Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Denelian-August 2007 EP’s

November 1, 2007

http://www.myspace.com/denelian, www.denelianmusic.com

No label

Rock that ensues dancing, and sing-a-longs that are catchy in a good way.

“Move your hips to the sound of Apocalypse” because Denelian is releasing maybe the best sound to come out of Seattle since Nirvana, and that’s got to mean the world is upside down.

The Seattle based band really sticks to its geography. The singer’s monotonous tone rings of the drab weather and the urban life of Seattle, but the gritty melodies could sound like the emotions caught up in the fog over the damp city. In Seattle you can’t quite see the mountains through the low hanging clouds, but you can hear the people buzzing underneath like Denelian’s sound. Each member of the band brings an important and unique part to their sound. The drums carry our feet to dance, and then are exemplified by the creepy sounds of the electronics makes for an instant attraction. The guitar carries with the singer, both monotonous but still having the quality of being human.

There is an underlying dirty but cleanness in Denelian. Their melodies are smooth, sometimes so perfectly rounded it could almost be white noise, the good kind. Coupled with the monotonous voice of the singer, it fits hand in hand. In “It’s Nothing Personal We’ve All Got to Eat” I can’t help but become entranced by Denelian’s slow creep through out the song.

Denelian is a well-oiled machine coming out of the Seattle fog. They layer and intertwine without being caught into that horrible web of being cheesy. They allow their listeners to dance and sing and at the same time make their music just as easy to listen to alone. Denelian says “dance!” but also has a quiet call to action that makes this irresistible.

They have an ambience that’s eerie and dark but poppy enough to make it benevolent. I was skeptical at first when I heard “Am I Down or Are You High?”. I thought they had a direct influence from She Wants Revenge but Denelian is lighter than that, it’s the context that makes the difference. They have a hint of new wave like the Birthday Party, a creepy happiness.

Denelian hasn’t reached their best yet and I am glad to say that because with what they have got now I can not wait to see what that would look like. See them live, dance with them in your car, or just put on your head phones and appreciate what there working for, just hear them!

Marilyse Diaz

mjork’independentclauses.com

Younger Youth Hip (-Hop) to the Old-School

Younger Youth Hip (-Hop) to the Old-School

Most musical acts today have aspirations of greatness, which are ultimately defined by varying levels of commercial success, but the members of the L.A.-based band Younger Youth have no plans to quit their day jobs. However, come closing time, Younger Youth just wants the masses to experience their eclectic musical stylings.

Self-described as indie rock/afro beat, singer Matthew Muller, drummer Casey Ryder and bassist Paul Ron Rivera approach music as a form of recreation, free of strict touring schedules and major labels with reps who have nothing but dollar signs in their eyes.

In addition to having fun by playing music and performing live, Ryder describes the band as “a different creative release.”

This “release” is currently taking the form a Hip-Hopesque mixtape project.

“Along with polished, fully-realized albums, we want to release all the stuff we are stoked about but just wouldn’t work on the record or maybe didn’t come to fruition as a full song,” Muller said.

The band plans to go old school with the project by trying to make the mixtape something you gave somebody you care about.

“[It’s] not like nowadays where you have all of your music [on a computer], and you search for song titles and burn a CD,” Muller said.

In keeping up with the band’s overall intention of having fun while producing meaningful music, the project will have a natural flow as opposed to a pre-meditated, paint-by-numbers process.

“I don’t want to make the mixtape something that is formulaic in nature, I want it to be something that flows in an appropriate way,” Muller said.

Along with the intangible youthful expression of love and friendship the project will represent, the band members hope to physically exude that tear-inducing nostalgia via vinyl, cassette and possibly even 8-track formats.

Continuing with the old school element, Muller equates the project with the work ethic of punk bands in the ‘70s.

“The pinnacle year of punk rock, 1977, saw two albums each from The Jam, Iggy, The Ramones and The Stranglers,” Muller said. “You rarely, if ever, see feats like that anymore.”

For those wanting a taste of Younger Youth, the single, “The Only Ones” is currently available on iTunes. Muller perfectly matches the intense, yet radio-friendly guitar and drums with his Bono-esque wail, making for a simultaneously powerful and catchy tune.

David Miller

thedavid@independentclauses.com

The Vision of a Dying World – And the Grammar Lamb

The Vision of a Dying World – And the Grammar Lamb

www.thevisionofadyingworld.com

Original, fun folk-rock that will appeal to anyone.

Single Screen Records (www.myspace.com/singlescreenrecords)

After reviewing the eclectic folk sounds of What You Are To Be You Now Become, I hoped that more great music from The Vision of a Dying World would find its way to my desk. My wishes came true. Following up on their last stellar album, San Diego-based folk-rock outfit strikes gold once again with And The Grammar Lamb.

Immediately, I noticed that the band had changed up their sound. Moving away from the soft and sometimes bizarre folk of What You Are To Be You Now Become, And The Grammar Lamb, takes on a distinctly more rock tone while still retaining most of the folk elements and some of the unique lyrical style of the album’s predecessor.

The immediately catchy “Awoken By A Scene From The End Times,” opens the album with a bang. With a driving drum beat, some fantastic electric guitar work done with that open twang reminiscent of classic country music and some infectious vocals, the tone for the rest of the album is set.

Next up is the somewhat jazzy “Horns Become Handles,” which brings out some of the band’s interesting lyrical and vocal style.

“Dangers,” “Cadillac Bears” and “Not A Place” continue the upbeat folk-rock sound of the previous tracks. The band continues to shine in these with their use of vocal harmonies and their sometimes crazy lyrics.

Track six, “A Day At The Medicine Show,” is the first real departure from the sound established by the other tracks. Here is a slow ballad, with thoughtful lyrics and a great chorus which you cannot help but sing to (“Oh my darlin’ Clementine, kiss me sweet and move your feet in time”).

Down the line, at track nine, is “Wishing Well,” a re-recording of a track from What You Are To Be You Now Become. The old recording was great, but this one has a more upbeat and swinging feel, making it more in line with this new album. I like this recording just as much as the old one, though I would have traded it for a new song if possible.

Bringing back the sound feel of “A Day At The Medicine Show,” is “Hell Is Waiting.” Like a bizarre lullaby, the song fluctuates between soft vocal harmonies and driving six-eight guitar chords that drive the song. It’s eerily beautiful.

Capturing the slightly bizarre acoustic folk sounds of their previous album is the final track, “Life To The Living Dead,” a song driven by little more than an acoustic guitar and some odd percussion. It maybe wasn’t the best choice for an album closer. That probably would have been “Hell Is Waiting.” Nevertheless, it’s a solid track and captures the band’s unique style well.

With What You Are To Be You Now Become, I suggested that the album might not be for everyone. However, with And The Grammar Lamb, I think The Vision of a Dying World has delivered a CD that, although it trades in some of the signature style that made the previous release so unique, will appeal to almost anyone. Find this album wherever you can, because it is worth listening to.

- Nate Willliams

nathanmw@ou.edu

The Sound Mirrors – The Calling

The Sound Mirrors – The Calling

www.thesoundmirrors.com

Binge Records

The album occasionally rocks out with a combination of dark lyrics, happy vocal stylings and nostalgic keyboards.

Fed up with having to listen to pseudo-inspirational speeches and misplaced anger, two musicians in Brooklyn have finally decided to talk back … or rather, sing back.

The Sound Mirrors sophomore effort, The Calling, was, with the exception of the drum tracks, recorded in a Brooklyn apartment during 2005 and 2006, and the result fuses ‘80s synth rock with a hint of early ‘90s alternative.

The Sound Mirrors’ reflection consists of Luke McCartney and Dennis Tyhacz, who split the singing and instrument duties like good little musicians. This provides for a unique experience in that listeners get two separate vocal and musical styles throughout the album.

The album’s opener, “Carousel,” of which Tyhacz sings and plays most of the instruments, is a drum-driven, lyrically ambiguous tune that instantly exposes the band’s ‘80s influence with the trippy, sci-fi keyboard sound. “Breathe” also relies heavily on the keyboard’s various drumbeats.

McCartney then intertwines a ‘50s Godzilla film with human error in “Gojira.” In an admonishing tone, McCartney preaches “We unleashed the monster from the sea below/what has happened to humanity?/will you sit back and sin vicariously?”

As one of the songs reminiscent of ‘90s alt rock, “Land of the Midnight Sun” rocks out as it echoes the musical stylings of Mudhoney’s 1992 album “Piece of Cake.”

The remainder of the album is peppered with seemingly light-hearted sing-a-long tracks such as “Angels Cry,” “Sirens Call” and “Nuclear Saint” that ironically revolve around topics such as the uselessness of love and the death of children.

On the band’s MySpace page, the members simply describe their music as “the opposite of silence,” which implies that it’s just random, meaningless noise, but don’t let that turn you off.

While it may not be on your top ten list of best albums, The Calling will, after a few times through the CD player, settle nicely into your music collection.

-David Miller

TheDavid@IndependentClauses.com

Deep Elm Records – The Emo Diaries: Taking Back What’s Ours

the-emo-diaries-album-art1Deep Elm Records – The Emo Diaries: Taking Back What’s Ours

Deep Elm Records (http://www.deepelm.com)

Compilation of unreleased Indie, Emo and Punk songs.

If you don’t know what Deep Elm Records is, and you are looking at this magazine, you probably need to brush up on your musical history. Through their compilation series, The Emo Diaries, they have acted as a launch pad for now well-known bands such as Jimmy Eat World, The Appleseed Cast, The Movielife, and Further Seems Forever (You know, that Cris Carrabba band before Dashboard). Yet in 2004, Deep Elm decided to stop contributing to a genre already polluted with bands that care more about the look than the music.

Fast forward to now, and Deep Elm is reclaiming the emotional throne with their latest diary entry, “Taking Back What’s Ours.” And you know what, it’s not that bad. Sure you have your screamo bands on the CD, and that is bad, but you also have some really talented artists putting out quality songs that aren’t about how they want to die because they are bored (or boring).

Some of them are fast passed and kind of poppy, such as “Tiger Meets Lion” by This Drama. The song has this catchy guitar riff that just makes you want to get up and do an odd dance. Other songs, like Andy Tanner & His Grand Piano’s song, “The Ghostman,” start of slower and then build as the emotional intensity grows. The Anniversary comes to mind, but I’m not sure why. And then some songs are just slow and beautiful with an a real indie feel, such as The Decoration’s “Progress, Not Perfection.”

Overall, the CD is worth taking a run through in order to pick and choose which up-and-comers are worth checking out and which ones are worth ignoring. With something for everybody, Deep Elm Records is taking steps, even is the horrible scremo bands make is a small one, towards taking back what has been there’s long before black was the new pink. Or maybe I’m just a Dallas kid who’s partial to a record label who names itself after my music district. Who knows?

-C.J. Macklin

cj@independentclauses.com

The Appearance – Lost In Aurora

The Appearance – Lost In Aurora

www.theappearancemusic.com, www.myspace.com/theappearance

Adrenaline Music Group (www.adrenalinemusicgroup.com)

Strong, catchy So Cal punk lite.

So Cal Punk Lite is really the best way I can think of to describe The Appearance. Lying somewhere between MxPx and Sugarcult, Lost In Aurora presents the band’s impressive, if ultimately derivative, sound.

There is obvious talent in the band’s songwriting and in their musical performance. The strong vocals from Alan Oakes are reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins and Sugarcult’s Tim Pagnotta, while there are some obvious influences from modern pop-emo, 90’s skate-punk and 80’s metal in the guitar work from Oakes and Chad Kulengosky.

The band is obviously out to be a commercial success, which isn’t a bad thing if it doesn’t hurt the quality of the music. Every song on this album is set-up as a potential radio single, the longest one being 4:18 seconds. This both works to the bands advantage and detracts from the album’s overall sound.

Every song is fast and catchy, with some great lyrics from Oakes and riffs that really hook you on the guitar. However, it’s every song.

Nowhere in the album is there a slow down. It’s the same forward driving energy in every single song and though it works incredibly well with some of the songs, like “Broken Hearts,” “Lost In Aurora,” and “Not A Soul,” there is no real diversity in the sound.

The closest the band comes to anything different is “All System Failure,” which still only manages to slow down a little.

The band has a lot of talent and undoubtedly will be a sure thing with some record label once this CD starts getting noticed. There are a lot of great songs on [u]Lost In Aurora[/u]. I’m particularly fond of the album’s title track. However, until I hear some more diversity and originality, I can’t really see myself becoming a fan.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this CD is good, but it ultimately feels very derivative of other bands and rather boring sonically.

-Nate Williams

nathanmw@ou.edu

Various Artists – Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front

Various Artists – Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front

www.suburbanhomerecords.com

Suburban Home Records (www.suburbanhomerecords.com).

One label’s attempt at breathing a D.I.Y.-bred fire under the belly of country-western music.

Typically, I’m turned off by compilations. Let’s see, what songs are going to be mega-hits? What’s going to catch an ear? What will make a buck? they seem to beg. I envision a circle of big wigs in a cushy office chattering over profit margins and Dom Perignon, falling CD-sales and internet downloading as I reluctantly slip the disc into my eBay-cobbler of a computer and press play. I can only hope for the best, right?

Curious: the track listing on this album can’t be right. They’ve got Rocky Votolato and Lucero, Neko Case and Ghost Buffalo… they even have Tom Waits! Tom freaking Waits! I KNOW these musicians; they’re on different labels; what’s the deal here? I quickly realized it wasn’t some label trying to shove a load down my auditory canal while squeezing a buck out of my already thin wallet; Suburban Home Records is after something different with Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front, and that something is promoting a sound and supporting a tradition they truly believe is worth keeping alive.

The world of underground music used to slide easily within the term “Indie” or even masquerade—at least to the pop-masses—under the “emo” moniker, but technology’s advance and the internet’s juggernaut-like invasion of the furthest reaches of music and culture have brought every genre, sub-genre, and denomination of music within the reach of anyone with computer access and headphones. This is excellent, but it means those of us who look condescendingly upon most music—unless it has a certain guitar tone, a singer who can’t hit a note, or is an undeniable basement-recording, while calling ourselves Indie-music fans need to take underground music, even country and western—seriously.

I researched Suburban Home Records and was astonished at their organized, D.I.Y.-oriented, friendly and passionate support of this particular niche-genre. Suburban Home sent its founder to this year’s C.M.J. Music Marathon to speak on a panel discussion entitled “D.I.Y. or Die.” These guys are doing something positive for solid artists; that’s what Indie-music is all about. Their site, [url=http://www.suburbanhomerecords.com]Suburban Home Records[/url], provides links to bands, updates, reviews, a section about their bands (with tour and album information), a blog section… the works.

On Not So Quiet on the Country Western Front, Tom Waits rattles and groans about being lost and lonely on “Bottom of The World.” It opens with a hodge-podge pack of stringed instruments as Waits veritably chokes out “Well my daddy told me looking back / the best friend you’ll have is a railroad track / so when I was thirteen I said I’m holding my own / and I’m leaving Missouri and I’m never coming home.” William Elliot Whitmore hollers and dances over his banjo on “That Train That Carried Away my Girl.” Rocky Votolato’s clean, wavering voice mourns life’s high-speeds in “White Daisy Passing.” Josh Small croons over an up-close and steel-scratchy acoustic guitar in “Knife in my Belly.” The album simply seethes with life from two back-shelf genres, and served to remind me not only of all the internet and modern recording technologies have opened to us, but that I need to start digging again into some new music.

—Timothy C. Avery

the_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

Stepping Outside the Musicbox

Stepping Outside the Musicbox

There’s nothing new about imitation in media. Apple turned phones into computers, E-books are turning computers into novels and now, Swimfaster Godwhispers is turning music into television.

Swimfaster Godwhispers, a Swedish indie-rock band residing in London, has decided to release their newest album, Life as Promised in our Early Days – Season One, as one new song, or rather new episode, each week on the Internet. True to television style, the album will run from September to March, with a break in December.

“It started when we took a long hard look at what we were doing,” said lead singer and guitarist Ib Warnerbring. “Up until now, we’ve been releasing 5-track EPs every year, generating some interest at the time of release, but a few months later we were outdated again. That is the speed of the new music industry.”

Fortunately for music lovers, this solution to the unforgiving speed of the modern music industry won’t just benefit Swimfaster Godwhispers; it’s designed for listeners as well.

“We think the fact that we’re never more than a week old, and that we also have something new to listen to, will make the listener appreciate the format in a completely different way,” Warnerbring said.

With Swimfaster Godwhispers’ unique release format, the listener will be spared from some of the frustrations of the music industry today. As Warnerbring points out, fans are often forced to listen to the same album for up to three years because a band is busy touring. This new release plan will make this waiting period more bearable.

But as important as it is for the band to maintain fresh interest, there are deeper issues swirling beneath the excitement of a free weekly episode.

“The music industry needs a revolution because it needs to evolve to the next step, which includes utilizing the Internet and the digital format to its fullest,” Warnerbring argued. “Consumers have created anarchy by making music available for free.”

According to Warnerbring, this anarchy hurts mid-sized bands that depend on record companies for profit. As an alternative to this modern dilemma, he advocates self-owned publishing companies instead. These companies report all public appearances, including live gigs, radio spots or anywhere the artist’s music gets played publicly. Because publishers deal in appearances and not sold albums, piracy can never touch them.

This might lead to smaller profits overall, but less money is a sacrifice some artists would consider worth emancipation from record label dependency. Independence means free music and paid artists.

“We’re not in this to get rich. We’re in it because we love what we do,” Warnerbring explained. “But we want to be able to pay rent and have a snack once in a while.”

Swimfaster Godwhispers is crying for a revolution, and not so much in the eloquence of words, but in the reality of their progressive ideas set in motion. By stepping outside the box, the band is creating increased interest, which will lead to more public appearances and more money while still capitalizing technology’s ability to deliver free music.

“We only hope that our very small contribution to the idea box will make other bands and artists realize that there are other ways of releasing music than the regular industry mold that has been used for the last 50 [or] 60 years.”

Freedom from unnecessary record companies, promotion of music creatively through publishing companies, and the revamp of indie, these are the battle cries of Swimfaster Godwhisper’s revolution, and according to Warnerbring, the band is drawing attention.

“Feedback has been great,” he said. “We are noticing massive interest on the website.”

Stay tuned to Swimfaster Godwhispers, because in a musical revolution, it is not televised.

Hannah Kokjohn

hannah@independentclauses.com

Shorthand Phonetics – demo…shoosanddo fonechikkusu!

shorthand-phonetics

Shorthand Phonetics – demo…shoosanddo fonechikkusu!

http://www.myspace.com/shorthandphonetics

Self-released

Unhinged, inhibition-less power-pop/garage rock that shows loads of promise.

When my friend Annie introduced me to Neutral Milk Hotel’s masterwork In the Aeroplane over the Sea, I didn’t understand what was so great about it. I missed the significance of it because I was in the wrong mindset when I listened to it: the album is not something to be listened to and enjoyed. No, Aeroplane is something you get; something you experience. Two years later I discovered “Two Headed Boy Pt. 1″ on my own, and that began my NMH love affair.

My love affair has made one thing clear to me: the reason that Neutral Milk Hotel is a hard sell is because the music is unlike anything else. Jeff Mangum’s songwriting is over-the-top without a hint of irony or humor. The overall loudness, the ridiculous distortedness, the wild vocals and lucid lyrics are not for effect – they are the only way that Jeff Mangum can portray what he wants to portray. He’s not loud cause he wants to be, he’s loud because the songs require it. It is completely unrestrained, and as a result sounds completely jarring and amateurish on first listen.

If Neutral Milk Hotel were a planet, Shorthand Phonetics is a spaceship traveling towards it. Ababil Ashari (the man behind SP) is still quite a long ways away from being in orbit of the planet NMH, but he’s definitely headed in that direction.

Shorthand Phonetics is also completely unhinged emotionally and mu sically. Jeff Mangum turned his angst and lack of inhibitions into psychedelic diatribes; Ababil Ashari turns his into biting sarcasm and viciously hooky guitar lines. Jeff Mangum’s acoustic-centric material is much more ‘indie’ than Ababil’s electric-centric power-pop, but the spirit is shared.

The winner on Shorthand Phonetics’ latest collection of demos is “Magic is Away for the Season,” which blasts out of the starting gate with an adrenaline-fueled guitar riff and rapid-fire lyrical delivery. There are absolutely no inhibitions anywhere in this song; Ashari lets it all hang out there, and the song is much the better for it. The song blurs the line between trashy garage-rock and curt power-pop; the production values, brash vocals and fuzzed-out guitar lines are total garage rock, while the melodies and the chorus are total pop. The song is incredible – both the lead guitar riff and the vocal melody will play over and over in your head for a long time after you hear the song.

“Magic is Away for the Season” is easily the best track here, as it encompasses everything that Shorthand Phonetics is, musically and emotionally. The rest of the tracks here show promise but fall short in areas. “Goodbye Juria” has a great chorus but suffers from several vocal catastrophes in the bridge, while “Theme to a Powerpoint Presentation” has an even more infectious chorus than “Magic…” but has to get through passable verses to get there. It’s still a good song, but it’s not the complete package like “Magic…” is. The wonderfully named “It’s Not That She is Nothing, It’s Just That She’s Not Everything” is an acoustic track that careens wildly from one extreme to another, dragging the listener on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s not comforting music to listen to, but it is definitely incredible songwriting.

I’m usually all for people cleaning up their acts, getting better recordings, and working on their vocals to make them more round and full. I’m going to go completely against my normal standards and say that I want to keep Shorthand Phonetics making music however he wants to make it. Although some die-hards would murder me for this comparison, the flamboyant amount of passion and energy poured into the sound is only rivaled by Neutral Milk Hotel. Am I saying that Shorthand Phonetics is as good as Neutral Milk Hotel? No. Very no. But are many of the characteristics that make me love NMH present in Shorthand Phonetics? Very yes.

Although it may take a bit of getting used to, I’m thoroughly convinced that any lover of pop music will be unable to resist “Magic is Away for the Season” and Shorthand Phonetics in general. I can’t wait to hear more music and hear how the sound progresses – maybe Ababil Ashari will be the next Jeff Mangum. Who knows?

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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