indie pop band that hails from Illinois. Their music is like a combination of Ben Folds and Weezer- they retain the rock and roll edge while keeping the indie softness. You could see there guys in a big venue one day and in a coffee shop the next.
Metermaid creates a wonderful sound full of rich textures accented by the singer’s voice. The soft touch of the piano also gives depth to many of the songs, and makes the songs sound that much warmer and brighter. Their indie-pop style is greatly displayed on Live Together, as the album was mixed great, and sounded perfect. The whole album is done extremely well.
There is nothing I could really find while listening to Live Together that I didn’t like; I was very pleased with the entire album from start to finish. If I were you, I would go to their website and order Live Together right now! They took the best elements of indie rock and pop and rolled them together into a stylish package. Metermaid is one of the best indie/pop bands you will find, and they’re going to be big!
At Independent Clauses, we really like to hear from our readers, whether that be though emails or though our partner forum LoveThatSound (www.lovethatsound.com). Once and a while we like to provide little contests to our readers so that we can hear from you and so you can get some cool stuff. This month we’re asking you, the reader, to pick out the one band and one album released by that band in the 21st century (2000-2006) that you think has been the most important to independent music. Just write up a short (min one paragraph, max one page) explanation of why the album you picked is the most important and email it to Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, August 15th. We’ll read the responses and choose the best formulated responses (not necessarily the ones we agree with) and depending on the number of responses pick one or more winners. The winners will receive an Independent Clauses shirt and a few CDs. The winning entries will also be posted in the September edition. Remember, albums must have been released since January 1st of 2000.
Band Name: Marwood
Album Name: One Mile Down The Road
Best Element: Musical and lyrical sincerity
Genre: Indie rock
Label Name: Feckless Music
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Marwood is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Benji Rogers, and a brilliant brainchild at that. His newest release One Mile Down the Road is 46 minutes of both musical and lyrical genius that is captivating from start to finish.
Starting with the lyrics themselves, there is a definitely a feel of genuineness in his subject matter. Whether he is singing about how he feels locked into a dead-end job (“Nothing Good to Show For It”), or relationships (“Tell Me Sober” and “No Trouble”),the words are crafted in such a way that you feel like he truly means what he has penned and vocalized.
Musically, this album can be both uplifting and soothing at the same time. Marwood is very rock, very country, and very bluesy all wrapped into one package. There some songs that you want to just get up and sing along to (the very upbeat “Get Lucky”) and some you just want to sit back and listen (the opening track “One Mile Down the Road” or “Tell Me Sober”).
With One Mile…, Marwood just has “the whole package” working for them. It is a combination of musical and lyrical sincerity, superior musicianship and brilliant singing that just draws you in and holds onto you by the depths of your psyche.