Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Premiere: Autumn Owls' "Spider"

March 8, 2013

Autumn Owls describe their sound as “deconstructed folk,” but their Between Buildings, Toward the Sea sounds more like Radiohead than folk. Little did I know that they were actually describing their method, not their end result: the band wrote all the songs on acoustic guitar, then transformed them into the pieces on the album. (It appears that they are even more “thoughtful in composition” than I realized when I named them to my Best of 2012 list!) They’re showing the other side of the coin now, by releasing the whole album in acoustic form under the title The Long Way Around. I am thrilled, because folk is largely what we do here.

Even more exciting is that I have the honor of debuting a free download of “Spider.” The acoustic version takes the cold, haunting, glitchy soundscape of the BBTTS version and humanizes the longing of the tune through a renewed prominence on the vocals. It’s a compelling tune in both renditions, showing off different aspects of the song.

Download “Spider (Acoustic).”

You can check out the album on iTunes or wait for the whole thing to be released via blogs (like this one!) or the forthcoming app. You can check Autumn Owls‘ website to get the skinny on the next blogs that will be hosting the free tracks. I think this is a really cool project by a great band, so I’m all for this.

I can't get The Gray Havens' indie-pop out of my head

March 7, 2013

grayhavens

It appears that I can’t get enough of guy/girl duos. Venna, Jenny and Tyler, Destroy Nate Allen!, Matt and Kim, and Mates of State are some of my favorite bands that I’ve covered here at Independent Clauses, and each fall into the aforementioned category. You can add The Gray Havens to that list, as their EP Where Eyes Don’t Go has swept me off my feet.

The duo fits somewhere between Mates of State’s piano-heavy indie-pop and Jenny and Tyler’s pop-folk. Dave and Licia Radford combine ukulele, piano and acoustic guitar to create pop songs with folk instrumentation that are near-impossible to wrest from my brain. From the perky, Weepies-esque strum and clap of “Let’s Get Married” to the orchestrated sweep of “Where It Goes” and “Music from a Garden,” The Gray Havens show their melodic talents in diverse ways. Dave Radford is the primary vocalist, and his smooth voice fits perfectly in the genre; his rhythmic and tonal flair in delivering the melodies is one of the most engaging elements of their sound. Although featured less, Licia Radford’s soprano voice is charming as well (“Let’s Get Married”).

The duo has more than just pretty melodies up their sleeves. “Silver” incorporates a horn section and accordion, which are both sure-fire ways to get me on board with your tune. While “Silver” is the most triumphantly catchy tune of the bunch (due to the horns and some great background vocals), the most unique tune is “Train Station,” which actually mocks up the sound of a train moving with guitar rhythms and percussion. But even with their arrangement skills, the simple “Let’s Get Married” is the tune that I keep humming to myself. It’s just wonderful.

If you’re into precise, upbeat indie-pop with an acoustic bent, you need to check out The Gray Havens’ Where Eyes Don’t Go. Their infectious melodies and creative songwriting touches make for a very engaging listen. Expect to hear much more from this duo in the future.

Quick Hits: New Tongues

March 6, 2013

newtongues

The intersection of post-rock, post-hardcore and punk has often been one of interest to me. It’s a hard thing to nail, especially since The Felix Culpa pretty much established the bar at nigh-on unachievable levels. But New Tongues offer a strong new voice into the mix.

The awesome, DIY title of We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For points back to the era that the band wants to invoke, as well as the practice of listing their album on Bandcamp by “Side A” and “Side B.” (They have an alternate listing for two singles.) Since Bandcamp streams to the next song automatically, it’s more of an aesthetic appeal than a semantic one; still, that means something to me.

The tunes are a gruff mix of distorted bass, pounding drums, shouted vocals and angular guitars. That definition sounds like a lot of bands, but New Tongues put it together with a great control over the atmospheres that they create. They use space, rhythms and distinct song sections to really create the feelings that they want. The band relies on these songwriting skills instead of on walls of distortion, ferocious screaming or virtuosic instrumental performances. This is a band, not a project of one individual person. The arpeggiated chords that open “Old Mouths” fit perfectly with the grumbling bass and precise drums. It feels organic and real, which is a feeling that I lose a lot in post-hardcore.

There aren’t very many singalongs here, if any; that’s not the point of this album. However, it is a testament to the grit and guts of three people (listed old-school style: J. Nardy, S. Johnson, M. Quinn) who know what they’re about and do it well. If you’re into post-hardcore that leans to the post- side instead of the -hardcore side, you should check out New Tongues’ We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For.

Quick Hit: Todd Kessler and the New Folk

March 5, 2013

toddkessler

Even though Todd Kessler‘s band is called The New Folk, the sound of Sea Fever is closer to the ornate acoustic pop of Andrew Belle and David Mead. Although some might balk at this, this is no qualm with me: I’m a fan of this style when it’s done well. And Kessler does it well, neatly balancing complex arrangements with a vocals-centric focus. At times this leads him into very precise, Andrew Bird-esque territory (“First Sip,” “Intangible”)–especially with the plucked violin that these tunes employ.

Tunes like “Zen Lunatics” and “Holes in the Floor” sit other end of the spectrum, employing crunchy distorted guitars and stomping rhythms. It’s not rock, per se–the theatrical “Holes in the Floor” employs careening, burlesque horns–but it’s certainly not delicate indie-pop either. The most memorable turns come when Kessler splits the difference, toning down some of the more intricate arrangements while also not going full-on pop blast. “Oh Brother” and single “Hallelujah” live in this space, and it’s a good one for him.

Kessler’s pop hooks and arrangements are both very strong, making Sea Fever a release that fans of thoughtful pop music definitely should invest time in. I look forward to seeing what Kessler comes up with next.

Quick Hit: Legato Vipers

March 4, 2013

legatovipers

So, the last semester before graduating with a master’s degree has put a serious crimp in my music reviewing time. Who knew, right? But I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to the enthusiastic instrumental surf-punk of Legato Vipers and their album Quick Slug. Some surf-punk comes off as derivative or cheesy, but LV have convinced me that they mean it. Their infectious energy is tempered with a restraint that says, “Yeah, we know what we’re doing here.” These aren’t giddy kids amused at the effects their pedals can make, these are songwriters who are doing their thing in a chosen genre. Opener “Talkback Mikhail” blasts out of the starting gate with incredible melodies and a fantastic groove  that creates a genuinely exciting atmosphere. “Spy Vs. Spy” does the same thing.

If you needed to be convinced further, here’s a video of them playing while roller derby is going on. AWESOME.

If you still need convincing, you can buy the album with an engraved flask or a switchblade comb. Seriously.

On Submitting

March 2, 2013

I’ve spent almost ten years receiving PR from bands, but I’m just now foraying into the other side of things by creating press pitches. I was surprised to find that even though I’d been reading them for years, I was oddly stumped when it came to writing one. So, after much trial and error, I’ve found something that I like and that gets the information out quickly.

At the same time that I’ve been diversifying into other areas of the music endeavor, I’ve been getting a ton more pitches than usual. Growth is good, but it does require new structures to manage the volume. So! I’m implementing a new submissions policy starting today. I won’t ruthlessly delete pitches that don’t adhere to this model, but I will send back an e-mail asking for your information re-stated in the below format. I have also included this information on the Submissions tab. Here’s what I’m looking for.

Introduction,

Where are you from? What is your genre? What are you promoting? How long (in songs) is the EP or album? What are two or three bands you sound like? Why are you contacting me (did someone refer you? did you find us through another blog? Personalization is important.) Make sure to link to your website in here, preferably hyperlinked to your band name.

Title
Release Date/Release Label (if any, self-released is 100% cool)
Streaming Link(s)
Download Link (I vastly prefer download codes from Bandcamp)
Single? Available to post?
Purchase links, if you want me to post them
Any other info (link to press page or Dropbox with photos would work here)
Outro sentence

Here’s an example from The Duke of Norfolk.

Hello!

My name is Adam Howard. I currently live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and record music under the name The Duke of Norfolk. I have just released a 5-track EP about the importance of seizing the day entitled Le Monde Tourne Toujours. People often tell me that I have a sound similar to that of old-school Sufjan Stevens, Josh Ritter, or Tallest Man on Earth.

I’m contacting Independent Clauses because of your past coverage of the Tallest Man on Earth. If you’re interested, I’d love to hear what you think about the EP. Here are the details:

Le Monde Tourne Toujours
Out 1/29/13 on Mint 400 Records

Streaming: Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Spotify

Press Download Link: http://thedukeofnorfolk.bandcamp.com/yum
Press Download Code (Unique): xb3p-6mmmm

Free download of “Thanatophobia” available to post
Interviews available

Purchase: iTunes | Amazon

Thank you for your consideration!

Adam Howard
The Duke of Norfolk
booking@thedukeofnorfolk.com

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

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