Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Finals-Plan Your Getaway

May 1, 2007

thefinalsThe FinalsPlan Your Getaway

Immortal Records

The Finals are an indie rock/pop band who have, in Plan Your Getaway, put together a full length CD that is worthy of a spin.

A follow-up to their 2004 Long Short Story EP, the progression of tracks on Plan Your Getaway suggests a very ambitious effort for this New Jersey quintet. There is some good musicianship to be found on this, their first full-length CD, but for the most part, the effort falls flat.

It’s not that the songwriting is bad; it’s just that the majority of the lyrics fall between good and cliché. There are good messages being conveyed, but not in any new or profound way. For example, the song, “They’ll Never Know” says “I know it’s so hard to be strong/stand back and take a look at your life/stop stalling and make things right.” There is just a level of simplicity to the songwriting which makes it hard for a strong message to be conveyed. Fortunately, there are times when the inflection in the singer’s voice and the mood of the song reflects some emotion which makes the music relatable.

At times, the album seems to drag on and on, with only a few songs standing out as radio-worthy (and, by that, I mean that they have a hook that makes the songs memorable). Some tracks that are recommended based upon this would be “Something to You,” “Life as a Car” and “Extended Autumn.”

If you take out the stale tracks and listen to the songs that are more memorable, there is some good music to be found on Plan Your Getaway. Aside from that, this is just another “good” CD.

-Andrea Caruso

The Atari Star-Aniseed

theataristarThe Atari StarAniseed

Johann’s Face

Unfortunately for The Atari Star, I could immediately draw a few similarities between them and other bands. However, the comparable bands aren’t awful and this could work to Atari Star’s advantage. At first I felt like I was listening to a more pop oriented version of the Dismemberment Plan. Upon further listening, I felt like it shared vocal similarities with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Basically, this record culls the best elements of each of the previously listed bands. My only real problem with this record was its production. I might sound like a stickler for this, but the drums and bass seem to fall in a weird spot in the mix. The drums are really in your face, along with the bass lines being a bit too full of treble (meaning they are perfectly distinct). I feel like both instruments would mesh better on a Promise Ring record, having a younger, pop feel. With the album’s laid back style, the drums could have been mixed a little more subtly in the mix. The bass could also use a push and a more organic setting in order to better achieve what they were looking to do with their songs.

That being said, this album isn’t so bad. The songs carry a sort of upbeat energy that keeps the listener engaged. The singer also has a unique voice that interests the listener. There is a wide variety of instrumentation that adds texture to the songs; the Hammond B3 organ, bassoon, trumpet and cello, as well as the traditional rock outfitting, make appearances. The organ specifically lends the songs a nostalgic feeling that throws the Atari Star back to the sixties.

The best track on the record is the slowest and longest. The song “Serpentine” is a somber gem that floats in and flutters with beauty. It seems that a lot of attention was given to the guitar work. Everything fits perfectly in the mix; the minimal drums accent the song in just the right way and the bass allows the song to breathe. The aforementioned production issues are not present in this track. Even while listening to this song in the car and leaving the record playing in the background, I was instantly forced to stop and turn it up. It could be that I’m a sucker for slow and pretty songs, but this track is the album’s standout. However, it doesn’t speak for the rest of the album. If you want to know what you’re getting into, you can just listen to the opening track “This is Where I Often Pause.” The album holds the same pop energy and feel throughout with the exception of “Serpentine” and its closing track “Letter to Ernst.”

Travis Johansen

Lamps-Dot with a Dot in a Dot Dot Dot

theantiTheanti/[”>Lamps – Dot with a Dot in a Dot Dot Dot

TheAnti’s half of Dot with a Dot in a Dot Dot Dot (which you can hear here astonished me. I’m used to stuff from Inderma Records being almost impossibly indie – as close to indecipherable as possible, but still retaining that last shred of melodicism. Whether it be ambient, improv or even singer/songwriter, I expect undefinable weirdness from Inderma Records.

That’s why I was floored when cohesive song structures busted out of my speakers. I was even more amazed that the stuff was incredibly tightly recorded – I’ve also come to expect odd, lo-to-mid-fi recordings from them.

But the thing that really blew my mind, spun me on my head and let me know that Theanti is committed to being as unexplainable and indefinable as their previous releases is the fact that even though these songs are real songs and not experiments, they’re still entirely unclassifiable.

Theanti combines the raw speed and intensity of punk, the aggressive yet artsy melodicism of post-hardcore and the gritty clang of indie-rock to create songs that burn with a raw passion that is extremely rare. These songs are powered by adrenaline, and although there are still rhythmic freakouts, they serve to further the purpose of fist-pumping rock’n’roll.

Opener “The Cancer Generation” is the epitome of Theanti’s evolution, jumping back and forth between quickly-strummed gritty guitar lines and slower, melodic sections with layers of angst-ridden vocals cascading over the top. It sounds like all of the best aspects of MeWithoutYou with a searing, honest shot of realism replacing MWY’s brooding moodiness.

“What Keeps You Alive Can Kill You” swerves even closer towards pop music with (dare I say it) memorable melodies amid the yelling and clanging. It sounds a little bit like the punk revival that Latterman and the rest of the New York punks are creating. But right when it starts to seem like something, it changes – the rhythms that the drummer infuses here really swing the sound towards something recognizable to listeners of post-hardcore and old-school emo.

“We Are Ruins” has a catchy melody augmented by a nifty rhythmic pattern – and the vocals are even sung. The best rhythmic freakout of the entire four songs is captured here, before bashing into the most straight-forward rock section of the entire set. This is stuff that Mars Volta fans would eat up, for sure. The guitar and drum work here is nothing short of torrential. It’s fantastic.

“People Like to Talk” would be a three-minute pop song, if Theanti didn’t go and make it more interesting by adding sampled clips of people talking and wild, passionate, barely-contained vocals. It just serves to show that sometimes the most unexpected thing an unconventional band can do is throw something conventional out and show just how bad everyone else is at doing it.

Theanti continues to amaze me with each release. Inderma Records is actually selling this split (for 5 bucks, but still, they’re actually selling something), which is a new development as well. Maybe everyone’s growing up. Maybe the world is ending. For sure, you should check out this split, because if Lamps is half as good as Theanti is, this will be something you regret missing.

Stephen Carradini

The Attic-Remember Tomorrow

the-atticThe Attic-Remember Tomorrow

Virgin Records

Following the chart success of their Melodifestivalen entry, The Arrival (featuring Therese), in Sweden, dance duo The Attic have revamped their debut album, replacing six tracks with new songs. In doing so, they’ve created what is likely to be the dance album of the year.

Dance albums are notorious for their reliance on one or two big singles buffered by heaps of filler. Surprisingly, this is not the case with Remember Tomorrow. In fact, the whole thing runs like a greatest hits package. It doesn’t hurt that five of the album’s fourteen tracks are already hit singles (with another soon to come), but it’s really the whole of the album tracks that bolster this collection. Where The Attic’s debut opted to play it safe and not stray too far from dance pop basics, Remember Tomorrow incorporates elements of classic rock, balladry and girl pop. “Sail Away”, the album’s surprise highlight, bounds with prime Journey or Styx era energy, while title track “Remember Tomorrow” is more pop/rock than dance. “Don’t You Know Me”, the second song to feature singer Therese, is just waiting for its rightful place at the top of the charts. It is the perfect dance pop confection that Kylie Minogue would do well to reenter the scene with. Even though early hits “In Your Eyes” and “A Life To Live” still throb with a flawless energy, it’s when the duo experiments with their sound that the album really takes off.

It doesn’t hurt that the guys have cherry picked the absolute best from their debut to round out the album. “Catch Me When I Fall For You” and “I Just Can’t Help It” both possess flawless pop melodies, and “Minute After Minute” is a surprisingly gorgeous electro-ballad. It all adds up to an album that is, as they say, “all killer, no filler.” It just goes to show you that second tries sometimes do work.

Nick James

The Ark-Prayer For The Weekend

the-arkThe ArkPrayer For The Weekend

Roxy Records

The Ark are the best band you’ve never heard of, and they prove it again with their fourth album, Prayer For The Weekend. This Swedish glam power pop band is enormous in their homeland, but surprisingly unknown in the rest of the world. It’s a shame, because Prayer is about as perfect as contemporary pop-rock can be.

As with past outings, the band borrows heavily from the glam sound of the mid-seventies and mixes it with the dance floor flourish of new wave and disco. This creates a diverse album where “The Worrying Kind”, an old-school glam pop number in the vein of Abba’s “Waterloo”, gels perfectly with the dark Depeche Mode stomp of “Little Dysfunk You”, which also happens to wield one of the album’s best choruses. In fact, Prayer may as well be one long, catchy chorus. Throughout the years, the band has heightened its sound to a level of grandeur usually reserved for stadiums. The bombastic first single, “Absolutely No Decorum” is the best example of this found here. Opening with a heavenly choir of voices, it soon bursts into a galloping verse and never lets up from there. Also stunning is “Death to the Martyrs”, a highlight of the second half of the album. It sounds at first like “Bang a Gong” era T.Rex until the boy’s choir comes in at the chorus, singing the refrain (which just happens to be “you sorry ass”) with gleeful delight. It is the ultimate over-the-top moment in an album full of them. In other words, it’s what great pop music should sound like.

There really isn’t a misstep to be found on Prayer For The Weekend. There are some experiments for sure (the hymnal sway of “Gimme Love To Give” and the electro samba of “Thorazine Corazon” being the most obvious), but the strongest tracks end up being the kind the band has always excelled at. “New Pollution”, a catchy rocker that borrows a bit from The Who’s rock opera “Tommy”, lays clear the band’s mantra. In one of the best choruses you’ll hear all year, front man Ola Salo passionately warns us that “it’s gonna be a hairspray revolution!” Amen to that.

-Nick James

Sahara Hotnights-What If Leaving Is a Loving Thing

saharahotnightsSahara HotnightsWhat If Leaving Is a Loving Thing

Universal Sweden

For their fourth time out, Sahara Hotnights comes at us with an almost completely new sound. The single “Cheek To Cheek” promises a pop-minded, more dance-conscious side to the group. With its galloping beat and saxophone breakdown, it is the pinnacle of the band’s career so far. And nothing on their new album, What If Leaving Is A Loving Thing, can match it.

Far from the rockier sound the group has ridden with to success in the past, Leaving attempts to show a more mature side. Embracing elements of roots music, country and 80’s pop, most of the songs are interesting experiments for the girls. Opener “Visit To Vienna” is an unqualified success, a rollicking stomper that sounds like nothing they have ever done while retaining the simple catchiness of past material. Other tracks are a bit more subdued, which is surprising for a band that used to be so boisterous. And, while everything sounds technically great, there just aren’t enough melodies that really entrench themselves deeply enough to prove memorable. Of the new rootsy sound (which suits the band surprisingly well), “Salty Lips” is definitely the standout, a back porch sing-along perched somewhere between Pat Benatar and the Dixie Chicks. The record loses a lot of its punch in its final third, though. “Puppy” and “Static” are about as boring as their titles, while album closer “If Anyone Matters It’s You” is Leaving’s most ineffective ballad.

While What If Leaving Is A Loving Thing tries on a new sound for Sahara Hotnights, it also seems to have forgotten that new sounds still require great songs. They’ve got at least three here, “Cheek To Cheek” being an absolute classic, and the rest comes dangerously close to filler. One can hope that this is just a transitional album and they’ll kick it into high gear next time.

Nick James

In a Van, Down by the River…

In a Van, Down by the River…

If you missed it last month, ReedKD’s new album The Ashes Bloom scored an excellent review here in Independent Clauses. With the casual rhymes, easygoing rhythms and infectious folk/pop melodies that the album was composed of all working together, it’s really no surprise. Stephen had a chance to catch up with Reed Dahlmeier, the mind behind ReedKD, for a quick phone interview about his album, his future and his latest living situation.

IC: So, did you plan on living in a van?

Reed Dahlmeier: No not really. After I finished the album I was gonna move to Newport for a while – I‘m working with The Militia Group right now – and I was going to plan a tour while I was down here. And the place I was gonna live fell through. I already had a big VW van, so I just decided to save 600 bucks a month and live out of the van.

I’ll have to send you some pictures. I just took a bunch of pictures and me and the van.

IC: So what are you doing up at Militia Group? Are you looking at releasing with them?

RD: Just an internship, because it’s basically my first release and I haven’t done much touring. I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting the support base I need, so I’m basically interning for them.

IC: And you have stuff stored in your girlfriend’s garage?

RD: Yeah, I’ve got a makeshift office in her garage right now. It’s kinda funny.

IC: Why don’t you just live with her?

RD: She has a roommate and some housemates and I don’t know. I’m a fairly considerate guy. I don’t want to impose, although I will hit them up for a shower.

IC: That’s hilarious…man. You live on the road. That’s pretty much the indie dream.

RD: It’s not that glamorous. I just had a gallon of windshield washer fluid spill and soaked the floor of my van. Now I’m seriously cleaning in a living space that’s four feet by five feet. I get woken up by garbage men. I’ve got a few parking tickets for parking in wrong places. I don’t think anyone’s really dreaming of it being like that. But it is kinda cool living in a van, planning shows, booking shows. Cause it’s my first tour, I have to seek out all those venues, and as far as singer/songwriter goes, it’s pretty tough to get good venues. I’ve got 30 venues picked out on the East Coast that I’m going to do in the fall. It’ll probably kick into full gear in the fall – it’s a lot of work.

IC: So how has the first real release been doing?

RD: I’m really happy with the response I’ve been getting. I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it seems like it’s going pretty well. I’m still waiting for my first hate letter. No one’s told me I suck yet, which is good. Small accomplishments! (chuckles)

IC: So are you writing new stuff already? What is your new stuff sounding like?

RD: I’m always writing. I’d like to do something a less folkish, more street-performer style like the Violent Femmes, Neutral Milk Hotel, down-tempo 90’s experimental style like the first LP of demos I released. I’ve been getting compared to Simon and Garfunkel, and I just don’t want to get stuck in the pop realm. I think inevitably with all the harmony, I’ll get compared to Elliot Smith and Simon and Garfunkel.

IC: So what did you listen to when you were growing up?

RD: I listened to Queen, Alice in Chains…

IC: Alice in Chains?

RD: Yeah, those guys are killer. I was listening of course to Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins.

IC: Man, the Pumpkins were awesome.

RD: Yeah they were.

IC: The Zwan thing didn’t work out so well, though…So does everything work on the van?

RD: No, the air conditioning is broken, and the panels are all falling apart. I gotta send you a picture. Not the owner before me, but the owner before that totally decked it out. It’s got lemon tint and so you can’t see in it. It’s got backward facing bucket seats with the table that backs out of the wall.

I actually just got back from Santa Cruz. I miss it up there so much, I can’t stand all this smog and heat and traffic.

IC: So how does living in your van work?

RD: I’ve planned out a circuit of places to sleep so the neighbors don’t catch on that I’m sleeping in their front lawn. I wake up 7 or 8, and get on the road. I’ve been sneaking into the university right where I park, Chatman University, and using their lab.

IC: This will make a great press release someday.

RD: Heh, the hard part is really the bathroom issue. You wake up and you gotta fire up the car and boogie woogie somewhere quick. And you have to eat out. But I’ve found this taqueria…

IC: A what?

[a conversation ensues detailing to a Midwesterner what a taqueria is”>

RD: So I’ve found this combination Taqueria and donut shop, with no wall in the middle. They sell tacos for a dollar. Tacos and donuts – the perfect combination. I have never seen it before in all my life. I guess it is kinda the indie dream – just fun stuff like that. I’ll go hang out in the laundromat and play video games while I do my laundry.

IC: Sounds like a carefree life to me.

RD: It’s pretty carefree except when I tell people that I live in a van… but I’m doing my best to avoid the bum stereotype. I heard that some people carry around pee containers in their van – I figure as a s long as I don’t do that I’ll avoid the stereotype.

IC: [laughter”>

RD: I just got a haircut for the first time in a couple months, that’s a step in the right direction.

IC: So what are you gonna do right after you finish this interview?

Well, I’m supposed to go meet with some girl who wants to sing for me. I’m gonna go and see how she’s doing and do some singing and then I don’t really have anything to do. Try to find a tree to park under and read a book.

IC: That sounds ridiculously carefree.

RD: I don’t really consider music a job, and that’s all I’m doing right now. That’s kinda why I opted to live out of a van. The hardest thing to do is try to find a place to take a shower. I wish I could get someone else with a van and do a van convoy. It could be a homeless van gang: drive around, hang out and sleep out. There’s gotta be some group. If there’s not one I’ll start one. Maybe that’s what I’ll do this weekend – I’ll go start a van coalition. I feel like I talked to someone about that…. and the problem is that anyone who’s really excited about it is kinda a scary person.

IC: [laughter”> But if that’s your only problem, you’re doing pretty well!

RD: It’s pretty nice. I got everything I need right here except the bathroom. The best thing about McDonald’s and all those chain restaurants is that Starbucks and McD’s have to have really clean bathrooms. Because they think that having really clean bathrooms will get people to come into their store. And it does.

IC: Wow…I didn’t even think about that.

RD: These are things you don’t think about but all of a sudden when you’re living in a van you start to think of this. There’s probably more that I’ve discovered since living in a van.

IC: This almost makes me want to live out of my van.

RD: Yeah, man – I’ve got a makeshift closet for my clothes built into one of the walls of the van, it’s not that tough to get it comfortable.

IC: And you could just go anywhere whenever.

RD: I had a great trip with my girlfriend when I first got the van. I drove all the way up Highway 1 to Oregon, all the time up on these cliffs overlooking the ocean. It’s one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever taken. I must do that again. It’s a really long drive…it took us three days to get to Oregon. You can do it in a day if you do 101 instead of 1.

IC: Yeah, I’ve actually been told to drive highway 1 before…by multiple people.

RD: You’re giving it serious consideration. Hey, summer trip, it’d be one hell of a road trip.

Save Internet Radio: A Noose around Pandora’s Neck

Save Internet Radio: A Noose around Pandora’s Neck

Pandora’s founder, Tim Westergren, appealed for public support this week in response to the US Copyright Royalty Board’s decision for a whopping 140% escalation in internet radio royalty fees over the next four years, denouncing the decision in a letter that has rapidly snowballed on the web.


“The survival of Pandora and all of Internet radio is in jeopardy…” Westergren starts. “The new royalty rates are irrationally high, more than four times what satellite radio pays, and broadcast radio doesn’t pay these at all. Left unchanged, these new royalties will kill every internet radio site, including Pandora.”
Such news brings back a bitter taste from the days of ubiquitous filesharing and the mixed signals aired by a struggling record industry. Ironically, this sharp increase in rent may drive the small timers to operate illegally and the leaders, such as Pandora, to charge for something most of us won’t pay for anyway after having it so good for so long. Who wants another dose of the majors going after pirate radio? Boring.
I don’t believe the Copyright Royalty Board is asking whether [most”> artists are being compensated fairly for their work, nor do I believe that this decision addresses a gray area in tracking and reporting streaming media. I do believe, however, that the musician community at large would opt for coverage before higher royalty rates. The leverage college radio receives (as opposed to Top 40) should be considered for individuals and parties with certain services online. After all, if we don’t protect the little people – those who start a blog, host a podcast and generate content – we will be ‘surfing’ the dial from one Clear Channel to another.

Sign the petition!

Daily updates from Pandora

Originally posted on

Pandora Chronicle: The Postal Service

Pandora Chronicle: The Postal Service

Pandora’s been getting a lot of recognition as of late as a major player in the campaign to save internet radio. But even before they became a major policy-influencing organization, they were popular here at Independent Clauses. Our intermittent feature “Pandora Chronicle” features a staff member picking one of their favorite bands, plugging it into the Pandora radio station creator, and reviewing the first three tracks that come up (unless they’re really well-known). This month, editor-in-chief Stephen Carradini punched the Postal Service into Pandora, and these tracks are what Pandora recommended.

Lilian – Depeche Mode

This is a song from Depeche Mode’s 2005 release Playing the Angel. I didn’t know Depeche Mode was still together, but apparently they are alive, kicking and releasing interesting music. It’s kinda weird to hear a band that is associated with the 80’s in the now, as the hallmarks of the 80’s sound aren’t retro pandering but residual effects of actually being an 80’s band. That being said, this song is quite good, with some great melodies (that, truth be told, do have a Postal Service vibe). The instrumentation smacks of 80’s (drum machines, ahoy!) but no worse than She Wants Revenge. I liked the vocals a lot (less dour than most 80’s bands) and this song flowed well. Three cheers for an old band still releasing good music.

Was It a Crime – French Kicks

A repetitive, clanging sample and plaintive strum anchor the intro to this fuzzed out, lackadaisical song. The rest of the song doesn’t get much more complicated, as free-floating vocals, spare drumming and plodding bass work fill out the song. It makes for a very strange mood – the song is mid-tempo, but it feels very nearly epic. The problem is that it’s standing on the threshold- it never quite gets there. Not very much electronic about this band, although this quirky track will certainly impel me to check them out more.

Why London? – Eskobar

A more down-tempo, trip-hoppy style electronica is presented in “Why London?” The song is complete with a dusky, husky female vocal performance and tons of reverb. The mood set is pretty strong, but underlying melody is a little peppy for the beat of the song. It undermines the slow tempo a bit. But it sounds good in context of the song, and I still had my head bobbing for the entirety of the song. Very moody, very chill – definitely a 3 a.m. driving in Vegas song. It’s that in-the-know cool.

A Number, Not a Name – Statistics

This one starts off drone-heavy before introducing the vocals and a simple beat. The vocals here are the type I like – emotive, but not whiny; melodic, but not overly so. The voice sounds real. The beat is spare once again, relying on the strength of the underlying melodic drone and the chorus-initiating high synth melodies. By the time Statistics starts to layer the high melodies, it’s become clear that this is a formula that works. A very, very enjoyable song – probably my favorite of the four reviewed here.

Until next month, keep listening to Pandora.

-Stephen Carradini

Panda Bear-Person Pitch

pandabearPanda Bear – Person Pitch
Paw Tracks

A friend has described the album as thus: “If you have lived a good life, this is what heaven sounds like.”
In a sublime, organic mix of Brian Wilson-style vocals and Misa Luba-inspired exaltation, amplified by cathedral acoustics and tribally harmonized by a million of his own voice, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) infinitely evades music categorization with cyclical, endearing and blissful rounds, delicately upheld by unintrusive loops and resonant sound samples. Proving again to be a musical disciple of lead Beach Boy Wilson and some youthful re-animator of Moon Dog, Panda Bear makes monumental soundscapes that nearly glitter without losing any uniqueness in their presentation. And throughout, abstracted just perfectly, is Hawaiian folk, layered Latin percussion, madrigal crumbs, hypnotic grooves, all so disambiguated from their narrowly defined roots you can hardly call the music “collage,” even though it absolutely must be. A sonic alchemist from his first melodic experiments with friends Deakin and Avey Tare, Panda pulls no punches with his blazing ingenuity. At the same time, no decision seems overly cerebral, fakely strange or anything but absolutely intuitive. And yet the entire album, front to back, holds your attention in a bubbling milk of spiritual trip emotion, leaving the baggage of religion, drug culture or world music identifiers happily behind in order to ruminate peaceably about friendship, children and animals.
A crucial part of psychedelic choral pranksters Animal Collective, Panda Bear’s 7 song Person Pitch is one of the most effortlessly satisfied albums of recent memory, giving endless reasons for explosive jubilation. Circulating world rhythm without trying to call attention to it and submersing his verse in abstraction without trying for easy LSD allegory, Panda brings an enormous depth to his soothing cacophony. You can easily envision each of these songs beginning behind a shower curtain, being deliciously savored in a studio for many months, and then let loose on the world like a jar of wild butterflies.

– Alibastard
Originally posted on

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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