Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

September 2020: Singles 1

September 16, 2020

1. “Jefferson Davis Highway” – The Pinkerton Raid. Jesse DeConto and co.’s latest video is from the band’s 2018 record Where the Wildest Spirits FlyThe song itself is an unusual folk anthem of protest backed by a lovely brass arrangement. The content of the lyrics and the video are best explained by the band:

“Jefferson Davis Highway” is a song to honor Southern activists like “Superwoman” Bree Newsome, the anti-racist defenders of Charlottesville, Va., and the people of Durham, NC, who kindled a movement, helping to take down a Confederate monument in an act of civil disobedience in our hometown back in 2017. We also honor the victims of police brutality, too many to name. We especially remember Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and Keith Lamont Scott, in our own state of North Carolina. They opened our eyes. George Floyd’s brutal murder reminded us never to look away.

2. “Magic in the Moment” – The Gray Havens. The Gray Havens are hitting a new stride: this impressive song includes the vibe of a hip-hop song (via the subtle beat and harp–at least, it sounds like a harp–hook), a clear indie-pop melody, and a cleverly dreamy arrangement. The song itself is about the beautiful world we live in, the beautiful lives we live, and how we could all do to put down our phones more frequently and attend to the beauty around us. (It manages to do this without being saccharine.) It also calls out anxiety directly. Would you stop subtweeting me, TGH? thanks. Jokes aside, it’s an musically on-point, lyrically on-message, brilliantly developed tune that has me extremely excited for whatever TGH is cooking up next. Highly recommended.

3. “Dog Days” – Blue Water Highway. Taking in Blue Water Highway’s “Dog Days” is an invitation to rejoice. The new song soars as the follow up to the lead single  “All Will Be Well” ahead of the band’s album Paper Airplanes due March 12, 2021. The band creates an Americana rock vibe, its steadiness generating that rolling-down-the-highway-with-the-ocean-breeze-in-the-air feel. I grew up along Pacific Coast Highway: years spent with the tunes cranked up, breathing in the sunshine and salt air. My memories of cruising in convertibles at summer’s end could have Blue Water Highway’s “Dog Days” pulsing out of the radio.–Lisa Whealy

4. “Don’t You Worry About Me” – Jacob Faurholt. Denmark’s Faurholt shines with stark imagery and minimalist lyrics, dancing through an array of carefully chosen musical ideas. “Don’t You Worry About Me,” the first single of the artist’s upcoming album Wake Me Up, serves up a delightful tease of the full album via Raw Onion Records on October 2. —Lisa Whealy

5. “Reflection” – Joshua Crumbly. Crumbly’s album earlier this year was a triumph, and this follow-up single is more of his unique vibe: bass-driven melancholy with light jazz overtones and subtle touches around the prominent bass. It’s a poignant instrumental musing on the chaos, trouble, and hope of this year.

6. “Truth 1” – Red Snapper. A groove-heavy tune that pairs grumbling bari sax with punchy percussion, wailing saxophone, and a neat keyboard line to create a strong afrofunk / jazz tune. The largely-wordless vocals accentuate the complex mood perfectly, creating a strong, interesting tension.

7. “Adriane in Wonderland” – Dan Deacon. If I had to pick someone to score a documentary about competitive artistic dog grooming, Dan Deacon is 100% the person I would pick to do it. This maximum-Dan-Deacon cut is basically the sonic version of a neatly trimmed, multi-colored poodle.

8. “Valley Spiral” – Gunn-Truscinski Duo. I’m not into huge guitar theatrics in rock songs, but I absolutely love a post-rock tune where a guitar player just thinks out loud for a while. This dense, gnarly, fascinating guitar/drums jam is an impressive work, as the drums keep the song locked in to a rhythm as the guitars just go everywhere. But it’s not loud or ferocious; it’s thoughtful, careful, exploratory. It’s great. Highly recommended.

9. “Astronomica” – of1000Faces. Big synth swirls, twinkly melodies, and deep-space pictures are a perfect match that hasn’t gotten old for me yet, so have another big slice of all of that! This is on the subtler end of the “big space synth reverie” spectrum, guiding the listener gently through the cosmos.

10. “Hyper-real” – Holy ’57. Holy ’57 has been diving into ’90s sounds for their latest release, and this track is no exception. This one pulls on a mash-up of brit-rock flare with trip-hop/hip-hop beats, overlaid with some old-school synth sounds. Rhythmic ideas from ever-present inspiration Vampire Weekend fit in there too, making this a song that is neither retro nor contemporary, but a fusion of old and new that looks to the future. Hyper-real, indeed.

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Jess Jocoy’s Online Residency: “Somebody Somewhere”

September 8, 2020

This week we say goodbye to Nashville-based songwriter Jess Jocoy, as she wraps up her Independent Clauses residency.  With her track “Somebody Somewhere” from her latest album Such a Long Way as a down-home adieu, Jocoy embraces stylistic choices associated with her folk-Americana genre while breaking free of some of its stylistic confines.

Let me say: I’m not a huge fan of country music, but I respect its connection to rock and roll historically.  Now that I’ve cleared the air, I am always searching for music that connects to the soul. Jess Jocoy connects in this performance. “Somebody Somewhere” is an intricate masterpiece, disarming the listener with each uncomplicated theme rolling along, note by note.  

The songwriter tells her tale simply, the guitar serving as an echo to her deep vocal tone.  Reminiscent of Brandi Carlisle, Jocoy sings as an Americana troubadour ready to step into the metaphor-rich world of indie folk-rock. Providing a steady framework for Jocoy’s vocals, the restrained production envelops the listener like a warm glow from a fire’s dying embers. The video, filmed by Adam Jones of ALJ Innovations in Nashville, feels like we are all hanging out with Jocoy before she sets out on tour. It’s intimate yet casual at the same time. Jess Jocoy is poised to break out with cuts like “Somebody Somewhere”  from her album Such a Long Way as the finale to her stand here at Independent Clauses.

Though this is the final installment of Jess’s online residency here in IC, you can catch Jocoy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Check out the two previous installations of the online residency here and here. —Lisa Whealy

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Premiere: “Learn How to Count” by Earthquake Don’t Give a Fuck

September 1, 2020

The thing about instrumental music is that (almost?) any genre of music can be instrumental. By moving the remit of this blog from folk-pop/indie-pop to instrumental music at large, I can cover all sorts of things from all eras of this blog–just without vocals. Earthquake Don’t Give a Fuck (EDGAF) is a heavy band that would not be out of place in coverage from IC’s first decade: dense, distorted guitars; thunderous backline; and general fury are all standard elements of EDGAF songs. However, they also sought out a viola player, because why not? Shannon De Jong brings a different sensibility to these post-hardcore/punk tunes.

Most of the songs on EDGAF’s self-titled record have shouty vocals, but closer “Learn How to Count” is an instrumental. It’s a pounding, powerful track:

The track opens with a gnarly guitar riff over pounding percussion; the viola-influenced melodic line of contrasts with dissonant, shrieking guitar thrash to create an electrifying opening. The middle section of the piece slows down and opens up, letting the viola soar. The respite is short, before the band comes barreling back in for the towering conclusion. It’s an excellent piece of post-hardcore.

Guitarist and EDGAF co-founder Keith Waggoner had this humorous story about the piece to share:

“When Greg [DePante, drummer] and I started writing together, ‘Learn How to Count’ was one of the first songs that stuck. A lot of crust punk/mathcore influence there and writing something that heavy, out of the gate, really set the tone for the project. I had always intended on writing vocals for the song, but the words never came, and eventually it felt more natural as an instrumental. If you listen to our early demos, all of the leads are played on guitar. After Shannon joined, we transposed those melodies to viola and that’s when the song came into its own. Once we had a full band together, we had to teach everyone how to count this weird syncopated 6/8 time signature and a couple of the guys had trouble with it at first. The song still didn’t have a name, so I would write ‘Learn How to Count’ on the set list, to poke at them.”

Ha! Well, that’s one way to title a song. I hope the next record includes another instrumental track called “We Did.”

EDGAF’s self-titled record will be out September 18 on LA Hall of Records. You can catch EDGAF on Facebook and Instagram until then.

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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