Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Darla Farmer–Rewiring The Electric Forest

April 1, 2008

darlafarmer( Darla Farmer – Rewiring The Electric Forest

( Paper Garden Records

Quirky indie rock with folk and ska elements.

Darla Farmer’s sound is diverse, thanks to guitar, bass, drums, violin, keys, trombone, and trumpet. The players wielding instruments from that lengthy and varied list create quirky, poppy ska and folk-influenced melodies. When you add Clint Wilson’s occasionally creepy vocals on top, you end up with the demented carnival sound that is Darla Farmer.

Of the ten tracks put together, there are only three that are completely satisfying: “History,” “The Cow That Drank Too Much” and “Big Accident.” Every other song had some element that came off as irritating, which I feel to be the ska influence. “History” is definitely their strongest track, with an incredibly catchy chorus and hook that makes it a song to be listened to repeatedly. “The Cow That Drank Too Much” is less upbeat and speedy than their other songs, which is refreshing. The song also has a bittersweet tone with excellent backup vocals. Both “History” and “The Cow That Drank Too Much” can be described as epic, catchy pop masterpieces. “Big Accident” continues the trend heard on “History” with some really excellent trumpet riffs and singing.

Darla Farmer is a band that has mastered catchy pop melodies with unconventional instruments. They want to achieve indie rock that you can’t just label as a single genre, and they do that. While one must have to enjoy ska to completely enjoy the album, there are still universally-accessible songs that stand strong on their own. After listening to Rewiring the Electric Forest once, it is hard to comprehend what was just listened to. It is only after a few listens that one realizes the gimmick that Darla Farmer provides. But it’s a unique and fun one that should definitely be checked out by listeners who want something odd and different.

Tim Wallen

The Dalloways-Dirty Money and Filthy Love EP

dalloways-dirty-money-ep( Dalloways – Dirty Money and Filthy Love EP

( in Box Records

Catchy, mature indie-pop with interesting and unique influences.

The Dalloways’ Dirty Money and Filthy Love EP proves interesting, to say the least. While it exudes a predominantly indie-pop sound, the band often dabbles in jazz fundamentals, bringing a unique twist on a genre that is becoming tired.

A wide range of possible influences come to mind while listening to the five tracks of this EP, from bands like Of Montreal to Belle & Sebastian to The Smiths. The band is definitely indie-pop, but subtle hints of jazz guitar and a poetic and literary sensibility to the lyrics give the Dalloways a maturity that is uncommon amongst its peers. And despite the band’s California origins, there is a distinct Brit-pop feel to the music. It has a certain cultured feeling that only a select few can truly appreciate, but that anyone can love.

Even without knowledge of the works of Thomas Hardy, who is blatantly referenced in the song “Me and Thomas Hardy,” or of the technical aspects and influences behind the music, the songs on Dirty Money and Filthy Love EP are highly enjoyable. Anyone who loves a good pop song should enjoy the bouncing rhythms and subtle synthesizers driving the title track. “I Love You Regardless” proves to be a nice guitar-driven ballad, and the EP is rounded off with the oddly creepy but entertaining “Didn’t Have The Time.” The only track that is really forgettable is “Let’s Climb the Staircase,” possibly just due to it being the middle track.

Basically, the biggest fault of this EP is that it is an EP and not a full album. More, please.

Nate Williams

The Canaries–Poke the Machine

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( The Canaries – Poke the Machine

( Tamur. Records

High energy, instrumentally-intensive indie rock that gives a solid, short-lived 30-minute performance.

The Canaries have made a heck of a debut with Poke the Machine. Every song flows together seamlessly, yet every song has a different style. Sometimes the songs lean more on math rock instrumentals, while other times fast punk chords are necessary. They even pull from the noise-dance genre a little bit. Interestingly enough, these changes are so subtle that one will know they are still listening to the same band. It was very relieving that The Canaries have a lo-fi sound that is both grungy and polished.

All of the tracks offer something different and there are none to complain about. Most feel non-serious except for the 52-second “Poke,” in which Alec Gabin sings “She blew her brains out on a workday/she got no presents for her birthday.” The song is a bit of a downer, but it is not long enough to completely offset the mood of the album.

Probably the strongest track on the album is “F*ck like a winner.” Despite its lack of lyrical content, the song’s heavy bass lines and complex guitar instrumentals with excellent singing makes the song a winner. The song begins very similarly to an Erase Errata song, but takes a much different path. At one point in the song, the bandmates break into a very well-sung part that comes as an unexpected high point. Throughout the album, the transitions from song to song are so flawless that they are very similar to a gapless dance mix.

There are only two complaints to be made about this album, if one enjoys the elements that make up this album: the last track has a huge gap in it and the album is only about thirty minutes long. The last track “lunch lady” is seven minutes long, and not because of the length of the actual song. The song is about 2 minutes with a four minute gap that leads to some random chorus singing and talking. While random talking can be expected to be on intros, interludes, and outros, the 4 minute gap leading to this is frustrating. The length of the gap only adds to the second problem, the brevity of the album. Yet, these are minor critiques.

The Canaries have successfully produced a firecracker of an album that explodes and leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, all of Poke the Machine’s complexities make it an album to be played over and over again…in one sitting.

Tim Wallen

Words Are All We Have

beautifullies( Beautiful Lies – Words Are All We Have


An across-the-board mix of songs from a promising alternative pop/rock band.

Words Are All We Have, the first full-length album from ( Beautiful Lies, encompasses a variety of styles and moods. One of this band’s strong points is the fact that three of their four members wrote songs on the album. While at times the order and placement of the songs feels a little odd, the diversity from Beautiful Lies is also something to be appreciated.

The album opens with the laid-back intro “20/40,” which is light on instrumentation but loaded with lovely vocal harmonies. The song’s only drawback is its brevity. Towards the end of the album, however, this song is extended and added to in its partner “Twenty Forty.”

The opener launches into the much more up tempo and rock-oriented “Cold.” The highlight of this song is definitely the easy-to-remember chorus, where the repetition of lyrics is not at all dull – it’s catchy.

“All Because of You” is a cute pop-rock ditty that also boasts a catchy chorus. What is a little strange about it, however, is that it is immediately followed by the stinging and angry “Stay Away.” But even if the juxtaposition doesn’t quite work, “Stay Away” continues to show the band’s eclecticism. There is a very fast, danceable chorus that is unlike the rest of the album, and the use of synthesizers adds another unique touch.

“Same Things” is a little sparse in the beginning, but it really picks up when the vocal harmonies enter. When the group asks, “Why do I worry about the same things?” I have to agree that the inquiry is a valid one. “Save Yourself” is an energetic rock song that drives forward and builds momentum very well. It transitions to “We Belong in Love,” which is a little cheesy, but adorably peppy at the same time.

One of the standout songs on Words Are All We Have is the ballad “Preparing to Leave,” which has a well-paced development leading to an epic feeling towards its conclusion. The album closes with “The Rain,” a reflective, slower-paced song that fades out in the end. This doesn’t quite match the rest of the album, but “The Rain” is a pretty and meditative song nonetheless. Overall, Words Are All We Have is stylistically far-reaching, but shows that Beautiful Lies has great promise. Beautiful Lies is currently on tour in Europe.

Megan Morgan

A Warm Welcome Back

a-warm-welcome-back_wynnwalenta-warm-welcome-back_sherreea-warm-welcome-back_cheyenne-3a-warm-welcome-back_cheyenne-2a-warm-welcome-back_cheyenne-1A Warm Welcome Back

Cheyenne/Sherree Chamberlain/Wynn Walent

The Opolis, Norman, OK

Monday, March 24th, 2008

While Mondays are usually regarded begrudgingly and with disdain by employees and students alike, the Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma challenged this sentiment on March 24th. It was the Monday after spring break – an extra bummer. But by hosting the Norman-native band Cheyenne, I, for one, was cured of Monday-itis.

The show began with a set from Wynn Walent, an acoustic guitar player with a lot of heart. He shyly stepped onstage wearing an inconspicuous sweatshirt, then tuned and strummed his guitar quietly without a glance at the audience. But when he started to play, Wynn captured the concert-goers’ attention and conversation ceased. He played his guitar quietly, but his voice had a powerful range. In between songs, he was very soft-spoken, clearly a modest and humble performer. Calmly, he asserted to the crowd, “Thanks so much for listening, it really feels good.” Wynn was joined by a violin player towards the end of his set, giving his songs a richer quality. Members of Cheyenne joined him for the last few songs. The sudden volume increase that they added was a bit shocking at first, but the fullness showcased Wynn’s clever songwriting in a new way.

Providing a stark contrast to Wynn Walent’s modest and shy performance was the confident Sherree Chamberlin and her accompanying band. Instead of saying nothing at all or quietly making a comment or two between songs, Sherree bantered about goofy things that have happened to her recently. Her anecdotes were unplanned and spontaneous, and always got the crowd laughing. At one point, she told the audience a story about parenting that she observed in a dressing room. Apparently, there was a mother who was swearing at her toddler to shut up, but he just kept talking and bothering her. Then in a fit of anger, Sherree told the crowd that the mother actually said to her son, “Shut up or I’m going to tear your face off!” With a big smile, Sherree dedicated her next song to “the little toddler with the torn-off face.”

Sherree performed most of her songs with a drummer, bassist, and male backup singer. It was actually pretty refreshing to hear a female vocalist with a male backup – the combo is a bit rare. She switched between acoustic guitar and keyboard throughout her set, but I found the songs she performed on keyboard the strongest. Sherree’s lyrics were generally very thoughtful, deep and full of conflict, which wouldn’t be expected after hearing her cheerful introductory chatter between tunes. Sometimes, especially during songs where Sherree sung and played by herself, she could just about tear your heart out, but then as soon as the song came to its conclusion, she would launch into another joke or story.

But then came Cheyenne’s turn to rock the stage. As soon as the group came onstage, they brought an instant energy and dynamism that showed they were completely comfortable and excited about the show. This made even more sense after finding out that the group was originally from Norman, Oklahoma. Fittingly, band member Beau Jennings said that playing at The Opolis felt like home, and that it seemed like he knew everyone in attendance. By interacting with each other onstage and with the crowd, it was obvious that they felt at ease and that many fans were there.

Cheyenne is a four-member group, but added an organ player, who was introduced as “Crazy Kenny,” for their current tour. This gave them a much louder and fuller sound than the opening performers, and even energized the crowd into moving around a little. From what I heard of their music, Cheyenne mixes energetic indie rock with folk and country influences, producing a well-blended sound. The group played many new songs from their recently-released album The Whale.

By keeping the pauses between songs short and by constantly moving around, Cheyenne kept the energy up throughout their set. They also brought back their opener Wynn Walent, who sang a few songs with Cheyenne onstage. When solo performer and member of The Starlight Mints Ryan Lindsey was invited up, he consented and played one song with the group. Elliot Walker, Cheyenne’s new bass player, laughingly shouted the chords to Ryan on keyboard during the song, and by doing so, created an even friendlier atmosphere. It was clear that they were enjoying themselves, and the mood was infectious. When watching a group doing what they love, how could warm feelings not be contagious? The homey environment made me feel gladder than ever to be back in Norman, and even transformed the usually-mundane Monday.

–         Megan Morgan


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.

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