Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Mid-may video jam

May 18, 2013

Remember how I was raving about Little Chief‘s gentle-yet-enthusiastic folk a little while ago? WELL RAVE ON, MY FRIENDS:

All Julianna Barwick needs on “Forever” is four female vocalists and some ambient synths to create transcendent beauty. This is one of the most gorgeous tracks I’ve heard all year.

If you love James Taylor, America, and that Nashville folk sound from the ’70s, “Shed a Little Light” by Winter Mountain is going to be on your good list. You will hum and sing.

So I just found out that students from Hocking College are behind the Robbins Crossing sessions, which is A. Completely awesome and B. Completely jealousy-making for this ex-journalism undergrad. In this version, Decker (of Belle Histoire) brings her clear, emotive vocals to bear over an acoustic guitar in a historic cabin. Sweet.

Interstitial Summer Mix

May 17, 2013

So I went running this morning, and it was actually hot. Summer is creeping in, y’all!

Interstitial Summer mix

1. “Confidence” – The Dodos. Here’s a jaw-dropping fusion of intricate guitarwork, indie-rock bombast, and pop sensibility. Thrilled to hear this album.
2. “Southern Belle” – The Radio Reds. Pop-punk is where I’m from, and it’s where I go in summer. This bass-heavy tune reminds me of Titus Andronicus due to the atypical vocal rhythms of the vocalist. Great stuff.
3. “Baton” – Pan. My favorite gleeful post-rockers are back, emphasis on the rock … and the violin.
4. “Back to Bellevue” – Challenger. Summer mixes can always use more ’80s-inspired electro-pop, especially when it’s as bouncy and charming as Challenger’s.
5. “If It Speaks” – Hospital Ships. Hospital Ships plays indie-rock that I immediately recognize but can’t place. Their tunes come from a deep understanding of how indie-rock works, circa 2013. Mighty.
6. “Make It Home” – Hoodie Allen feat. Kina Grannis. Hoodie drops the studio version of the track he and Kina Grannis wrote for Fuze. It starts out with voice and acoustic guitar, but it’s a block party by the halfway point (complete with huge horn sample). The Mets still get a shout-out. It’s still awesome.
7. “You’re Turning From” – Fiery Crash. No summer mix is complete without a lazy, hazy poolside jam.
8. “The Hypnotist” – Owls of the Swamp. And no self-respecting summer mix wouldn’t include a midnight makeout track either, and this Australian indie-folk gem fits the bill perfectly. Swirling, mysterious, and beautiful.

Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of the Postal Service releases today!

May 15, 2013

NeverGiveUp

The Postal Service’s Give Up has been hugely influential in my music-reviewing life, so it is with great pleasure that I can announce today’s release of Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of The Postal Service! It is exclusively available at the Independent Clauses Bandcamp.

This project has been a microcosm of my whole 10 years running this blog: a little idea that got bigger and bigger with help from all sorts of people who pitched in. Massive thanks go out to The Carradini Family, Uncle David and Aunt Rose, the Lubbers Family, Neil Sabatino & Mint 400 Records, Albert & Katy, Drew Shahan, Odysseus, Joseph Carradini, Jeffrey M. Hinton, Esq., @codybrom a.k.a Xpress-O, Conner ‘Raconteur’ Ferguson, Janelle Ghana Whitehead, Tyler “sk” Robinson, Jake Grant, Anat Earon, Zack Lapinski, Mila, Tom & April Graney, Stephen Carradini, Theo Webb, Jesse C, D. G. Ross, Martin & Skadi, Jacob Presson, Michelle Bui, and Elle Knop.

The first 200 downloads of the album are free, so go get ’em while they’re available! (The price is $4 a side once the freebies are gone.) The streaming will always be free, so if nothing else you can go listen to some sweet tunes from some of Independent Clauses’ favorite bands. Once again, thanks to all who contributed in any way, both to the project and to Independent Clauses’ last 10 years. It’s been a thrilling, wild ride.

Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of the Postal Service

Folk side
1. The Collection – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
2. Venna – “Such Great Heights
3. Seven Handle Circus – “Such Great Heights
4. Andrea Caccese (of I Used to Be a Sparrow and Songs for the Sleepwalkers) – “Sleeping In
5. The Duke of Norfolk – “Nothing Better
6. The Lion of Tallasi – “Recycled Air
7. The Parmesans – “Clark Gable
8. Jenny and Tyler – “We Will Become Silhouettes
9. Carl Hauck – “This Place is a Prison
10. The Noise Revival Orchestra – “Brand New Colony
11. The Midnight Sons – “Natural Anthem

Indie-pop side
1. Fairmont – “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
2. Kris Orlowski – “Such Great Heights
3. The Lovely Few – “Sleeping In
4. Oh Look Out – “Nothing Better
5. Josh Caress (of Come On Pilgrim!) – “Recycled Air
6. Dr. Pants – “Clark Gable
7. Young Readers – “We Will Become Silhouettes
8. Western Romantic – “This Place Is a Prison
9. Decent Lovers & Seer Group – “Brand New Colony
10. Gregory Pepper & His Problems – “Natural Anthem

Winter Won't Go Without a Fight Mix

May 9, 2013

We’re moving ever closer to summer! We’ve almost emerged from the wintry doldrums! I must play as much wintry, doldrum-y music as I can before it’s June and that sort of music gets weird! The first three are sunshiny, the back five are chilly and reminiscent of snow (or at least dead leaves).

Winter Won’t Go Without A Fight Mix

1. “Dance Until Three” – Hey Anna. Just do what they say, as summer comes.
2. “Knock Yourself Out” – Slow Buildings. Guitar rock never dies, it just grows another appendage. Nice wiry, spry tune here with a surf-rock-inspired chorus.
3. “W.T.A.” – The Miners. Like The Killers, how had this name not been taken? These Philadelphians peddle story-tellin’ alt-country that makes the most of pedal-steel and six-string interactions.
4. “Hold On” – Sons of the East. Because Mumford and Sons don’t tour Australia enough.
5. “Common Year” – Thomas. I used to turn to Pedro the Lion for morose indie-rock like this, but now that’s not a thing, so I’m thrilled that Thomas is here to alleviate some of that hole in my heart.
6. “My Own” – Morgan Manifacier. Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear haven’t collaborated yet (to the best of my knowledge), but I imagine this tune would be sorta what they’d come up with. This one balances lush chamber-folk arrangements and stark moods effortlessly.
7. “Life in the Paint (Jesu Remix)” – Challenger. Like the Challenger remix we debuted, Jesu’s wide-eyed take on “Life in the Paint” strips out the original layers of synths to cut right at the heart of the tune. Cool stuff going on with these remixes.
8. “Liquid Gold” – Archie Atholl. A calming, wintry piano tune to close out the evening.

April Showers Bring May … videos

May 8, 2013

David Ramirez dropped an absolutely mindblowing EP named The Rooster yesterday, and “The Bad Days” is the first cut from the release. If you like singer/songwriters or folk or country or whatever we’re calling it these days, check this out: David Ramirez is winning the game. I’ll have a full rave about it in a few days, but right now, this:

Hoodie Allen has largely graduated from the indie-rock-flipping beats that made me fall in love with him, so it’s nice to hear him doing stuff that kinda goes in that direction. This track is a collaboration with acoustic singer/songwriter Kina Grannis, and it’s pretty awesome. Furthermore, the Mets get a shout-out, so I’m automatically in love with the track. Kina and Hoodie also covered “Anna Sun” by Walk the Moon, which was pretty legit too.

Dresses is from Portland, which explains why the video for jubilant indie-pop tune “Sun Shy” could be called “How to Hipster, 2013 Edition.” I love everything about the song and the video. Holla.

If you’ve got 18 minutes to experience some beautiful tunes, Adam Remnant (of rambunctious alt-country outfit Southeast Engine) debuted four brilliant new acoustic songs on a front porch in the middle of the woods. His weary tenor voice is in full glory in that atmosphere, evocative to a heartbreaking point. Yes. You want to listen to this.

Eoin Glackin delivers folk tunes with the poise and skill of a veteran

May 7, 2013

Rain Finally Came by Eoin Glackin

Singer/songwriters can work for a decade to find a unique voice, which is what makes it astounding when a sophomore release contains a unique perspective on things, musically or lyrically. Eoin Glackin‘s Rain Finally Came provides a fresh take on both, delivering well-penned observations in a recognizably distinct melodic idiom.

Glackin’s sound falls between the sweeping melodic excursions of Josh Ritter and the soaring yawp of latter-day Mountain Goats, as he fills his strumming with sprightly vocal and instrumental melodies. Opener “Dancing Anymore” and the title track pair tight melody-writing with arrangements that never distract from his passionate voice. Highlight track “New World Blue” is an immediately arresting tune that includes clapping, a swooning violin, and a memorable vocal hook in the chorus; you’ll be humming this one for a while. If you listen to the whole album, you’ll start to recognize his cadence and delivery: it’s the little ways he inflects his words and rhythms that make his sound distinct.

Since he showed he can strum with the best of ’em in “New World Blue,” Glackin decided to flex his lyrical muscles on the next track, “Mrs. Campbell.” It’s a protest song that doesn’t come off as cloying or privileged: it strikes just the right balance of pathos and logos to protest an innocent bystander killed by gang fighting. “It can only happen to bad people/in bad neighborhoods/I’m sorry, Mrs. Campbell/Your son is gone for good,” Glackin sings, in a stark indictment of the rhetoric of “safe.” “Last Night in This Town” is a descriptive story-song reminiscent of Counting Crows’ first album (which is a huge compliment from over here). The quiet “What Am I to You?” is a plea for clarity from a lover. Each of these lyric sets are pulled off with surprising clarity and turn of phrase that I would not expect from someone this young.

The first seven songs are incredibly dense collection, while tracks 8-10 provide a bit of breather: simpler songs that don’t aspire to as much complexity melodic or lyrical complexity. But the songwriting picks back up in difficulty for the closer: the nearly-8-minute “The Hour’s Gone Too Late (For Holding Hands)” pairs a pitch-perfect vocal delivery with a weary, descriptive lyric. It reminded me of Josh Ritter’s “Thin Blue Line,” which is another lengthy tune with huge impact.

Eoin Glackin is the sort of singer that I can’t remember hearing for the first time: the first time I heard Rain Finally Came, it seems like I had already known about the music forever. It’s a rare album that delivers that level of comfort on the first listen without shamelessly ripping off another artist. There are shades of Dylan, Counting Crows, Johnny Flynn, and more in Glackin’s sound, but the resulting mix is his own. I’m vastly impressed by Rain Finally Came, and I look forward to great things for and from Eoin Glackin. If you’re into singer/songwriters, do yourself a favor and check out the album. It’s wonderful.

Bells and Hunters / Time Travels

May 3, 2013

bellsandhunters

Bells and Hunters wastes no time announcing that they are something different. By 1:25 into the opener (which is also the title track) of Weddings and Funerals, the band has given listeners a spacey intro; a garagey, overdriven guitar riff; rapid-fire ’90s-style female speak-sing; a trumpet line; some accentuated guitar arpeggiation; and a pop-punk- inflected breakdown. This is not what you normally listen to, unless there are some No Doubt B-sides that sound like this in your catalog. This weird-but-cool garage-rock takes an even weirder turn in the next track: “73” is a slow-paced alt-country tune whose only connection to the previous tune is the particular style of guitar picking. (They even bring in a male vocalist halfway through, mixing it up more.) Bells and Hunters are not afraid to experiment.

Those two tunes show good extremes of Bells and Hunters’ sound, as the rest of the album sees the band combining those two sounds liberally. (They do hit the distortion pedal at the end of “73,” but it still sounds like Old 97s-style alt-country instead of garage-rock.) “Bird” starts off with dainty sounds and jaunty rhythms–like an Andrew Bird piece–but incorporates some majorly Weezer-esque guitar stomp by the end of the tune. Highlight track “Mercury” starts off with some ominous guitar picking and tom beating before bringing in a spaghetti western trumpet line, fusing the intensity that they bring with their garage-rock to a quieter arrangement. (Never fear, though: they let the drums go nuts on the cymbals, dirtying up the sound almost as much as the fuzzbox would.) “Planes” is basically a finger-picked folk song blown out by a garage-rock band. It sounds awesome, if a bit foreign to ears unaccustomed to it.

Bells and Hunters’ sound is an exciting and interesting one, exploring spaces between genres. I’ve mentioned Steven Hyden’s dictum about the future of music before (“a future where all music sounds like everything at once“), and it seems that Bells and Hunters are ready for that bold future. This is a creative, inventive, interesting take on two different genres. If you’re up for something unusual, check out Weddings and Funerals.

timetravels

The Old 97s are a touchstone for Time Travels‘ sound as well. Where Bells and Hunters reminded me of Rhett Miller and Co.’s louder bits, Time Travels reminds me of the band’s softer side. Secret EP puts the emotive side of alt-country on display, with opener “It is.” leaning heavily on a remorseful, emotive vocal performance. Frank McGinnis has the soaring tenor pipes for the adult alternative genre, and the sweeping crescendoes of “It is.” do swing toward the Matt Nathanson/Goo Goo Dolls/Ben Rector style. But instead of getting mushy and cloying in their more upbeat stuff (like Matt Nathanson has a tendency to do), Time Travels takes after Ben Rector by sticking to a more upbeat, staccato, rock-influenced style in the title track.

The rest of the five-song EP leans closer to the emotive power-pop of the opener, with admirable vocal turns in “The Eye” and “Wraith” (check that falsetto!). “Wraith” also has some nice bass work, which I particularly like. Time Travels have two very different directions they can head from the Secret EP, so it will be interesting to see if they veer off on a path or keeping splitting the distance. Until further information is available, I’ll enjoy the upbeat “Secret” and lullaby-esque “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

Premiere: Titles' "Be Not Afraid"

May 2, 2013

titles

I am frequently reminded that the world can be a scary place. But we shouldn’t live in fear, as indie-pop band Titles is quick to remind us with “Be Not Afraid.” The tune repeats the title as a mantra, giving listeners something to hum to themselves as they go about their day. The song is built off sleigh bells and low-slung synths, creating a tension between the analog and the electric that neatly approximates that tension between that which we are afraid of and that which we hope for. It’s a beautiful, memorable tune.

Download “Be Not Afraid.”

“Be Not Afraid” comes from Titles’ recently released Modern Sounds in Science Fiction, which is sadly the last hurrah for the outfit. However, their final statement has been committed to vinyl via Safety Meeting Records, so you can have “Be Not Afraid” and 11 more tunes on wax if you’re into the sound.

To get you further into that sound, here’s a video the band just released for the tune “Stone Boat,” another solid indie-pop track off Science Fiction. The video plays off disorienting images of the ocean that correspond with the hazy intro to the track. But the overarching sonic optimism of “Stone Boat” transcends your average hazy pop tune and gives it a warm, lush feeling that I deeply enjoy.

Such Great Heights 3-song single released!

May 1, 2013

NeverGiveUp

So, back in February I announced that Independent Clauses is organizing a 20-band compilation album covering Give Up by The Postal Service as a 10th birthday celebration. Well, the full release of the now-21-band album is two weeks from today! To get everyone excited about this, we decided to drop a three-song single in advance. And that’s live today!

You can go to Independent Clauses’ Bandcamp and check out three versions of “Such Great Heights” from Kris Orlowski, Seven Handle Circus, and Venna. They each put a distinct spin on the song, which just shows the incredible quality of the tune.

The first 250 downloads are free! Stay tuned for more tunes on May 15!

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

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