Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

In Memoriam

September 11, 2014

It is often easy to lose the remembrance somewhere between the 10th and the 25th anniversary of things. Today is the 13th anniversary of a deeply painful day that launched many difficult days. I think a fitting memorial would be to examine our own prejudices and see why we hold them; if we all do this, hopefully we can move toward discussion and away from violence on hard things such as those that caused the tragedy.

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Mix 2: Pop and Rock

September 10, 2014

Mix 2: Pop and Rock

1. “Growing Mould” – Ha the Unclear. I’m a big fan of yelpy vocalists that can find a foil for their tones. Ha the Unclear’s eccentric mix of throw-back pop crossed with mid -’00s indie-pop is a perfect fusion of instrument and voice.

2. “Repetition” – Kobadelta. If you’re a fan of the Doors or any band that has tried to emulate the Doors, you’ll be interested in Kobadelta’s bass-heavy psych-rock with a baritone vocalist and spot-on production. Check that sweet half-time breakdown.

3. “Coulda Been” – Sallie Ford. Get back to your ’60s and ’70s rock roots. Nod at your Grace Slick poster. Remember that the congas are a legitimate instrument. You’re fully ready to get sassed by Ms. Ford in this impressively rhythmic and cool track.

4. “Cellophane” – Adventure Set. Some synth-pop is really indie-pop with a synth. I actually think that Adventure Set wrote every part of this song except the vocals on synths. It’s simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic, wistful and giddy.

5. “Flederlaus” – Magnetfisch. Instrumental synth-pop? Why not? With its chirpy synth line and sassy guitar solo, this particular track feels like it should be the soundtrack to an old-school platformer video game. Sonic the Hedgehog was awesome, y’all.

6. “Adam’s Head” – Adam Rich. This bluesy, goofy, fun track closes Rich’s new album Streetlight Smile.

Mint 400’s Patchwork shows its diversity of sounds

September 9, 2014

patchwork

I’ve covered digital label Mint 400 Records before, because I think they do great work in the lo-fi indie/lo-fi folk realm and because they have an interesting business model. The label’s latest compilation Patchwork shows off 17 of their bands, giving a pretty good snapshot of what they’re doing. (Disclosure: I’m the manager of The Duke of Norfolk, who is signed to Mint 400.)

The lo-fi work doesn’t disappoint: Sink Tapes, Fairmont, and The Maravines all have compelling offerings near the beginning of the album. The Multi-Purpose Solution and The Mai 68s hold down the end of the record, making sure you didn’t forget about the indie-rock. The acoustic-based work is also exciting, as newcomer Murzik adds an attention-grabbing piano-and-voice entry. Dave Charles sings a chill song that references Star Wars and sounds like some sort of early Jason Mraz tune. Cropduster provides another standout, with a gravelly, creaking voice over an acoustic guitar until it explodes into a grungy sort of thing for a bit.

Cropduster’s rock isn’t an isolated thing: the label has developed some loud leanings. Shallows’ “Always” is aggressive, dissonant guitar rock that borders on post-hardcore; Tri-State’s tune is straight-up guitar rock; and Jack Skuller contributes some rockabilly with ’50s vocal leanings. Mint 400 has grown from a small label with a specific niche to a widely diverse roster of bands, and Patchwork shows off the best of all of them. Check it out at iTunes or Spotify.

Mix 1: Indie-pop-folk

I had so many MP3s lined up that I’m breaking them into four mini-lists over the next few days. Cool, huh?

We Love Dashes – Indie-Pop-Folk

1. “Carry Oceans” – Montoya. Sweeping, cinematic pop that uses reverb expertly to create mood. There’s some acoustic guitars, pad synths, earnest female vocals, and more. For a first track, this is an exciting start.

2. “Those Days” – Noire. Wistful verses blossom into a joyful, twinkling chorus: it’s like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, or someone flicking open the curtains in a gloomy room. You’ll feel your hips move to this one.

3. “2004” – Sleepwalk Parade. That line between indie-rock, alt-country, and folk-punk is a thin one at times. Great melodies and vibe going on here.

4. “On the Rocks” – The Rural Alberta Advantage. RAA has always been pushed by insistent drums, but now they’ve added some churning keys to amp up the urgency. By the end of the tune it’s very nearly a dance-rock tune (albeit one with distant, delicate piano).

5. “Livin’ & Dyin (to Dream)” – Kory Quinn. This track has the x factor that the best raw, honest, clear-eyed alt-country singer/songwriters have. Is it the vocal tone? Is it the use of space in the vocal lines? Is the production? Is it all of them?

August videos (only a bit late)

September 8, 2014

The new Woman’s Hour video features six middle-schoolers who made up the dance themselves. The band and the director comment that it points out both the awkwardness of middle school and the ability of teenagers to emulate pop culture. It’s a gentle way to introduce a serious topic. Very cool video.

I love goofy concept videos, and this one is par excellence on that front. Why not get five industrial-grade digital road signs to “sing” for you? Super-fantastic. Great job, Stormcellar. (Even if it is from 2010.)

I’m firmly on-board the Andrew Judah train, and this video keeps that trend going. Simple yet entrancing.

Greylag’s “Another” is a great tune, so I’m posting their performance video of it. It’s not much to look at, but you deserve to hear “Another” again.

Quick Hit: Old Quarter

September 3, 2014

oldquarter

North Carolina’s Old Quarter is a country band giving in to the basic musician desire to play things very loudly. The five-song Gone, Not Forgotten opens with slide guitar, acoustic finger-picking, and baritone vocals that all scream “country!” But by halfway through “Gone,” a crunchy electric guitar forcefully announces its presence. “Starlight” also toes the line between crunchy riffs and country vibes, letting the dusky, perhaps even ominous, mood be enhanced by the gritty guitar work.

Closer “Kerosene,” however, amps up the rock’n’roll elements, playing out more like a psych-rock track with some rolling folk vibes than an alt-country tune. It’s no wonder the band has picked “cosmic country” as their genre of choice; they definitely start with country and rocket off in other directions. But it never feels like dabbling; the chiming, building guitars in “Kerosene” make it a great track, no matter who’s writing it or what genre they’re from. Sometimes an over-adherence to generic constraints causes us to overlook things we’d otherwise love. Here’s to some adventure in your life: check out Old Quarter’s Gone, Not Forgotten.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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