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Month: April 2021

Late April Singles #3

1. “Fountain #3” – JJJJJerome Ellis. 8 minutes of beautiful ambient tones from a Ellis, who “explores blackness, music, and disabled speech as forces of refusal and healing.” The song is intended to be “infinite music,” that you can play over and over again, and lo, it is an appealing effort on that front. Ellis’s saxophone flutters move this into a register above most ambient music, providing some concrete grounding and embodiment to the otherwise floating work. Highly recommended.

2. “Keep Your Mind Free” – Damon Locks – Black Monument Ensemble. Adventurous, creative music that mixes elements of jazz, found sound, electronic music, and analog dance music for a heady, satisfying blend. Highly recommended.

3. “This Rush of Beauty and This Sense of Order” – Ben Cosgrove. This piano composition has the pop and verve of an indie-rock song melded with mellow and post-minimalist composition chops. The final coda is absolutely a rush, punctuated by so much performerly enthusiasm that the ghost of Glenn Gould must have taken notice.

4. “Drunken Dreams” feat. Racoon Racoon – Camel Power Club. A smooth, sleepy, even casual indie-pop tune that achieves a rarefied sense of cool.

5. “Inferno” – The Felice Brothers. Life’s transitory nature lays the roadmap for “Inferno” from The Felice Brothers, their first release since 2019’s album Undress. The Felice Brothers used visuals from the oldest known surviving silent film Dante’s Inferno from directors Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Pedovan, and Gueseppe Luiguoro. Choosing such iconic cinematic imagery as contrast to the banality of the song’s themes meshes perfectly with the subdued, introspective feel of performances. –Lisa Whealy.

6. “My Lullaby (Waxlife Rave Mix)” – Be a Bear. A gentle, soothing acoustic guitar opening is shot into the stratosphere with a booming, rattling, spacious techno development. The tension between the easygoing melodies and the pounding backline is attention-grabbing.

7. “Great Lakes State Line” – DL Rossi. Rossi’s smooth-as-silk voice tumbles effortlessly over a timeless arrangement that marries the shuffle of western swing with the easy confidence of indie-pop. Just an impressive track. Highly recommended.

8. “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” – Cole Quest and the City Pickers. I’ve never covered much bluegrass on IC, but this is one of my favorite Woody Guthrie jams (and I have feelings about Woody Guthrie), so I couldn’t pass this up. The arrangement and vocal delivery have all the joy and sorrow of the lyrics, which is all I can ask for.

9. “World War Tour” – Outronaut. I haven’t covered a whole lot of surf-punk either, but lo: this particular cut is a fun, totally-on-point blast of instrumental rock suitable for surf (or superheroes, per the video).

10. “This Place” – Candysound. Been covering Candysound for awhile, and this might be the most infectious downcast guitar-pop tune they’ve yet penned. It’s upbeat and melancholy at the same time, which is a real hard trick to pull off. Death Cab for Cutie fans: rejoice.

Oliver Wood’s debut calls on a huge community and creates revival

Life’s better lived as a collaborative thing, connecting with others who share your vision. This thread weaves through Oliver Wood’s solo debut Always Smilin (via Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers), with its aura of revivalist folk gospel jam session. 

As an artist whose roots run deep into the foundation of American folk music, Wood’s career has intertwined with diverse musicians spanning an array of genres: blues, roots, jazz, and Americana. Wood refined his brand of soul music with Chris Long in King Johnson and his stint as frontman of The Wood Brothers (with Jano Rix). Now, Wood’s album weaves a musical tapestry whose brilliance is born from the fellow masters he’s worked with throughout his life.

Recognizing his community, Wood’s goal of creating a creative environment blossomed in Always Smilin. Alongside the aforementioned Chris Long and Jano Rix, Wood taps Susan Tedeschi, Phil Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger), John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood) and Tyler Greenwell (Tedeschi Trucks Band), Phil Madeira, singer-songwriter Carsie Blanton, and his wife Rebecca Wood to create a festival groove vibe into these ten tracks. 

Opener “Kindness” sets the bar high, a lyrical analysis of what may be humanity’s solution to societal division. It has a Joel Weeks music video that must not be missed! “Roots” drops into a piano-driven groove with the space for Wood’s gritty vocal delivery to merge with gang vocals  and organ in a revialist sonic palette. This one hits home: we are all burdened with stuff that trips us up, and we are alone unless we choose not to be. 

“Get The Blues” is a rip-it-up, bluesy, jazz-horn-laden beauty. Certainly, this musical outcry is a shout out to the heavens, to the deity of your choice. The spiritual “Came From Nothin” celebrates our stumbling humanity, Oliver Wood-style. This song’s brilliance is that we all have some inner perfection, and collaboration puts each piece in the perfect place. “Molasses” aches and shines, a guitar-wailing balladeer’s homage to what I hear as the death of music in a post-pandemic world. It’s both celebratory and grieving: how many members of the music community were lost during the pandemic, both in lives and music venues?

Wood turned his songwriter’s microscope on society at large on the record. The song of the record is “The Battle Is Over (But The War Goes On),” which serves up political folk rock at its finest. Heavy, gritty, sparse musicality leaves space for each note to resonate around the haunting lyrics. “Face of Reason” dishes up a strut-worthy anthem to stick it to the man, do what brings you joy, and all of those keys to a peaceful life. This is a revival, after all. Heading towards the album’s conclusion, “Soul Of This Town,” with its melancholy tempo and plaintive lyrical delivery, reminds us that communities are the true soul of small town America, vanishing threads weaving our cultural landscape. 

“Unbearable Heart” might drift its way into the psyche of Brown Bird fans. “Climbing High Mountains Tryin’ To Get Home” defies explanation. A songwriter’s masterclass in metaphor, this sonic celebration seems perfect. Bonus track “Needed Time” is that little bit of extra, just for fans. The song closes out Oliver Wood’s revival Always Smilin as a gift from his community to yours.–Lisa Whealy

April 2021 Singles: 2

1. “Trails” – Speak, Memory. Emo, meet jam. This heady, loose, exploratory composition feels like if American Football (or Football, Etc.) got fused with Garcia Peoples: lots of ideas, lots of vibes, lots of room to feel. Twinkly guitars for everyone! Highly recommended.

2. “Wild Bill” – Opus Kink. I’ve never heard anything quite like this: folk-pop chassis, dance-rock rhythm and bass section, Spaghetti Western horns and keys, howling theatrical vocals, and group chant create a truly wild experience. This would be an absolute blast to see live. Highly recommended.

3. “Holiday” – Samplehound. There’s something about Kraftwerk-inspired songs that get me. This synths-and-drums landscape takes motorik rhythms as a backdrop for something more emotional and evocative. There are hints of Daft Punk throughout. It’s a compelling jam.

4. “Great Beyond” – DJ Spandex. House rhythmic components meet EDM melodies in post-dub landscapes for a big techno cut that bangs but tastefully never goes over the top.

5. “Shade” – Mountain Head. Rock, techno, and swampy vibes meld seamlessly for a fascinating tune that defies genre expectations.

6. “Masked Souls” – Alberto Rigoni feat. Nathan East & Michael Manring. Put three bassists on a track and let ’em go for it. This is a uniquely interesting collaboration that spans post-rock, jazz, and rock effortlessly.

7. “From Thin Air” ft. Lisel – Tristan Kasten-Krause. Fans of Julianna Barwick and Alex Dowling will find this piece compelling: a series of drones created out of vocals, punctuated by swooning vocals and occasional bass. It’s embodied but also ethereal; grounded, but aspiring to float.

8. “Unfold Yourself” – Slowburner. A pulsing, pressing piano piece that borrows from electronic music for ideas, to great effect.

9. “Fog Rolls Out Rabun Gap” – Ben Seretan. Some “found sounds” work revels in the tranquil, quiet environments that the recording captures. Seretan’s encourage all sorts of sonics into the mix: running water, birds, cicadas, breeze, insects, and other sounds of nature. The improvised piano notes over the top are a perfect compliment to the enfolding sounds of nature, gentle treble cascades that evoke peace and joy. Truly lovely.

10. “Millo Kru” – Rizomagic. I’m always enthralled when I don’t know what to call a piece of music. This piece pairs melodic percussion with squiggly casio-esque notes before dropping into a funky, scruffy, charmingly upbeat dance rhythm of some sort. Rizomagic calls this music tropical futurism, and I am inclined to believe it; this is as earthily tropical as it is zoomingly electro.

Visual Singles – April 

We all have stories to tell, and songwriters who craft relatable narratives are priceless. Coupled with an artistic vision, music videos give us an otherworldly escape. Wandering YouTube Music, one evening I stumbled into the world of Bearly Beloved.

Born in Italy, one might say the life story of Bearly Beloved’s Bear Prandelli feels predestined. Calling New Jersey home until 2015, his focus on video production provided a “day job” with more stability than the life of a musician. The pandemic impacted Prandelli’s day job, allowing his inner songwriter out to process life. Stark, authentic lyricism haunts “Martyr” with its simple filming. No frills, it feels the audience members are invaders on an intimate confession: weirdly intimate, yet an invasion.

Visually dark, “Every Time” starts brilliantly with an homage to Tom Waits. The track rests in its gritty vocal and nuanced acoustic guitar. Uptempo, bright guitar serves as a contrast for this artistic work. All I keep thinking is how great Prandelli’s music would fit in the current roster of Third Man Records.

Prandelli’s “day job” with WulfenBearMeadia means focusing on creative projects collaborating with fellow artists like Killa Maus. Visual storytelling takes a hallucinogenic trip-rock slide to cool, new, psychedelic simplicity. Maximizing this song’s sexy vibe, Killa Maus seems to harness falsetto-powered wavelengths of cool. Looking straight into the camera, it’s impossible not to be pulled into this funky, orgasmic, sensory whirlpool.

Composition, form, or message remain uncluttered. In the end, Prandelli’s songwriting and video work led me to some of the best new music I have heard in 2021. —Lisa Whealy

Singles Late April 2021: 1

1. “Amends” – Radiofix. “Amends” is the latest video from Phoenix-based band Radiofix off Meet Me At The End. Its soaring, stylish piano-driven alt-rock is a reminder that the desert (birthplace of bands like Less than Jake and Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers) breeds talent. This track reveals a new compositional depth to frontman Daniel Martin (guitar and lead vocals). He is joined on a surrealist vision quest by bandmates Benjamin Thurston on bass and Tim Schultz on drums. In this Mark Maryanovich and Carolyne Stossel production, aerialist Michelle Milan (@meeshmishka) remains an ethereal presence, lightness in the shadows thanks to Jake Billingsley at Copper State Production.

Music video narratives like this must have makeup like Micheal Hall’s (@michealhallbeauty), helping audiences to immerse in the story. The work brings to mind Matt C. White’s “Oath” party scenes. With Carolyne Stossel as director and editor, sustained mystery is key to this music video’s artistic success. Dropping classic cars into the mix fits perfectly here thanks to Arizona Classic CarSales. In the end, the sound of Nancy Livingston’s violin echoes Radiofix’s idea that in life we all make mistakes. “Amends, from Meet Me At The End, claims ownership of one of Arizona’s top power ballads of 2021. –Lisa Whealy

2. “Vibe Check” – Scattered Melodies. Wanna party? Undoubtedly, “Vibe Check” from Scattered Melodies could be 2021’s funk hip-hop song of the year. Producers Anthony Brant, Killa Maus, and Josh Montag took the band’s story into Highland Recording Studio and let it rip. Here, Esteban Obregon, Jake Johnston, and Josh Montag filmed, while Tony Brant and Killa Maus recorded and mixed. Johnston and Montag both directed and edited this collaborative masterpiece knowing that this is their funky family, so check-in and vibe!

The joy here is being brought into the studio experience with creatives whose energy feels contagious, the perfect way to step on the For the Funk Of It Festival stage. Scattered Melodies’ backline of founding members Jake Johnston (bass) and Josh Montag (drums) sets the groove. Killa Maus plays guitar and keyboard along with his distinct vocals. However, the standout vocal performances from Haley Green and Laura Hamlin bring to mind the women of Brooklyn funk geniuses Turkuaz.

Saxman Phelan Parker joins forces with guitarist Kazton Boone and Taylor Bracamonte on the keyboard. Human is Scattered Melodies’ superpower; his rapid-fire rap twists through the jazz-infused melody. In the end, “Vibe Check” from Scattered Melodies proves, in case you missed the memo, funk is NOT dead. It is in fact alive and well in the Arizona sunshine. –Lisa Whealy

3. “Everything Goes On” – Robert Jürjendal. Jürjendal’s guitar-and-synth composition unfolds like a light-dappled scene viewed by a weary traveler coming over the last hill into the valley. It’s gentle, immersive, and beautiful, like Sigur Ros at its most airy.

4. “Oscillate” – Mathieu Karsenti and Josh Doughty. A mysterious, elegant arrangement of kora and strings that puts the West African instrument in an interesting new light, almost like a European harp.

5. “Fin du Monde” – Rum Velvet. I have recently gotten very excited about gypsy brass, and Rum Velvet offers up a lovely slice here. The tuba is doin’ work, the trumpets have great melodies, and the whole piece has the swagger and flair that gypsy brass does so well. Highly recommended.

6. “The Only Living Boy in New York” – Racoon Racoon and The Duke of Norfolk. An IC fave (Racoon Racoon) and a longtime personal friend (The Duke, aka Adam Howard) link up for a moving cover of one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs. This delicate, immaculately engineered indie-folk cut is an absolutely lovely piece. (Full disclosure: I managed The Duke of Norfolk from 2010-2014.)

7. “Seasonal Depression” – Pink Laundry. This track from Judah and the Lion frontman Judah Akers fuses .fun-style drama, cleverly arranged indie-pop, and the lyrical ambitions of maximalist pop-punk in a bracing track. The juxtaposition of the repeated refrain of “fucking with my mind” with a through-line of hopeful, perseverant spirituality is a surprising and moving choice.

8. “Agatha” – Autumn Owls. Autumn Owls is a long exercise in tension and juxtaposition. “Agatha” is no different: ominous, brooding arrangements contrast against bold vocals. There are traces of Radiohead, The National, and more “serious” music in this surprisingly punchy dark indie track.

9. “Venice 1” – Doug Thomas, Luca Longabordi. Thomas and Longabordi have found a midpoint between highly ornamented baroque fugues and mid-century minimalist that skips all the romantic stuff in the middle. This precise, speedy piece is formal and yet fun: an exercise that becomes fun along the way.

10. “Coronach” – Daniel Bachman. 9 minutes of engaging solo acoustic guitar that moves from spacious picking to dense, swirling, torrential layers and back. Commands the room in a way that is difficult for solo acoustic guitar to do.

11. “Gloomy Lights” – Orange and Mountains. Sometimes a title is really just spot on. This combination of acoustic guitar, strings, synths, and gentle percussion is a neat balance of light and dark, shine and gloom, upbeat and downbeat. There’s a lot going on, in the best of ways.

Garage a Trois: Still Partying

Partying like it’s (the band’s) 1999 (debut), Garage A Trois’ latest studio album Calm Down Cologne via Royal Potato Family proves jammin’ jazz-funk instrumentals still rule the party. Guitarist Charlie Hunter, saxophonist Skerik and drummer Stanton Moore recorded the album in an afternoon at Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho in Seattle. Engineer Randall Dunn oversaw the single session. The band’s three-night sold-out stint at the Nectar Lounge across the street from the studio infused itself into each note the master musicians composed. Dunn’s AVAST! Recording Co. mix enhances the vibe from beginning to end. 

Infectious opener “No Zone” features a funk throwdown bass groove seemingly created for Skerick’s notes to dance on. “The Epic” slides in with a hypnotic flow and the only vocal on the record: Seattle singer Christa Wells provides an overdub essentially immersed in the music. Subtly brilliant, Skerik powers through a bank of analog keys (Modal 001 synth, Rhodes 54, and Mellotron) in addition to sax. Primal, its groove transcends time and space with each note. In comparison, the title track feels like a frenetic invitation into the moment when these three geniuses realized something special was going on. A quick hit at 2:36 in comparison to the other songs on the album, “Calm Down Cologne” feels intimate, like behind-the-scenes peeks into the green room or backstage sometimes do. Serious genius struts it here! 

Since the birth of “In A Pro-Pro” came on tour in 2019, how does this track translate in today’s nearly nonexistent live music and music festival landscape? Laidback, otherworldly synth work couples with Hunter’s soaring guitar to strut, bump, grind, and twist into the album’s conclusion. Slow, sexy jazz groove winds down the sounds, as “Numinous” is like an updated funk-infused speakeasy number to wrap this collection. Really, Garage A Trois spent 22 years in pre-production before the universe decided it was time to shower Calm Down Cologne on us.–Lisa Whealy

April Singles

1. “Hall of Death” – Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Sweeney and Billy get a big assist from Mdou Moctar’s guitar outfit here, as what may have been a charmingly folky tune is massively elevated into an enervating, energetic, gleeful West African guitar race. The video is a declaration of chaotic freedom, sort of O Brother Where Art Thou meets Moonrise Kingdom starring the protagonists of The Mountain Goats’ “Psalm 40:2.” Highly recommended.

2. “Leave Someday”  – Kevo Muney (feat. Lil Durk). Kevo Muney’s single rips, displaying the connection hip-hop has with gospel music. Muney shows music’s power to lead the transition from racial injustice protests to lasting policy change. –Lisa Whealy

3. “Djourou” – Ballaké Sissoko, Sona Jobarteh. Two incredible kora players create a mesmerizing, lithe duet. Peaceful and powerful, this piece is a true wonder.

4. “Blinding Lights (The Weeknd Cover)” – X Ambassadors. Covers The Weeknd’s hit with stunning acoustic simplicity.  For those unfamiliar with the band’s story, keyboardist Casey Harris’ blindness has led them to support Two Blind Brothers. –Lisa Whealy

5. “I NEED YOU” – Jon Batiste. Jon Batiste’s single from the pre-order of his upcoming We Are shares the joy and  power of music to create love, community, and focused change. –Lisa Whealy

6. “Ouroboros” – Brooklyn’s Charming Disaster takes goth-folk to dark depths of brilliance with the Ouroboros available to-save.  Named for the mythical beast known to swallow its tail and thus its own finality, the musical descent drifts towards each potential hell or metamorphosis. Striking instrumentation evokes an otherwordly space, much like that created for the band’s weekly livestream danse macabre, transforming the global fanbase into a true community. –Lisa Whealy

7. “The Green Thing” – l’Orchidée Cosmique. Some songs land on the right day to be appreciated. I’m not having a great day, and a stomping, grumbling, menacing slice of guitar-driven post-rock angst is exactly what I want today.

8. “Tuck the Long Tail Under” – Nonagon. Nonagon is one of the few post-hardcore bands that I keep up with, as they strike the perfect balance of tight musicianship (check the bass work), expert mood control, and angry hollering. A blast, in so many ways.

9. “Aquarian Age (Instrumental)” – Lexxi Vonne. Splits the difference between chipper tropical house and gloomy Tron:Legacy-esque techno for a unique, compelling vibe.

10. “Pikakelauksella maailmanloppuun” – Kadonnut Manner. This acoustic guitar cut is a wild and woolly romp that indulges in reverb, fingerpicking, and enthusiastic melodic runs. It’s a joyous, ambitious, compelling track that stands a cut above most solo acoustic guitar work. 

11. “La Rêveuse” – Sweet Crude. This smooth, inspired indie-pop cut is given an almost awe-inspiringly wacky music video that calls to mind Napoleon Dynamite dropped into the absurdities of 2020–in Louisiana French. If you’re not intrigued, I’m not sure this blog can help you. Their video for the equally-inspired “Sun Sept” is almost as madcap; they make up for the slight (slight) downtick in gleeful absurdity with a brilliant chorus and lovely breakdown.

12. “Your Secret Place” – LIGHTS A.M. Throw the grandeur of goth, the icyness of dark techno, and the scope of classical composition into a blender and the results are this beautiful piece.

13. “Horizons (feat. Daru Jones)” – Hedge Hop, Takahiro Izumikawa. Elegant instrumental hip-hop with low pretensions and high levels of chill. This is jazzy cool.

Hemispheres’ diverse influences come together into a unique whole

Hemispheresself-titled three-song work blends Australian indigenous sounds and soulful jazz to create a beautiful, unique, genre-less instrumental suite.

Didgeridoo (from Paul “Groovy Lips” Boon), sticks, and ghostly flute from Susie Hodder-Williams (or, perhaps, flute-like synth from Sam Hodder) open the work, providing an expansive, pastoral opening. “Dawn” then mixes soulful jazz into the indigenous earthiness, giving Chris Caldwell’s smooth saxophones room to explore the terrain. The choral ahs give even more heft to the piece. Yet despite the serious approach, the vibe is never somber: the underpinning rhythms combine with the melodies to suggest gentle awe and subtle wonder.

“Adrenaline” bumps up the tempo for another take on indigenous earthiness, jazzy instrumentals, and evocative vocals. There’s lots of fun flute runs, baritone sax bleats, and punchy synths to go around. Clifton Bieundurry’s vocals are particularly memorable here, meshing perfectly with the backdrop and fitting into the unique space the group has invented.

“Dusk” is a much quieter work that feels and sounds like the tide going out. The didgeridoo once against sets the ground, while Caldwell gives a beautiful solo on soprano sax. Background sounds fill in the oceanic vibe. The piece slowly fades into its closing.

Ultimately, Hemispheres is a concise, elegant 12-minute experience that melds disparate sonic ideas into a unique creative experience. Due to the strong presence of the didgeridoo, this feels like an Australian companion to The River, a collaborative work between Taos Pueblo composer Robert Mirabal and string quartet Ethel. The well of creativity never runs dry, as long as people continue to seek out adventurous collaborations and push their own instrumental efforts farther and further. I hope this isn’t a one-off project, as it is expertly composed and wonderfully performed. Highly recommended. —Stephen Carradini

Independent Clauses, Vol. 1, on Spotify

Here at Independent Clauses, we pride ourselves on the eclectic space our digital music magazine holds. Stephen Carradini and I decided the time had come to create curated playlists highlighting the diverse artistry published in Independent Clauses. 

The first of IC’s 2021 curated Spotify playlists journeys through the sonic soundscape of indie songwriters, jazz artists, and alt rock musicians from around the world. We invite you to tune in and share your thoughts.

Photographer Herry Sucahya (via Unsplash) provided the artwork. We will feature Unsplash photography each quarterly playlist.

Artists included in this playlist represent global talent from Milan’s PINHDAR, Melody Duncan, Charles Ellsworth, and Neal Casal, to name a few. Rich, varied musicality makes up this eighteen song trip.

Check out the playlist here.–Lisa Whealy

Premiere: “Thought Slipping Away” by Good Morning Wave

Thought Slipping Away” is the debut single from Good Morning Wave’s debut album. Sharing a visual and sonic style with Chaperone Picks (who recommended GMV to us), this 102-second track uses CP’s four-track lo-fi style as a point of departure.

This one is at max a two-track jam, just chunky acoustic guitar and baritone vocals. There’s still some lo-fi tape hiss in the background, but the focus is more on the songwriting here than the lo-fi aesthetics. The guitar frames the vocals instead of sharing the stage, allowing the melodies and lyrics to come to the fore. The vocal performance is pointed and careful, with GMV giving nuance to the edges of words and whole lines. The titular refrain stuck in my head for hours after listening to it: it’s an earworm that doesn’t need to be long or detailed to do its work.

The lyrics are by turns concrete (“so sure I’d remember / but just like yesterday / thought slipping away”)  and conceptual (“big money / means elegant style / I’m on my own for a little while”). The blending of the big picture and the little picture makes for a compelling vision of a narrator struggling through social and personal information overload. If it weren’t so relatable, it’d be surrealistic. Ultimately, GMV impressively packs a lot into a little suitcase with “Thought Slipping Away.”

“Thought Slipping Away” is the opener of album Everyday, which comes out today, April 2. There’s more where that came from: GMV has new music coming out monthly on Bandcamp Fridays throughout 2021. I’m excited to hear what GMV will be up to this year