September spelled back to school for me, while I thought that would mean I’d have less time to listen to music, I’ve found that having iTunes playing in the background helps when faced with the thought of writing two papers in one night. Here have been my favorite albums:
1. Vheissu– Thrice
I really gave this album its first full-length listen this month and I was shocked. I’ve really enjoyed it. While it’s not that heavy, their music really is great.
2. 7 Ways to Scream Your Name – Funeral for a Friend
This was the first of FFAF that the United States heard. The quality sucks and it’s very unrefined, but I still love it.
3. Waiting – Thursday
This band has yet to fall from my top 5 of the month. Waiting is classic, a must for any fan of post-hardcore/ emo.
4. Cover Your Tracks – Bury Your Dead
I love “Color of Money”. I really couldn’t care what anyone else has to say about this band, they put out a good record.
5. S/t EP – Century
I loved this album a year ago and I still love it today. Century is an amazing band and the self titled EP blew me away.
The sharp packaging is particularly eye catching… Cake Records did not hold out the stops for these guys. The booklet is well put together: intriguing imagery spliced into pages of lyrics, thanks and standard info. However, the front sticker saying FOR FANS OF: Taking Back Sunday, Armor For Sleep, and All American Rejects brings caution. It is not as discerning as the picture of four gentlemen with too-tight-clothes and emo haircuts. But, WAIT A SECOND! This is about the MUSIC! Never judge a book by its cover….
Well, I hate to be one to prove a proverb wrong, but this is precisely what the cover would lead me to believe. There are unique moments which are intriguing and begging to be explored; however, these are always cut short by predictable, three-chord choruses which, more than overstay their welcome. I understand repetition is a necessity of getting mainstream exposure (and I’m not blaming anyone for trying to make money) but I just think most of this pushes into overtly familiar territory- grounds which are already well treaded by the ‘For Fans Of’ list on the album’s cover.
That said, there are true moments of brilliance. Take for example from 2:20 – 3:00 of “A Love for Green Eyes.” Absolutely fantastic! But then, once again, back to droning out the same three-chords in different manners for another minute or so. There are examples in almost every song of a half-minute or more of brilliance, but it is just overshadowed by an offsetting familiarity. I just wish they’d further that exploration, push the envelope. In their defense, they are very young band and have room and time to grow.
Despite my seemingly negative attitude the album is not a bad listen for a casual fan of the said genre. The music is competent, well grounded and carefully composed. In fact I can picture this being eaten up by the MTV generation. The music is downright infectious at moments and has sparks of creativity scattered throughout the songs. I just hope they can progress as a band and turn those creative sparks into a blaze, because they are fighting a tough battle in a watered-down genre. Fans of the previously listed bands could likely fall in love and join The Following. For myself however, at the end of the day, it just ends up in the “music I will give to my roommate” pile.
Formed in 2005 in Oklahoma, the Black Tie Event chose to start off their musical enterprise with Cocktails and Coattails, a 6-song EP being put out by Faux Records. Despite an independent label behind them, Black Tie Event fails to live up to what a label-supported band should deliver, independent or not.
The first track, misleadingly titled “Thunder Thunder”, provides a unique musical sound, but is hindered by radical oddities and vocals almost purposely sung to be different. Though toe tapping and with a good rhythm, the song hardly portrays anything thundering and seems to be a manufactured sound. Unfortunately, that feeling permeates the CD.
When taking a look at BTE’s influences, fans see well-known originals such as Queens of the Stone Age and the Strokes. Their mind-grip on this band’s creativity is evident and puts a strain on the naturalness of the album. Too much of the CD comes off sounding like it’s supposed to sound like an offshoot of the Strokes or a QOTSA side-project instead of naturally reflecting such groups.
Certain nifty rhythms like the walking bass in “Keep it on Task” indicate creative and pleasing writing, but its life is short lived.
On the positive side, Black Tie Event has managed to write a very peaceful, melodic, and overall great sounding song. That song is “In My Head”, easily the highlight of the album. Depressing lyrics gnaw at the integrity of the song’s tranquility, but the melody is so poetic that melancholy lyrics can be overlooked. Drummer Marquess Di Marmalade thunders into the second noticeable track of the EP, “Kinfolk”. Reflecting the Stroke’s influence vocally, this light and bouncy tune is tolerable and interesting as opposed to other tracks. Vocal harmony throughout the song also adds dimension to BTE’s effort.
Band founders Ti Tauro Bliss and Chi Dragon clearly know the sound they want. Their influences’ impact in their songwriting is blatantly evident. What needs to happen now is for Black Tie Event to take that vision, that sound, and to add a taste of their own originality to it. By straying away from the rest of the album with “In My Head” they have taken a step in the right direction towards developing their own sound. Let’s hope they can stay the course.
Band: Steve Hefter and Friends (and Friends of Friends)
Album: A Six Song Demonstration
Best Element: Beautiful, catchy, well-composed songs.
Genre: Indie pop
When I first began writing reviews for Independent Clauses, someone (who isn’t affiliated with the site) mentioned to me that the albums I would be reviewing wouldn’t be very good. I have to admit that there have been a few bands that I personally did not like, but I can now shove a copy of A Six Song Demonstration in their face and laugh and laugh and laugh until I pee my pants. Steve Hefter and Friends’ debut attempt at a self-produced and self-engineered album, which is a whopping seventeen and a half minutes, is pure gold. This has got to be one of the best self-released albums of the year.
Hefter and his friends begin their demonstration with a perfect Rogue Wave sounding hum in “Ludicrous Bubblegum Flavors.” Although this track is very telling of Hefter and Friends’ musical style, it is one of the weaker tracks and becomes a little repetitive after a few times. This, however, is something that you will not encounter again. Hefter, French, Keen, and Ward all do a wonderful job on vocals that contribute to the character of the album without detracting from the music. “Diamond Ring” is undoubtedly the most beautifully written track on the album. It’s as if Hefter is ready to propose. Well Mr. Hefter, my ears say “I do” and take your amazing lyrics as their life partner. One of the best aspects of Hefter’s demonstration is the ability to put melancholy, and sometimes amusing, lyrics down with a gorgeous piano or violin (or both) melody.
In “Forget It,” Hefter sings of a relationship recently ended, saying that “my drinks will be mixed by spoons that have fixed broken down hearts in a pinch,” and then confidently ends by saying “as long as you know you are going to hell…ma’belle.” The following track is much more amusing. “Crippled,” my favorite track and the catchiest by far, features a screeching harmonica. I give kudos to the friend of Hefter’s who played that line. Unfortunately, “harmonica” is not included under anyone’s name in the booklet. “Crippled” and the following track, “Dry,” vaguely reminded me of Oh No! Oh My!, but only in subject matter. Musically, they are worlds apart. The final track on the demonstration, “Invisible,” is similar to something from Andrew Bird. Too bad it isn’t longer. Overall, the demonstration does an amazing job of changing up the instrumentation and musical style, proving that Hefter is going to be able to pull a lot more out of his hat on future releases.
I wish this effort had been longer. Somehow the seventeen and a half minutes just don’t do it for me. I will just have to bite my fingernails and listen to something that I don’t appreciate as much to bide the time until Hefter and Friends do a full-length. It is definitely one of my favorite albums this year and if you pass it up you are making a huge mistake. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Best Element: Beautiful, ethereal music and singing
Label Name: Self-released
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Scarlet Slipping, aka Dawn Wagner, is the creator of beautiful, beautiful music.
It is amazing that everything you hear on Fire in the Mist was created by one extremely talented woman. The music, the lyrics, and the production were all done by Scarlet Slipping herself, and that shows not only how talented she is, but how passionate about her music she is.
The music is so intricate and ethereal – it’s hard to describe it any other way. Her haunting vocals, coupled with the unearthly sounds in the background, and often somber sounding electric piano, is somehow beautiful and sad at the same time.
In spite of that, there is something soothing about Scarlet Slipping’s music. It is easy to sit back and just get lost in the sound, carried away by her words and taken away to another state of consciousness. Her music is moving and, in spite of the ethereal quality, has a certain level of intensity. It is sensitive, but powerful.
Scarlet Slipping is, simply put, a great listen. It is something unique and non-commercial but wonderful.
Album Name: We’re Up To No Good, We’re Up To No Good
Best Element: Tremendous musicianship and energy
Genre: Power Pop/Pop Punk
Label Name: 111 Records (111records.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rory’s We’re Up to No Good, We’re Up to No Good, a full-length follow up to their 2004 EP Always Right As In We Are, is proof that they are here to stay.
There is pretty much nothing to complain about on this album. This record was produced, in part, by none other than Mark Hoppus from Blink 182, so it is to be expected that it would sound crisp and clean. Rory’s music, in and of itself, is just so unbelievably catchy and fun that you can’t help but find yourself singing along and jumping up and down around your living room.
Rory’s style is similar to that of Taking Back Sunday, but better. Taking Back Sunday could take some notes from Rory on how to keep music in this vein new and exciting. We’re Up To No Good, We’re Up To No Good shows that Rory has tremendous musicianship and an even more tremendous amount of energy. Each track has a remarkable level of intensity, and a point and purpose, from start to finish. It never starts to sound stale or tired, it simply hooks you in and keeps you excited.
The highest points on here include the remake of “Deja Vroom”, previously released on Always Right As In We Are. As if that song wasn’t already awesome enough, Rory gave it a new name, “Deja Vroomier”, and put a new version on We’re Up… with cleaner production but the same intensity that it had from the beginning. Another high point on this album is “Doin’ Lines of Conga”. The strings in the intro were a nice touch and further demonstrate Rory’s musical diversity. “The Adventures of Me & Me” is also an amazingly fun track, for reasons that cannot be fully explained unless you’ve heard it.
Also not to be missed is Rory’s live show, which is equally as fun and entertaining as their music. According to 111 Records website, they will be touring this fall on the I Am 111 Tour along other 111 Records bands Mashlin, This Day And Age, Rookie of the Year and Inkwell, so be sure to watch for them coming to a venue near you.
Well, Now That You Asked: What Really is Piracy? (pt 2)
Whenever I discuss piracy the same question always comes up: what really is piracy? Is it downloading music from the internet through a Peer to Peer (P2P) program? Or is it buying a burned copy of a CD? Or is it simply burning the CD? Every person asked will have a different view on what piracy is and if it is moral or not. But the final question always is: what is it?
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, piracy is “the unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted or patented material.” By that very broad definition, every time a CD is burned or a song is uploaded to a blog, an act of piracy has been perpetuated. This would mean the FBI has the right to fine you the market price of every song you have ever burned to a CD, used in a PowerPoint presentation, or used on the internet. In reality we all know there is no chance of that happening; the FBI is far to busy trying to find the phone number for the CIA to bother itself with a trivial matter like legality.
The common definition of piracy is far broader than even American Heritage’s definition. To the average person, piracy is simply the theft of music or movies, which of course, they will claim, they do not participate in. But then you will point to their CD collection, in which a few burned CDs stick out. They will most likely claim these as gifts. When pressed they will admit they may have dabbled in piracy but are really not sure of what piracy is. And every conversation will end up at this same point. And inevitably the question will be raised “How am I going to avoid engaging in music piracy when I really don’t know what it is?” It’s a valid point, but I believe it is the music listeners’ responsibility to know what piracy is and how to avoid it. Here is a quick rundown of simple rules to avoid piracy:
1. Don’t use P2P programs. Yes, they are legal, if, and only if, they are being used to share music that has not been copyrighted. If you don’t want to risk getting pirated material, don’t use them.
2. Don’t burn CDs for anyone other than yourself. If you own the music, you can make duplicates for your own listening only.
3. Don’t upload any music other than your own to the internet. If you don’t own the public copyrights to the music, don’t post it. (If you got permission from a band or label to use the music online, get it in writing, for your own good)
After reading those rules, a lot of young, poor artists and music lovers (basically the bulk of Independent Clauses readership) are going to ask: why should I care? The FBI is too busy fumbling over their own problems to catch me and I’m too poor to buy the CDs. Why should I not burn copies from friends or download from the internet? The answer is that you wouldn’t want it to happen to you. When your band releases an album, you will want to make money off that album, but if everyone burns it, you will make nothing. Remember, even though they stand on stage and look pretty while they play music doesn’t mean they aren’t humans. In our society, you will fail without the public support. If you don’t like a band enough to buy the album, you don’t like the band. Help the bands you like by buying their albums.
A lot of people don’t know about the amazing music resource that is Pandora.com. Pandora.com is part of the Music Genome Project, which is basically an attempt to categorize every song ever written, or come as close as possible. This is only complicated by the fact that people keep releasing music. But the guys and girls of the MGP keep hacking away at it, and we the listeners are all the better for it.
This month’s station is based off the starting point of Damien Jurado. The opener song was “Night Out for the Downer” by Damien Jurado. The rest were as follows:
Walk of Shame by Winechuggers
This is a short acoustic track about the morning after. The vocals are comfortable and conversational, portraying a lot of emotion but still down to earth and a little bit wry. It’s got a strong ending, and it’s definitely worth hearing again.
Sunday Drive by The Early November
I was surprised at the quality of this acoustic song. It’s not really slow, because this is an emo band, but it’s a tension-filled, well-written song. The vocals are corralled into a lower range, and in that range they mesh with the guitars beautifully, displaying the talent that got them signed.
Glendale by Bart Davenport
An odd mood of regret permeates this song- neither happy nor sad. The vocals have a unique timbre to them, but they still hit easy on the ears. The whole song seems like I would need to be in a specific mood to enjoy it, though. I gave it a thumbs down.
Chainsaw Preacher (Live) by David Dondero
A mellowed-out blues-style single-note riff leads this song, while half spoken/half sung vocals accompany. I enjoyed this song immensely, as the combination of vocals and guitars was captivating and unique. The disrespect for the ‘correct’ amount of syllables in a line also made this song fun to listen to.
(Tumble) In the Wind (Version 1) by Jackson C. Frank
A soft, fingerpicked guitar accompanies a gravelly, world-weary voice that creates such emotion that you will be singing along by the end of the song. The grainy recording and the ability to hear labored breathing in the background only increases the song’s charm. My favorite of the five tracks.
That’s it till next month. If you have a band to suggest for next month’s Pandora Chronicle, e-mail it to me at IndependentClauses@hotmail.com . Or, go to Pandora and look it up for yourself. Or both!
I should’ve expected it. With an “anything goes” name like The Kitchen Sinks, I should’ve expected a slightly confused, multiple personality bonanza of a disc. But I set out with hopes of a cohesive album, which were dashed in lieu of better things.
The Sinks play a convincing brand of folk/pop that hops back and forth between plodding melancholy (“Melancholy”, “Lullaby”), upbeat collectivism (“Life is No Commodity”, “Battle Hymn of the Resistance”), and offbeat quirkiness (“Pants”, “Polkadotted Butterflies”). Part of this is due to the three distinct songwriters that are credited here: Tim Avery, Liana Gabel, and Mike Brown. Each has their own profile, and the collective highs of each are what save this album from potential unwieldiness.
Avery is the pop songwriter of the bunch- gifted melodies and quick, swaying strum patterns anchor his songwriting. He writes the title track, which is undoubtedly the best track on the album. The ridiculously strong group melodies had me playing this track three or four times as much as an other track. Avery’s voice is high and a tad bit whiny, but it’s easily adapted to, as after a few listens I completely forgot my complaints with his tone.
The most powerful songwriter of the bunch is Gabel, whose emotive sweeping tracks serve as a backdrop for the best vocals of the trio. The most affecting song here is the morose but charged “Lullaby”, while her sarcastic side comes out in the forceful, passionate “Pants”. Yes, it’s actually about pants; but from the anguish that is released from her remarkable alto vocals, you wouldn’t guess.
Mike Brown writes most on the album, writing five of the 12 songs. Unfortunately, his vocals are least palatable of the three, with a gangly warble that offsets the understated textures that his relatively laidback songwriting produces. While songs such as “Falling Into You” and “If I Fall” are instrumentally well written, I’d prefer to hear Gabel’s remarkable pipes over the acoustic guitar and violin instrumentation that Brown often calls for.
This band is more of a songwriter’s collective than a true band- if the songs were arranged differently, we’d actually have three EPs on one disc. I thoroughly enjoy parts of each songwriter’s material, but I’d like to see them combine their strengths and create something better than the individual strengths and weaknesses of each songwriter. But I can safely say it’s a good start.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.