A new month is upon on so it is time to look back and see what I listened to this past month. Because of two gigs and a trip to the west coast I was, once again, presented with the opportunity to listen to a lot of music. So here are my top five albums of July.
1.Full Collapse – Thursday
I believe this album has been on the list for all but one month. It’s just a quality album that still amazes me 4 years after its release.
2. Ascertain – SleepBellumSonno
If you read my [http://www.independentclauses.com/v2/issues/july06/sleep_bellum_sonno.htm] review of this album last month you will understand why it is on the list for its second month. “So Long, As Your There” has ended up on a number of playlists
3. DecemberUnderground – AFI
Yes, it’s a major label release, and yes, it really isn’t that great of an album- but it seems to have gotten stuck in my car’s CD player. Check out the intro of the album and “The Missing Frame”.
4. How to Start a Fire – Further Seems Forever
I bought this album three-ish years ago and liked it. Then I stopped listening to it, and rediscovered it a few times, this month was a month to rediscover it. While it is nothing that will blow you out of the water, this is a solid album that I always enjoy when I listen to it.
5. I am Hollywood – He is Legend
This was one of the most ignored albums of last year, possibly because it falls under the “post-hardcore/ emo” genre, possibly because it was released around the same time as Norma Jean’s O’ God the Aftermath. Either way, it was unfairly ignored. If you like thought provoking lyrics and heavy in-your-face music, you will love this album.
Until next month
Album Name:Violence is Golden
Best Element: Variation / Atmosphere
Genre: Alternative / Indie Rock
Label: [http://www.dimmak.com]Dim Mak Record
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From across the ocean comes London’s Scanners with their album Violence Is Golden – a powerful alternative rock four-piece with a nice contrast of new wave pop and indie punk influences.
There is no doubt “Low Life” is classic track and an easy selection as the album’s lead single. Pretty much everything about this track is perfect, as Sarah Daly’s voice is captivating over the subtle guitar, bass, and drum work. All of this is enhanced with some nicely orchestrated keyboards which add significantly more depth to the song. This song boasts an extremely powerful chorus that would seem repetitive if it wasn’t so damn catchy. Sarah not only lends her voice to the band but also multitasks and handles the bass work. Her rhythm partner, Tom Hutt, is generally a well-oiled drum machine but can also add some eclectic styles if the song calls for it. Then there is the gifted fret work of Matt Mole on the guitar, who also lends his voice as back up to Sarah’s. Last, and most certainly not least, is Amina Bates, who handles all the wonderful keyboard and sampling work which shines throughout the album and really adds another dimension to the music as a whole. She also handles the second guitar. So, as you can see, they are clearly skillful and well varied musicians.
Scanners is not just a one trick pony, as there are a few other real hits on the album. “Changing Times” is a emotive powerhouse layered with new wave dissonance. Standing as the album’s longest song at 5:09, this song adds some great progressive elements to make you wish the track was even longer. This song succeeds where some of the album’s other tracks fell short and, at times, were too repetitive. For example the tranquil “In My Dreams” has the potential to be one of the album’s top tracks but falls into repetition and is either too long at a mere four minutes, or should be pushed deeper into the progressive scope. That said, “Look What You’ve Started” is one of the album’s finest numbers. Though familiar in structure, this song really has what “In My Dreams” lacks- and with a more focused delivery it is able to hold the listener’s full attention for the duration of the track.
Another factor which I am quite fond of is their gift for variation. Aside from the songs mentioned above, Scanners also incorporate such influences as punk (“Bombs” and “Air 164”), British new wave (“Joy” and “Raw”), and experimental (“Evil Twin” and “High Flier”) to give this album some good variation. All their styles fuse together on the title track “Violence is Golden”, leading the album to a perfect climax. This is likely my favorite song on the album, and leaves me wanting to give this disc another spin to see what I may have missed.
Scanners may not have yet created their magnum opus; however, with the recently released Violence is Golden , they have solidified their claim as legitimate musicians and artists. At this point the future only holds only good things for this UK foursome.
Chris Lalonde and Betz Dauterman are the duo that compose both the graphic design company Abandoned Designs and the clothing company [http://www.unperfectme.com]Unperfect Me. In late 2005, Lalonde and Dauterman discovered each other while freelance graphic designing and decided to work as a team under one name.Thus, Abandoned Designs was born and the idea of starting a clothing line fell in place soon after. We had a chance to ask Betz Dauterman a couple questions about the line.
Independent Clauses: Why did you start the clothing company?
Betz Dauterman: We started the clothing line to create something that would be different. People could wear something that makes them different then the people around them.
IC: How and why did you choose the name Unperfect Me?
BD: The idea of Unperfect Me came from a friend years ago. We liked the name because it reminds us that we’re not perfect, we’re not all the same, and everyone has their own style, their own personality.
IC: What was the thing you least expected that you encountered in starting up the company?
BD: I think the thing we least expected was how long it was going to take to start up. We knew it was going to take awhile to get us on our feet and even right now we’re still in the process.
IC: What’s been the hardest problem to deal with so far?
BD: Printing the shirts. Right now we’re only able to print a small about of shirts, and the end up always being sold out before we can put them up on the web. But the more experienced we get the better. We’ve seemed to overcome a lot of those problems.
IC: How do you guys work with two designers?
BD: Do you work on each other’s stuff, or do you each do separate designs? I admit sometimes it can be tough. We used to both live in Texas but now we live in two different states. We both do separate designs but Chris does most of the designing. I end up doing more of the business stuff. We’re always looking for help so if anyone’s interested, please feel free to contact us.
IC: What types of things influence your design ideas?
BD: Our everyday lives, our beliefs, music, our friends and customers.
IC: Can you explain a little bit of the idea behind the “Define Secular Music” shirt?
BD: It’s one of my favorites. This is one of our first designs. We were both interns at this Christian ministry and during that time we were only allowed to listen to Christian music. It was a rule most interns tried to get around and so they would always ask the director, “define secular music.”
IC: I know you guys have plans to help out independent bands- Are you guys sponsoring anyone? How’s that going?
BD: As you know both of us are into music. It’s part of our lives. We are currently in the process of looking for bands to sponsor. If they want to get in touch with us they can email us at: email@example.com
IC: What plans do you guys have for the future of Abandoned & Unperfect Me?
BD: For Abandoned we’re still graphic designing, but right now the clothing line is taking up the majority of our time. For the clothing line we plan on getting it up and running later this month. Sponsor more bands. From there the plans and ideas are unlimited.
IC: Do you guys have any predictions for the future (music, fashion, politics, life in general)?
BD: Continue to graphic design. I know both of us are going to college for graphic design. I’m also going for fashion photography. Chris has a solo project on the side.
IC: Who are some of your favorite bands?
BD: Underoath, Copeland, Eisley. Lovedrug, Mae, Anberlin, As Cities Burn
IC: What are you listening to right now?
BD: Taking Back Sunday.
-Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini in June.
Album: S/t EP
Best Element: Auxiliary instrument
Genre: Pop/rock (that doesn’t suck)
As long as this emo/screamo, “The Used complete my life,” “I can’t wait to love the next band Myspace features for the day!” craze continues to dominate the airwaves I refuse to pick up the remote or turn on the radio. It would truly be a godsend if Fall Out Boy truly fell out. And don’t even get me started on Panic! At the Disco. The last time anything received this much attention Jesus Christ himself was raising from the grave. But what’s so sad about the current state of pop music, or more precisely the rock sect of pop music, is not the fact that the music is so obnoxious- although some of it most certainly is- but the fact that it all sounds the same.
Yet right when I build up enough bravado to put my true feelings into writing, right when I think the future is doomed to sound the same, a young band from Dallas, TX, and their recently released self-titled EP CD makes me think twice, sort of. Stellamaris, still just toddlers at two years in the making, rightfully belong with the Militia Group. They’ve taken the worth out of today’s pop rock, and made it, say, good. They’re emotional, but not emo. They’re catchy, but not poppy. They’re simple, but not shallow. But above all and most importantly, they’re not wearing girl pants.
Of all the groups that Stellamaris have shared the stage with (Action Action, Cool Hand Luke, As Cities Burn), their sound most resembles that of Lovedrug. Nathan Pettijohn’s vocals are nothing spectacular, but they’re admirably humble, and in that sense enjoyable. He’s like that kid on the B team who tries his heart out but will never be as good as the lazy ass prick playing A team. As far as instrumentals go, Stellamaris present a simple rhythm and lead guitar section, as well as a percussionist who fills the void. But what pushes this EP over the boundaries of mediocrity is the additional instrumentalists and friends they enlisted the help of—horn players, additional percussionists, string players, etc.
Recorded in drummer Alex Bhore’s living room and mastered by Michael Fossenkemper (Grandaddy, The Rocket Summer, Matisyahu), Stellamaris’ six-song EP is a solid release. I don’t often use this phrase, but Stellamaris are chockfull of potential, and their newest songs show it. Although this release is the follow-up to a 2005 full-length record, the group is still young. By no means am I implying that this EP is a masterpiece. But give these five some time. It’ll be worth it.
Band Name: Sinks of Gandy
Album Name:Trust = Damage
Best Element:The catchy garage-rock sounding vocals
Genre: Loud, pop-ish Indie rock
I am positive that most anyone can name over ten bands that can be described as loud, pop-ish rock. They could probably name the same number of post-shoegaze bands and even more punk bands. We are to the point in musical history where a band can rarely be described in five words or less. With a good deal of encouragement, genre spanning musical interpretation is more popular than ever. Sinks of Gandy fits perfectly into this category of musicians, taking pride in bringing “a joyful quality to post-shoegaze,” “a happier sounding presence,” and a “sprightly, punk energy” to their debut album, Trust = Damage . The band’s moniker is a reference to Gandy Creek located in the Appalachian Mountains, which just happens to be a giant sinkhole.
There are always going to be certain albums that prove to be more rewarding after three or four listens, Trust = Damage is no exception. “Thought We’d Start” is a good intro, but somewhat fails to impress. Luckily for us, Sinks of Gandy knows how to add a little more depth to their gleeful sounding lyrics in the form of uglier themes like dead romances, faded friendships, and animosity towards self. Unfortunately, these themes are hidden by the overly happy sounding melodies and lost on anybody that doesn’t bother to understand what the Sinks are saying. Pushing that aside, the album only gets better as it progresses. “Medication” and “This Song” are infectiously catchy and almost danceable, but the catchy portion only lasts for twenty-five of the thirty minutes. The final track, “Pressing Scars on You,” feels like an un-beefed version of a Yellowcard track. Even more surprising is the answering machine voice at the end of the song, which sounds exactly like the voice from the phone call at the end of Mogwai’s “Tracy.” In the spirit of the album, the last track is truly the most memorable.
This album feels like it should be heard while driving home from work on a sunny day with paycheck in hand. It takes time to truly understand and appreciate the Sinks of Gandy and their debut album. This album is excellent, but it takes a few times through to fully realize it. The Sinks of Gandy should be praised for their efforts in creating an addictive album with a prize waiting for those who have the patience to search it out.
Band Name: Shotgun Monday
Album Name: Read Compare Adjust
Best Element: Talented music in the roots of true emo-core
Label Name: Modern Radio (www.modern-radio.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
My first instinct upon hearing this CD was to think “Who brought back At the Drive In?” From the sharp and dissonant guitars to the grainy vocals of their singer, auditory memories of “One Armed Scissor” were immediately conjured up, and I was excited.
In an age when what used to be labeled “power-pop” is now considered “emo”, it was refreshing to hear a band that sounds just like the bands I grew up listening to. They firmly have their musical feet planted in their roots and play from the heart. From the music right down to the abstract lyrics, Shotgun Monday threatens to bring back the style of bands such as Texas is the Reason (but slightly less melodic), or the aforementioned dissonant At the Drive In.
In fact, in defining Shotgun Monday as “emo-core”, I had to take into consideration that today’s young music listeners might mistake this for the mainstream Taking Back Sunday or Brand New style – in fact, they are much different, much more intense and vastly surreal. There is nothing here to sing along to or jump around to and get your pulse racing, but there is plenty here to feel in the heart and contemplate with the mind.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any hooks to be found. The song “Joli Rouge” has an ending that will get you to sing along and get it stuck in your head. For that, Shotgun Monday is truly versatile and extremely crafty.
Band: Lonely China Day
Album: Eponymous EP
Best Element: Sweeping, dreamy sound
Label: [http://www.tagteamrecords.com]Tag Team Records
Band E-mail: email@example.com
The most amazing thing about this EP is not the quality of the post-rock swells and swoops augmented with heavily technological glitches and swishes. That would be enough to woo me, but there’s more here. No, the most amazing thing is that this amazing post-rock EP was birthed almost entirely out of a vacuum.
You see, Lonely China Day is from China, which means they have very little, if any, access to American indie-rock. Despite that, they’ve created a post-rock explosion that can hold its own when played next to Sigur Ros, Album Leaf, and other minimal-beauty-crescendoes-to-maximum-sound type bands.
But enough about their circumstances. The music they create here is exceptional- imagine Sigur Ros with a crazed computer spitting out beats every now and then, then remove the falsetto-heavy singer and replace with a much lower, much more accessible tenor. Add a whole lot of bells and some traditional Chinese influence (not a lot- don’t worry, this isn’t traditional Chinese music or anything), and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what Lonely China Day sounds like. And while it’s easy to describe, it’s much, much better than the paltry description I gave it.
Songs like the haunting, removed “Sorrow” succeed in meting out large doses of sadness without being cliché or overwrought, while songs like “Beijing.Realise” and the end of “Thou” throw down a trippy, electrified, biting sound that is unique to LCD’s work.
Then there’s songs like “Red Blossom of Plum and Me”, which is pure beauty all through, with cascading guitars, comfortable drums, and occasional glitches of technology that make the beautiful guitars seem all the more beautiful.
The only real problem I find in this EP is that since the vocals are much more intelligible than those of Sigur Ros’, it becomes agitating after a while to clearly hear the syllables and realize that they are, in fact, in Chinese. But other than that, there’s pretty much nothing wrong with this EP. If you like post-rock, you’re going to like this- I can almost guarantee it. It’s not the most technically innovative thing to come around (this is, after all, a debut EP), but I have faith that as LCD continues to write, they will grow into an amazing band of musicians. Here’s to Chinese Indie Rock.
Band: The Lesser Birds of Paradise
Album: Space Between
Best Element: Perfect songwriting
Label: Contraphonic (www.contraphonic.com)
I have never enjoyed a release that I’ve had to review as much as I enjoy Space Between by the Lesser Birds of Paradise. I’ve stopped listening to other albums- for the past month, the only CD I’ve been listening consistently to is this one. I listen to it over and over because the CD is perfect.
That’s right- the CD is perfect. There is not one flaw anywhere in the album. Even the artwork is amusing. If you really wanted to nitpick, my one small complaint is that they didn’t include the lyrics in the booklet. That’s not too much of an annoyance, though- Tim Joyce’s tenor vocals are sure, clear, and assertive enough that every syllable is understandable. His voice sounds incredible unforced- the beauty that comes out with ease is really what solidifies this album in my mind as a classic. At some points, the melodies sound so natural that it seems as if he’s just opening his mouth and the melodies come bursting forth.
That’s really what makes this album- the uninterrupted ease with which the sound seems to float out of the speakers. Even though some songs get rather complex (“Always the Sound” and “The Devil’s Rope”, for example), nothing ever sounds forced, canned, or even difficult. Simpler songs such as “I Envy the Photons” and “Take the Leaves” sound as if the Lesser Birds are actually sitting in my bedroom, playing the songs.
Part of that ease is due to the fabulous songwriting- nothing is fast, nothing is rushed. Tim Joyce and co let their alt-country, folk, and pop mingle together casually, creating one sound. To say that they’re confident in their sound would be an understatement- the confidence with which songs like “Do You Remember When?” is entirely ridiculous. I’ve never heard a band so comfortable in its own skin.
They’re a diverse band- never sticking to just guitar, bass, drums. In fact, in most of these songs, the drums are minimal or nonexistent. Bass lines are rare- but two guitar lines are common. Theremin, French horn, an instrument that sounds like a hammer dulcimer on “I Envy the Photons”, banjo, possibly a mandolin or two, and many more instruments are equally at home on this album. Nothing ever sounds as if they threw it in ‘just because’- everything has a very beautiful, defined purpose.
Space Between is unrelentingly and unapologetically beautiful in both its songwriting and performance. I’ve never heard a collection of thirteen songs that is as consistently beautiful and moving as this one- and that’s no exaggeration. My only hope is that the Lesser Birds find a way to get this wonderfully calming reaffirmation of the beauty of life into the hands of a larger audience- with the world going nuts as it is, a lot of people need to remember that life is beautiful. Space Between is that reminder.
Band Name: Homemade Knives
Album Name:No One Doubts the Darkness
Best Element: The beautiful imagery filled lyrics
Label Name: Triple Stamp Records
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have to admit that when I saw the cover art for the Homemade Knives’ album I couldn’t help but laugh- I hardly expected to see two deer eating their kin. However darkly humorous their cover may be, the album speaks for itself. Homemade Knives’ debut album, No One Doubts the Darkness , is an absolute masterpiece. The band utilizes everything from acoustic guitars to xylophone to cello to mandolin to organ. Lucky for us, this combination is neither offensive to the ear nor overbearing on the listener. In fact, Homemade Knives excels in creating melodies within melodies within melodies (see the mandolin and banjo lines in “Saltwater Shoes”) and using their lyrics to give their almost forlorn sounding melodies a central purpose.
No One Doubts the Darkness opens with a small instrumental intro featuring mainly piano and xylophone. While I did enjoy this opening the first few times, I couldn’t help but notice that after repeated listens through the album it almost sounds out of place. This feeling is quickly diminished by the star of the album. Had “The Ocean Drinks the Sun” been released as a single, this album would be even more highly anticipated. Wil Loyal’s voice is haunting, perfect for an acoustic album. “Marianna” is a nice follow-up track, as it slows everything down and really allows for the cello to be heard and appreciated. While the lyrics may be a tad confusing, they are filled to the brim with imagery that only stands to make their tracks blossom a little more then they already have. Homemade Knives also seem to take a tip from artists like Damien Rice by bringing in the female voices of Adrienne Brown and Anousheh Khalili (who is also attached to Triple Stamp Records as an artist) to tracks like “Anyone at All,” “My Hummingbird Heart,” “Irons in the Fire,” and “All is Well.” The performance given on this album is inspiring.
This is bound to be one of the best acoustic albums of the year. It is a masterpiece equivalent to an Iron & Wine album. Homemade Knives is one band that should be watched because they are sure to create more works that build upon the firm foundation they have already constructed. This album is worth every second given to it and should not be overlooked at any cost.
Band Name: Hairshirt
Album Name: Lover Politician EP
Best Element: A great attempt at reinventing the wheel
Genre: Indie rock
Label Name: Contraphonic (www.contraphonic.com)
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Hairshirt is very different from anything you’ve heard in the past twenty years! They are a band who has traveled through time from the 1980s to present day and brought the keyboards and synthesizers with them.
The Lover Politician EP is an upbeat, high energy album. When that energy is coupled with the fact that Hairshirt is extremely talented in their craft, the full 25 minutes is a delight. Their music is psychedelic, ethereal, tranquil and lively. They run the gamut of ‘80’s talent- from the gloomy Sisters of Mercy style of “Obstacles” to the more upbeat and mainstream New Order-esque songs such as “Trapper Keeper”.
Overall, the Lover Politician EP is well worth the listen and repeat listens. If any band can bring the 80’s back and make it popular again, it would be Hairshirt.