Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

In celebration, a video from Hoodie Allen

October 27, 2011

Do you guys have a job where your boss asks you find and present a music video do describe the cinematographic concept of even weighting? Apparently I do, and so Archer Black’s brand-new video was broadcast to 25 otherwise unsuspecting students today. In honor of the greatest teaching job ever, here’s another music video.

Hoodie Allen‘s Leap Year is an excellent mixtape, and “James Franco” is the cream of the crop when it comes to Allen’s hyper-kinetic, name-droppin’, indie-rock-appropriating rap. The video is appropriately hectic, cramming what I’m convinced is every interesting thing in Hollywood into one video. Except one thing:

Archer Black's video actually means something!

October 26, 2011

I’m already starting to spread the word on Pete Davis’ The Pottsville Conglomerate, because it’s 95 minutes of awesome. Because it’s the length of 3ish albums and 6ish EPs, it’s gonna take a little longer than usual to review. But fans of Sufjan’s most bombastic moments should start listening to it now.

In lieu of a review, here’s a stunner of a video from Archer Black, for “Onward and Down.” I love videos that tell a story, and this one’s simple but powerful. The song is also incredible, like Beirut channeling The National.

I thought Tin Can Radio’s “Hot Trash” proved that the whole continent of Australia has a Bloc Party thing, but then there’s a Vampire Weekend/Phoenix chorus that throws a really interesting wrench in my snarky aside.

Finally, SLTM the Podcast just posted edition #125, which is a pretty big milestone. Congrats to Brad Bugos and the rest of the SLTM!

Fairmont releases a remarkably effective Retrospective

October 24, 2011

Retrospectives and “Greatest Hits” albums are an iffy proposition. Record labels have proven to not be very effective at gauging which songs are worthy, while bands themselves haven’t done much better. Thankfully, Neil Sabatino (he who is Fairmont, along with whoever else is in the room at the time) understands what makes his band excellent.

Sabatino’s recognition that great vocal lines, hooky guitar riffs and concise songwriting are Fairmont’s strong suit makes Retrospective easily the best collection of Fairmont tunes yet. And that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.

The new “White Light” kicks off the set, and its Brit-rock undertones (Oasis!) are almost as surprising as the continuing shift back toward acoustic-led songs. The Meadow at Dusk EP featured acoustic guitars in an upbeat manner, but I can’t think of an album employing them to this level of seriousness or import since 2003’s Anomie. This, to me, is less of a throwback and more of a welcome home party: Anomie is the release that caused my much younger self to gush, “The members of Fairmont are on their way to becoming indie rock gods in the eyes of the public. I know they’re already immortalized in my mind.”

Regardless of this statement’s truth (I have reviewed every Fairmont release since Anomie favorably, if not exactly in as glowing terms), my early exuberance missed a fundamental element of Fairmont’s ethos: Sabatino and co. is more like the Mountain Goats than Death Cab for Cutie. Thoughtful songs with bitter-yet-clever lyrics dominate the proceedings here, as the songs primarily stick in the guitar-rock area of the spectrum. These songs, while occasionally going for the big pop hook, most often stay in the sleek, slick, low-to-the-ground mode.

However, Fairmont takes a swing at this theory by putting “Being & Nothingness” as the second track of the album and the first real “retrospective” track. Transcendence had a demonstrably theatrical bent, and this was best embodied in the 5:29 of “Being & Nothingness.” There are sleigh bells, choirs, lots of turns in the songwriting and a huge build-up to the end. The song feels far more personal than other Fairmont tunes, as the embattled bitterness is dropped for a more wounded anger over the loss of naivete. I have no idea whether it has any more connection to Sabatino than the violent escapist fantasy “At the End of the Movie,” or if the appropriated genre lends more “connection” to the tune, but for whatever reason it’s most immediately jaw-dropping song Fairmont has penned.

It’s little like the rest of the tunes on the album, but it’s the best one, and Fairmont acknowledges that. That’s gutsy and admirable, as evidence of how thoughtfully constructed this retrospective is.

The rest of the 50 minutes unfolds in a very enjoyable manner. Fairmont has gone through many iterations in the past ten years, and many of them are well-represented here. The Meadow at Dusk EP contributes two tunes that bring a levity to the album via calmer songs and the contributions of a great female vocalist counterpointing Sabatino. The cover of “Melt With You” (which IC featured on its 7th birthday EP!) is downright chipper. The rockers “Sometimes I’m Bitter,” “The Monster You’ve Become” and “Suspicion Haunts the Guilty Mind” are spread neatly throughout the album as anchors.

Retrospectives and greatest hits should serve to give people an intro to a band, and Fairmont‘s Retrospective: 2001-2011 will do exactly that for the uninitiated. For longtime fans, it accomplishes the rare feat in accumulating a great deal of the songs I actually want to hear from Fairmont. (I would have included “Happiness is a Million Miles Away,” but if I only have one quibble, that’s impressive.) If you’re into guitar-rock, thoughtful lyrics, Jean-Paul Sartre references or uniquely catchy songs, you’ll want to check this release.

Dylan Gilbert's afternoons are more productive than mine

October 23, 2011

Here’s a case study that explains how the prolific Dylan Gilbert became so accomplished: He’s the type of guy who thinks writing, recording and releasing a single is all in a day’s afternoon’s work.

Sure, it’s an acoustic track; but it’s one that calls up musical Neutral Milk Hotel references, which is always a good thing. The lyrics have to do with dirty deeds and redemption — timeless and powerful themes, yo. The vocal performance is nothing if not impassioned. There’s a melodic hook in the chorus, and some structural drama thrown in for good measure. What else do you want?

Dylan Gilbert knows how to write a great song, making “Shriving Pew” quite worth the 1:48 run time.

Quick Hit: Thomas Neptune

October 19, 2011

Here’s the inaugurual Independent Clauses free association music review. Whatever comes to mind when you see these phrases is all you will need to know about Thomas Neptune:

Matchbox 20, OneRepublic, Goo Goo Dolls, Maroon 5, anthemic pop.

If you’re nodding your head enthusiastically, you need to get your hands on a copy of Neptune’s Down to Earth EP. He’s got the songwriting skill to make it with the big boys, especially as displayed in the stadium-filling “Unbreakable” and the celebratory “My Ohio.” “We’re Beautiful” shows his Matt Nathanson/Jason Mraz side, as well. If you’re into modern radio pop (and I do love a good pop song), then you should be all over this.

(However, I can’t support his excessive use of his own picture in promo materials. It’s just weird.)

Quick Hits: Kris Orlowski/Cub Scouts/Teleprompter

October 18, 2011

A trio of interesting things arrived in my mailbox today. Tomorrow will see the return of CD reviews with an IC fave, but today is about the quick hitters.

Kris Orlowski, whose songwriting I praised as on the horizon earlier this year, has made good on his potential with “Way You Are” off his upcoming release Warsaw. Imagine the emotional, earthy qualities of Joseph Arthur mixed with the stark beauty of High Violet-era The National. Needless to say, your ears are in for a treat:

On the far opposite end of the spectrum, the perky indie-pop-rock of Cub Scouts’ “Evie” has more in common with the effervescent energy of Givers (check those steel drums!) and Phoenix than mopey indie-rockers. If you need a pick-me-up after that last tune, these Aussies will provide.

And because one set of Australians is never enough, here’s the clever and hilarious video for Teleprompter’s “Dinobot,” off the band’s self-titled EP that I loved. If you’re a fan of Bloc Party and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, your day is about to be made. And it’s going to be uber-made if you like Godzilla-esque town-destroying and/or charmingly low-fi sets.

Come On Pilgrim! wins.

October 17, 2011

Come On Pilgrim! (which includes IC fave Josh Caress) successfully completed its Kickstarter campaign today. I am so stoked about this that I’m reposting the band’s Kickstarter video, because it has “The Region of the Summer Stars” in it. I am so, so excited for this album.

In celebration, I spent the whole day listening to my favorite Josh Caress album, Letting Go of a Dream. I listened to it five times straight through.

Tiny Mountains' indie hip-hop is intricate and intriguing

October 16, 2011

If I had to make a list of my favorite musical characteristics, it would look like this:

1. Melody
2. Rhythm
3. Bass
4. Lyrics

This means that I have a predisposition towards hip-hop and rap. The reason you don’t see more of it on IC is that I can’t stomach misogyny or braggadocio, effectively un-predisposing me to rap. K’Naan is the only rapper I’ve ever had any desire to see live, and he made us all leave more hopeful about the world than we were coming in. Yes x100.

This is why Tiny Mountains is such a fascinating project to me. Elijah Wyman — one of my favorite acoustic songwriters ever — decided to make some indie hip-hop. These tracks aren’t gimmicks, nor are they other people’s indie-rock appropriated as beats. The five tracks currently released on the humorously named If you like this share it with yr friends. If you don’t, share it with yr enemies. mixtape are original creations, musically and lyrically.

The tracks run the gamut. “Money In Yr Pocket” sounds like someone chopped and sped up an indie-pop tune, then added Wyman’s frantic vocals. “4Play” even further integrates hip-hop songwriting constructions with indie techniques: It is entirely unsurprising that Age of Adz-era Sufjan is a quick connection.

On the other hand, “I’m Happy All the Time (Sad Hawaii Version)” is some sort of alternate-universe, autoharp-heavy Bon Iver slow jam thing. It resists description, other than that I can’t get the sung chorus out of my head. “Local Honey (Brooklyn Rules Football Mix),” has an easy groove that provides the best showcase for Wyman’s indie-fied, occasionally inscrutable lyrics and versatile voice.

The songs of Tiny Mountains are intricately constructed, idiosyncratic (check all the self-imposed rules for the songwriting process), intriguing and engaging. Wyman has removed himself from the singer/songwriter game and made himself into a fascinating enigma. I’m looking forward to his future tunes as he gets better and better at being Tiny Mountains. You should be interested too. Check the tunes for free here.

The weekly round-up

October 15, 2011

The prolific Dylan Gilbert is offering up 50 tunes that he recorded between 2005-2011 as a pay-what-you-want download. That’s roughly an 8-song album per year of indie-rock that is now at your fingertips. I’m not going lie and say I’ve heard it all, but random clicking has enlightened me to the great “Oh No Oh Now I Know.” Start there or at the beginning if you’re interested.

SoundCloud just put out this interesting and clever video about sound. For those who wonder why “sound” instead of “music,” check out this beautiful thing.

Icona Pop‘s “Manners” blew up in part due to being featured on one of Kitsune‘s compilation albums. Icona Pop took that and ran with it, putting out “Nights Like This.” It’s another incredible song, and it now has this weird and wild video:

Kitsune’s 12th compilation album drops November 14, and a quick North American tour promoing it starts next week.

10/19 – Electric Owl, Vancouver w/ Beataucue + Database
10/20 – Good Units, New York, NY w/ RAC, Is Tropical, Database, Beataucue + Gildas
10/22 – Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO w/ RAC, Database + Beataucue
10/26 – Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA w/ Is Tropical, Database + Beataucue
10/27 – PM Lounge, Dallas, TX w/ Database + Beataucue
10/28 – White Room, Miami, FL w/ Database + French Horn Rebellion
10/29 – Terraza Uroboros, Mexico City w/ Is Tropical, Beataucue + Database

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

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