Welcome to a New Chapter
A lot of the duties of editor-in-chief are unglamorous: turning down applications, managing deadlines, watching the budget, communicating details to people who need them, sitting in front of a computer for hours whilst editing.
And that last one is where I am now – about to embark on yet another marathon editing session. This seemingly endless night punctuated by seemingly countless cups of tea is different, though. Tonight marks the first editing session that I will be doing for both a print and web edition of Independent Clauses. Welcome to a new chapter in the life of Independent Clauses.
If you want to receive a physical copy of the magazine, send an e-mail with your address to Stephen@independentclauses.com – the first edition is completely free. We only ask that you take a couple extra and hand them out in your scene – at shows, record stores, gear shops, coffee shops, wherever.
Weekly updates are also new at Independent Clauses is. We’ll be having CD reviews and an update on the Norman, Okla., scene posted every Sunday. Be sure to check back weekly for that.
We hope that you enjoy these new features as much as you enjoy the web edition. If you have any questions or comments, send me an e-mail at Stephen@independentclauses.com. If you think the new stuff sucks, e-mail me with suggestions. I and the other members of Independent Clauses have put a lot of long nights into this magazine, and we want to make sure that it’s as good as it can be. Thanks in advance.
Also, thanks go out to everyone who’s submitted a CD for review to this publication – we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for your trust in us. I certainly don’t know what I’d be doing with myself if this magazine wasn’t a part of my life – so I personally am indebted to you bands.
Yeah, being editor-in-chief isn’t always glitz, glamour and meet’n’greets. But it’s become a part of who I am. And editing deep into the night isn’t always the most fun thing, but it’s become a monthly tradition for me. And so here I sit, with one cup of tea on the desk and two more waiting in the kitchen – preparing for another marathon editing session.
I couldn’t be any happier.
Band Name: Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start
Album Name: Worst Band Name Ever
Best Element: Charming indie-pop band ends its bright, catchy songs much too early
Dewy-eyed hipsters, rejoice! The chiming acoustic guitar, softly distorted rhythm guitar and pulsing bass rhythms of Worst Band Name Ever by Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start are very reminiscent of the mood and feel of Death Cab for Cutie’s cult classic The Photo Album. Many of you will go buy the album right now on the strength of that comparison. For those a little more discerning, read on.
Another similarity between the two bands is that both have great indie-pop songwriters with lush, dreamy arrangements in mind heading them up. But the two bandleaders diverge in songwriting form. Where Photo-era Ben Gibbard had great ideas that occasionally got dragged out too long, Worst-era Steve Poponi has great ideas that don’t get dragged out long enough; most songs hover around two minutes, with four of the ten ending under that mark. Occasionally it feels like it takes longer to say the band’s enormous, video-game inspired name (it’s a cheat code on NES Contra) correctly than to listen to one of the band’s songs.
That wouldn’t be so bad, except that these songs don’t feel like they’re over when they’re over. “Fell in Love With a Girl” by the White Stripes is a full song jammed into under two minutes – Up Up Down Down’s “I’ll Thank You Later” feels like half of a song. It’s a great half-song – but because the warm vocal melodies and the soothing mood could be extended much longer, the song seems abandoned mid-stride.
And that’s the whole problem with this album – the bright moods are so good that it doesn’t seem fair to have all the songs be short. The only four comfortably long pieces are “Am I a Cricket?”, “Gas Station Hair,” “The Red Loop” and “Boise.” It’s not that they’re the four longest pieces (“Boise” is only 2:10) – it’s the fact that the ideas are thoroughly developed, modified and put to bed. It feels right.
“Boise” is the best track here, as it crams multiple moods and a fist-pumping chorus into 2:10 without feeling awkward, rushed or choppy. It lets tension ebb and flow, resulting in a very uplifting, enjoyable song. Following much the same formula, “The Red Loop” also succeeds.
If you have a short attention span and want to hear some undeniably hook-laden, charming and beautiful indie-pop, Worst Band Name Ever is for you. If you get frustrated at good ideas left undeveloped, you may want to avoid this one – it will cause you more grief than comfort.
Album: Dot with a Dot in a Dot Dot Dot split EP
Best Element: Cohesive mood.
Website: http://www.indermamusic.com/theantipage.html http://www.indermamusic.com/lamps.html
Label: Inderma Music
Having already reviewed half of the Theanti/Lamps split CD Dot with a Dot in a Dot Dot Dot, I went in knowing partly what to expect. I was looking forward to some crunchy, gritty post-hardcore rock with a penchant for artsiness, interspersed with whatever Lamps contributed.
In the press kit, I found that Lamps and Theanti are the same people – Theanti is the traditional band, and Lamps is the improv side. The importance of that knowledge was lost on me until I started listening to the album.
Theanti’s songs are thick, rhythmically complex and well-designed. Lamps’ are the natural counter to that aesthetic – the songs are built on a single melodic theme and usually rhythmically simple. Yet there is an overarching mood to the entire album due to the fact that the same two people composed it. This makes it a very complete listen – the cramped, gritty mood is cohesive, but the songwriting is varied and unpredictable. With everything from charging rockers to rickety acoustic numbers, this split has it all.
Dot with a Dot in a Dot Dot Dot is not a very comforting listen, as the players love their distortion and like dissonance, but it’s a very good listen that I would easily recommend to anyone interested in louder music. I enjoyed Theanti and Lamps better together than separately: if I had heard Lamps by itself I would have crowed for more complexity, and Lamps plus Theanti is even better than Theanti by itself.
– Stephen Carradini
Band Name: The Emergency
Album Title: Doo-Lang Doo-Lang
Best Element: Stays true to indie rock precedent
Label Name: N/a
Band Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Emergency capture all that is indie and pop on their album Doo-lang Doo-lang. A whopping 16 tracks fill up almost an hour of time sure to pleasure the ear drums of any indie fanatic.
Unfortunately, the first two tracks of the album may be a bit too independent of mainstream music. Though having interesting rhythms and melodies in each, the songs jump around too much to completely different parts that feel totally unrelated to the previous section; the end result is a sense of chaos instead of art.
Once the listener gets past these two tracks, however, the album rises at a very quick pace. “Not Angry” contains a catchy drum beat that snags the listener, holding you with a peaceful indie vibe and solid vocals. “Lie Detector” follows suit, adding an active bass line under the high-toned guitars.
“Hey Whoopy Cat” is one of the better songs on the album. It’s poppy, packed with energy, and easy to sing along to. A rockin’ riff kicks off “Mama Told Me,” complimenting a thick bass. What starts off as a toe-tapper quickly turns into a clock-watcher, though, as an overly long breakdown takes the song into a jam out ending.
If the phrase “indie blues” hasn’t been coined yet, it has now. “Tired Armies” offers a rolling blues beat that still incorporates indie factors, including a sweet musical breakdown that sends the beat back and forth between the lead guitar and the drums.
Acoustic guitars and open-room vocals pave the way for “Liked it the Way it Was,” a 50’s sounding ballad with an amazing ending of high powered drum fills and crashing electric guitars that seem to come out of nowhere. It’s definitely a pleasant surprise after the gentle beginning of the song. “Anxiety All the Time” is the last solid song on the album and is the epitome of pop music—excellent.
Doo-lang Doo-lang is a decent indie album. With many filler songs, yet several good ones, it is a necessary add to the music library of all avid indie listeners.
Band Name: The Cops
Album Name: Drop It In Their Laps
Best Element: Fun sing-a-longs abound
You could fill a museum with all of the 80’s revivalist bands out there right now. And, really, since a lot of them sound pretty much the same, it all comes down to the strength of their songs. Luckily, the full-length debut from Australia’s The Cops is brimming with great tunes.
The group comes across as a modernized version of The Cars throughout much of Drop It In Their Laps. Even their name is similar. I say this in the best possible way, though, as the album is all about brief, fun pop songs with great, splashy hooks. “Out Of The Fridge/Into The Fire” starts things off nicely, with a surprisingly funky beat, while “Call Me Anytime,” “The Message” and “Starve On My Love” are the obvious single choices. Worth a mention as well is Hot Weapon, a goofy ode to a car that should serve as this year’s “Greased Lighting.” In fact, there really isn’t a weak track on the album. Nothing completely stands out from the pack either (though “Le Chic” is very fun), but you won’t really care as these songs are designed for maximum instant sing-along status. In this regard, The Cops could easily be the Australian version of Maroon 5. Kudos go as well to an excellent album cover, truly giving the whole project a retro vibe.
Like a lot of bands out at the moment, The Cops don’t yet have a totally distinctive sound. But, what they do they do very well and it’s hard to imagine anybody that wouldn’t enjoy Drop It In Their Laps, even if it is only at face-value.
*Key Tracks: Hot Weapon, Call Me Anytime, The Message*
Band: The Brakemen
Album: Dancing Down a Fine Line EP
Best Element: Brilliantly produced and beautifully executed
Genre: Classic southern-infused rock
I’ve received three CDs through Independent Clauses that I have continued to frequently listen to after the review was done: Commitment by The Felix Culpa, Ascertain by SleepBellumSonno and Showdown At The Discotheque by The Moment. This month, that list got a little bit bigger as I added The Brakemen’s Dancing Down a Fine Line EP. The Boston foursome put out an EP that blends straightforward rock and a sound reminiscent of a mellowed-out southern rock outfit.
Though The Brakemen hail from the home of the revolution, Boston, Mass, they have a sound that would not be out of place at a country-rock festival in northern Mississippi. Guitarist Tom Borman seamlessly blends twangy southern guitar work reminiscent of Ryan Adams and the straightforward guitar work of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.
While the EP has a very familiar sound and is extremely accessible, at no point does the music become boring. Every time a riff seems to settle in, the style changes and a new chord is sliding though your ears, lulling you into a groove that is soon to be interrupted. And while many bands try to change styles and only end up confusing the listener, The Brakemen do it in a way that keeps the listener alert and engaged in the music.
Not only is this a great EP, but it is an independently released EP that sounds better, production-wise, than a lot of albums released by semi-major labels. The Brakemen put a great deal of work into this release and it shows.
Honestly, I still can’t believe this band hails from anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon Line, let alone the city that has been famous for its hardcore and Irish-punk. The Brakemen put out a great product that surprises the listener at every turn and blends the best of southern and northern into an EP that cannot go ignored this year.
Band Name: The Anthem Sound
Album Name: Four Sounds EP
Best Element: Seamless melding of Indie-rock with experimental elements
Label Name: Hello My Name is Records
Picking up an album by a band named The Anthem Sound, one would expect, perhaps, punk anthems with fist-raising choruses overflowing with political angst… a crack recipe for home-brewed teenage hormones and mall-store media-fodder music. Fortunately, one would also be completely wide of the mark. The Anthem Sound’s Four Songs EP is anything but sophomoric; it is, rather, an intelligent melding of indie-rock and experimental music.
A snippet of an interview—one discussing change and holding onto the past—leads into the explosive, encompassing rush of “Your Lullaby.” The opening song develops a split personality, waging war with itself as it alternately overwhelms and waxes introvert. I appreciated the thoughtful production, the flow between indie-rock and experimental that “Your Lullaby” represented: its structure mimics the tension of the introductory quote; its form flows from this expression of uncertainty. Intelligent design meets music… bravo!
The sleeper hit on this album, “Lunar,” is driven by an irresistible drum-line that’s simultaneously straightforward and dancey. The bass-line triplets its way beneath the alternating snare and ride, as either Evan Fixell or Ethan Grove croons “What do we know for sure / you can’t be trusted ever, can you?” Soon after, the other joins in, doubling the vocals before moving into a call-echo section. The interwoven lyrical lines then reconvene, emphasizing the chorus of muddy, crashing guitars. The interplay of voices over a simple yet catchy drum and bass-line works brilliantly.
“The Promise” follows a similar formula: restrained, straightforward drumming draped over a wandering bass-line. The song opens with a quiet, continuously strummed electric guitar and what sounds like a computer-generated blipping which serves to set the tempo. The verse of “The Promise” details a relationship aching for warmth: “Wrapped in black with you / I hear these shirts and scarves we bought keep us warm, keep you warm / I dressed checkered sheets, oh how you kick me when you sleep…” The chorus, however, remains hopeful, as Fixell and Grove trade-off lead and echo-lines, singing “While I’m gone I’ll keep you under my pillow / dreams that were drifting through days / say you remember my words, make this promise a record.”“The Promise” is The Anthem Sound’s anthem: a slow-core promise for better things to come.
“Poised to Conquer” delves into the band’s political underpinnings, opening with a news-feed about intercontinental ballistic missiles, and driving through cries “I’m sitting on my father’s shoulders looking down at the oblivious earth below pointing to a falling star approaching but it hits the ground.” Written-out like this, it doesn’t carry the levity produced when combined with The Anthem Sound’s emphatic vocals and wailing guitars, but their concern comes through clearly. “Get ready…” they warn, “ready for destruction…”
For an EP, Four Songs speaks volumes to The Anthem Sound’s musical future. Pressing out the horizons and re-tuning the definitions of two sounds until they encompass one another, The Anthem Sound has a lot of work to do… but they’re ready for it.
—Timothy C. Avery
Band Name: T13c
Album Name: T13c EP
Best Element: Catchy synth-supported pop-punk
Florida pop-punk rockers Ten13concept, or T13c for short, deliver a solid, if disappointingly short and unvaried, effort with their self-titled EP.
The six-piece band obviously knows how to write music well. The six songs on the EP are all well done, consisting of heavy pop-punk in the vein of bands like Sugarcult and Yellowcard. Driven by melodies on the synthesizer, the songs are all catchy and are complimented by lead vocals from guitarists Joe Loffredo and Chris Torres. Each of their voices blend well together and hold up exceptionally on their own.
The CD opens with “From The Stereo,” an ultimately throw-away track which only serves as an extended intro for the second track, “California (We’ve Had Enough)”. “California” is one of the stand-out tracks with a driving beat on the drums, some of the CD’s more memorable lyrics in its chorus and the incorporation of horns in certain sections for a bit of a ska feel. It’s just fun to listen to.
“These Cars Collide” and “Engine Down” are more along the lines of the emo-tinged pop-punk that is so prevalent today. These songs show that the band owes a lot of its influences to the likes of Sugarcult, though T13c’s lyrics are more along the lines of early My Chemical Romance and other pop-emo acts. This influence tends to overpower the songs, making you think more about what other bands T13c sound like.
Without a doubt, “The Match, The Flame, The Fire” is the best song on the CD. With a strong pop-punk intro featuring some great drums from Danny Strong and a lengthy ska breakdown, it is easily the most memorable song on the CD. The blending of horns and synthesizer is especially noteworthy. This is the song that gives the band its own distinct sound. More please.
Closing is “Untitled,” which reverts back to the sound established by “These Cars Collide” and “Engine Down.” While the song is better than those previous two, with more catchy and memorable lyrics, the song still sounds too derivative of other band’s to let it hold up.
This release does show T13c’s potential through songs like “California” and “The Match, The Flame, The Fire,” but it also shows that they need to discover more of their own sound rather than the type of sound that will attract the teenage scene-kid girls. They have the ability, for sure. They just need some work.
Band Name: So it Goes
Album Name: Historionics
Best Element: Catchy, make-you-want-to-dance beats
In Historionics, So it Goes has created a surprisingly listenable dance-pop/rock record. It’s full of catchy hooks, excellent guitar work and cool electronic beeps. Throughout the album, the lyrics remain relatively unintelligible, but that doesn’t matter—these songs are that awesome.
I’m just gonna come right out and say it—I’m not hip. Heck, I’ve never even seen hip, but the second track on this album “No Guns, No Love” seems like something that hip people somewhere at some kind of party might dance to. The lyrics are limited largely to constructions involving the words guns and love – think The Rapture’s “House of Jealous Lovers.”
“Propaganda” not only makes me think of people dancing, it makes me want to dance. I can’t even tell you how significant that is. In fact, I’m still reconciling myself to the fact that I want to dance. This song and this album as a whole is so good and so accessible that I, an avowed non-dancer who is largely unimpressed with this genre, can’t help but tap my feet a little. It’s a pity I can’t dance and type simultaneously.
“Defcon One” is a great song for so many reasons. For one thing, it starts with a sample of an air raid siren. I’m not kidding. This is one of those songs that would fit very nicely in the ending credits of a summer blockbuster people see for the sheer joy of movie watching. It’s catchy, it’s exuberant, it’s full of blazing guitars…it just works.
My only complaint with this album is all the songs sound the same. They’re cool, and it’s a good sound, but it’s the same sound throughout.
Unfortunately, I can offer very little in terms of sound-a-likes. In short, if you like dancing or would like to try dancing, Historionics is for you.
Electronic Conversation about Robot Music
When I heard about minimalist/down-tempo electronic artist Matthew Curtis’ (aka Second Act Overture) plans to release an EP named Robot Music, I was excited. Not only because the diverse electronic soundscapes that SAO creates are excellent, but because the theme of robots fits his sound so very perfectly. From cold, slow-moving pieces to glitching, beat-happy songs, the theme just seems to fit. Even more exciting, the EP will be free and available online (with a host of other material) at secondactoverture.com. I caught up with Matt online, as should be expected for an interview about Robot Music, and talked with him a while.
IndieC: So Robot Music is coming out – what’s going to be on it?
IndieC: I know there’s some remixes and such
saoverture: Well it’s going to be three original tracks. “Abiogenesis”, “Yes? I’m Synthetic!”, and “Broadcasts”. Then I’m also letting people know about a remix done by Lucy Daystarr of “Broadcasts”. The other two remixes I’m keeping secrets until the release.
IndieC: so it’s another EP? Was it designed with an EP in mind?
saoverture: Yeah. And this one isn’t even the last one planned before I focus on a full-length. Haha.
IndieC: Do you like putting out EPs more than albums, or is that just the way it played out?
saoverture: Well I feel like with EPs I have a lot more freedom to move around and to change styles. I can focus on one theme, release it, and move to another concept. Each EP so far and set for release have a central theme which is a lot harder to accomplish with a full length album.
IndieC: what’s the theme on this one?
IndieC: just the general idea of robots, or is there a central musical theme like on Ode to Strings?
saoverture: It’s actually a concept EP (if there is such a thing) about a specific event in my life. It’s been a major focus point in my mind for some time and I felt it was time to have closure. What better way than to release it as a collection of songs?
IndieC: that’s awesome.
IndieC: I love concept albums….I think they’re a really unique listening experience
saoverture: Me too. I think it can express ideas a lot better than individual songs with individual agendas.
IndieC: Do you think that you’ll do a full concept album when you get to focusing on a full-length?
saoverture: Probably to some degree. It should be a lot easier to, since I plan to focus more on the lyrical aspect of music when I start the writing process for a full-length.
IndieC: You’re going to add vocals to your music?
saoverture: I already have a few songs with vocals, they just haven’t gone through the full post-production process yet.
IndieC: So are you doing a lot of promotion for Robot Music?
saoverture: I haven’t left my computer in days it feels like. New music video, new website, remixes, podcasts, etc. Oh, and I have a video game being produced as we speak, haha. I got to see a few graphics and it looks mighty fun.
IndieC: Video game?
saoverture: Yeap, featuring the Robot Music robot and a few Second Act Overture songs.
saoverture: You can never over-promote.
saoverture: I take that back.
IndieC: what do you think has been overpromoted?
saoverture: I refuse to see any movies being promoted by Myspace.
saoverture: But Myspace gets on my nerves in general.
IndieC: that’s a bold statement for an artist who spends a lot of time promoting online
IndieC: I agree, generally; but still
saoverture: Yeah, it’s a necessary tool, and the problem is they (the owners) know that.
IndieC: what do you think about virb?
saoverture: I doubt they’ll have much success, but I’m still rooting for them. Out of all the sites for music promotion, I vote Purevolume.
IndieC: even though they cater to artists more than fans?
saoverture: Especially since they cater to artists. Music shouldn’t be how many friends you have, it should be about creating art and finding like-minded people. If you could do that with social networking sites, that’d be great, but all you get with those are spammers and bands with 33000 “fans,” 98% of whom have never even heard of the band.
IndieC: So that’s the goal of all this promotion: to find like-minded people?
saoverture: Personally, my goal is to find three or four people who are inspired by my music. I want to make music that people, even if it’s just a few people, find moving.
IndieC: So how ‘big’ do you envision SAO getting, in your wildest dreams?
IndieC: If you’re more concerned with real interactions and affectation instead of numbers
saoverture: I’d like to be big enough to have a proper tour. Then I’d go around to every city with fans of my music and we’d get trashed and party (in that order).
IndieC: it doesn’t get much more DIY than that
saoverture: Haha. I’m really happy with where I am now. I would like to tour, and I would like to meet like minded people. That’s it. Good Charlotte can keep the fame and money.
saoverture: Oh and I want to meet Chris Corner.
IndieC: Who’s Chris Corner?
saoverture: Singer for the Sneaker Pimps for their second and third albums. Also he has a side project called IAMX. Above all others, he’s my musical role-model.
IndieC: That’s really cool.
IndieC: How has he influenced your sound?
saoverture: The Sneaker Pimps are what got me into down-tempo/trip-hop music. Also their devotion to an ever-changing musical style has influenced my decisions as a musician.
IndieC: Very cool.
IndieC: so you said you’re happy with where you’re at as a musician – you don’t have any big aspirations of having this as your primary career?
saoverture: I wouldn’t want to be a musician for a living. I do however enjoy making a living around music. My dream career would be owning a venue or a label, but not being a musician.
IndieC: Unless you’ve got any other things to add or ask me, I think we’re pretty much done on this interview.
saoverture: Just that everyone needs to watch the new music video and download the EP (it’ll be free, so why not?).
-Interview conducted by Stephen Carradini