Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

April Videos, pt 1!

May 5, 2014

So it’s May, but I didn’t get around to posting videos in April, because it was hectic busy. (Things are slowing down now, thanks!) Here we go:

A Tribe Called Red’s “Sisters” is visually impressive, sonically fun, and engaging for the entire duration of the video.

Andrew Belle’s “Sister” (did not plan that at all) is a moving, elegant song with a moving, interesting video. I’m reminded of Where the Wild Things Are, but … different.

Kris Orlowski has built from folk to cinematic folk to full-on cinematic indie-rock. “Fighting the War” pulls out all the stops on that last front, throwing up an infectious indie-rock anthem for your enjoyment.

Singer/songwriter Todd Kessler’s gorgeous, digitally-animated “Put You in My Pocket” clip is very worth your time:

Brittany Jean and Will Copps defy your paltry notions of genre

May 2, 2014

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Brittany Jean and Will Copps are a tough act to place. Jean brings emotive songwriting that often springs from an acoustic guitar, while Copps brings swirling waves of electronics to the sound. The result is Places, an album that defies genre conventions in a completely satisfying way.

I suppose it’s easiest to start at the most recognizable and work to the least. “How Is the Weather?” features Jean’s voice and guitar-based songwriting in a quiet tune reminiscent of Wye Oak’s work. There’s a lot of tension swirling around, both in the forefront and the background: that tension is an element that persists through the record, whether it’s Jean or Copps leading.

Copps leads opener “Sandbridge,” a song that relies heavily on giant synth washes, Jean’s soaring vocals, and intricate production more than the very interesting guitar line. By the middle of the track, even Jean’s impressive pipes are disappearing into the wall of synths and beats; it creates a deeply moving sense of something (an emotion, a place, a group) larger than self engulfing you. Sandbridge is an actual place by an ocean; the duo evocatively represents the tune’s namesake with the music and the sound of waves in the outro.

But it’s in those tunes where Copps and Jean genuinely share the space that things get most impressive. “Beneath the Crest of the Sea” balances a complex, subtle production job with another towering vocal line to create an oddly comforting fusion of machine and human sounds. “The Fall,” the most tense song on the whole album, also pulls off that meshing neatly. That sense of relaxation and calm is remarkable, considering that this is tension-filled, dramatic music–it’s just another threshold that the two artists deftly navigate.

The overall effects of Places are many: the sound is immediately engaging, but the album rewards multiple listens as well. Songs like “Neighborhoods” and “The Smoke/The Snow” can be appreciated on many levels, from the found sounds to the beats to the overall vibe. For only two performers who play a limited number of instruments, Brittany Jean and Will Copps have created an impressively sweeping album. Places is the sort of record that I can see listening to in a ton of different settings for a lot of different reasons. Creating work with interpretative flexibility is tough; creating things that flex while still remaining interesting and innovative is even harder. Highly recommended.

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Teenager’s traditional pop songwriting impresses

May 1, 2014

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It’s nearly summer, which means that it’s time for optimistic, jaunty music. Teenager‘s bright, melodic San Francisco pop is just the thing to help you shake those wintry blues. (And goodness knows there were enough of them in this long winter.) The Magic of True Love has everything you need in a summer album: relaxed vibe, warm moods, driving songs, wistful ballads, and lyrics for young lovers.

It’s tough to nail the relaxed/energetic balance, but Teenager gets it just right here. There are fast songs and slow songs in good amounts, but it’s the mid-tempo tunes that shine brightest. In that most difficult of tempos, striking arrangements, brash vocal melodies, and careful songwriting keep me glued to the sound.

Songwriter Bevan Herbekian draws from a vast amount of influences to enact this deft pop dance. Queen could have written the vocal arrangements in the 6-minute highlight “Black is Back.” Subtle Beatles touches color the arrangements throughout. The punctilious piano rhythms and swirling psychedelia-lite of The Morning Benders/POP ETC come to mind in “Broke” (which Independent Clauses was proud to debut). The Beach Boys’ distinct background vocal style appears in the title track. There’s some Paul Simon hiding in “Two Timing Machines”–and that one starts out with the lyric “One is a lonely number.” (What up, Three Dog Night?!)

Even with all these references to other sounds, The Magic of True Love avoids becoming just a giant pastiche by providing memorable melodies and lyrics. “Broke” is relatable to anyone who’s been young and poor and in love, while “A Believer (40 Days & 40 Nights)” hits a similar audience by starting off with “Hung over in our Sunday’s best / there’s nothing like a smile from a friend.” The title itself is a banner that very aptly spreads over all the tunes: even if you don’t hear all the lyrics, the vibe is very much one of romance and optimism.

Still, it’s not all chipper popcraft here: “Sunday Afternoon” is a falsetto-heavy, lounge-ready piano ballad, while the title track itself is a wistful acoustic guitar-led ode to the fact that the lovers we break up with slowly become strangers again. In fact, that is the “magic” of true love: “I turn strangers to friends into lovers/ and then back again/ta-da.” Oof. I won’t spoil anymore of the lyrics, but there are some sharp turns of phrase in this tune.

But even in its wistful low point, it still doesn’t give over to unescapable sadness. This is a diverse, freewheeling album that has a large number of points to check out. If you’re a fan of traditional pop songwriting, not just the forefathers but stuff like comes out on Merge Records, you’ll be all up in The Magic of True Love. Put it on the car stereo and drive with your lover in the other seat; it’s a perfect soundtrack.

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

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