Another mixtape! This one’s predominantly dark indie rock, instrumental hip-hop, and lush indie.
0. “Need Parmesan” – Pjaro. From the surrealistically named Why Is No One Here I Can Make You Alt comes a crazy instrumental indie-rock piece that’s like a post-rock piece if Two Gallants were trying to play the genre and out of frustration they gave up and played really loud. This one’s surprising and intriguing.
1. “Waiting” – Program. Remember the mid ’00s, when everything was super-epic because The Arcade Fire ruled and everyone wanted to be like them? I loved that time. Program remember that time well, with synths and toms and all the right stops’n'starts.
2. “Liar Liar” – Vienna Ditto. Someday, all genres will be one genre, and I’ll be out of a job. Until then, it’s my job to tell you that tribal drums, Portishead-style vocals and swaggering guitar riffs come together for some crazy, gripping music here.
3. “View of My Sanity” – Anna Lena and the Orchids. Another singer/songwriter indebted to the icy soundscapes and incisive vocals of Portishead, another beautiful tune.
4. “Endless Possibilities” – The Boxing Lesson. Space rock that consumed an orchestra? Sign me up.
5. “Proto” – Ryan Hemsworth. This one comes from Mitsuda, the hip-hop tribute to video game soundtrack creator Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger). YES TO THE YES.
6. “I Still Think of You From Time to Time” – Louville. Trombones, pulsing beats, and wiry synths come together to form … euphoric electronica? Whatever, just roll with its beauty.
7. “Nothing Left to Say” – Poldoore. Super cool heist movies, take notice: here’s a candidate for your next soundtrack inclusion.
8. “Staying In” – Ola Podrida. Mysterious tune that kinda sounds like a dungeon level soundtrack, until the beautiful chorus kicks in.
9. “Chinese Paper Cuts” – Own Goal. The sparse instrumentation creates a unique indie-soul atmosphere that will appeal to fans of The Antlers.
10. “Blue Elvis” – Peals. It sounds like two guys sitting on the porch making beautiful, low-key, beautiful instrumental music because they can. I dig it.
11. “Seven” – Qualia. Loose, chill, moving post-rock that evokes The Album Leaf, lazy Saturday afternoons and/or epic realizations. Wonderful stuff.
I’ve spent a lot of time and thought on what Independent Clauses should be. It’s gone through many iterations, and I’ve been realizing over the past two months that it’s about to go through another. I’ve always wanted to be the first line of defense for young bands: I’ll review your album if you have zero press, bad spelling and a 3-song demo. If it’s great, it’s great. If it’s not, I’ll tell you what I thought and hopefully you don’t think I’m a jerk. That’s been SOP for IC since day one.
But back in the day, I thought I could do that for every genre. That’s just entirely unfeasible. I can’t be knowledgeable at every style of music. I may like a couple hardcore and metal bands, but I have no idea what makes them good other than the fact that I enjoy it. Even if I heard a great unsigned metal band, I would have little idea how to describe it (and even less clue about RIYLs), because I don’t know the ins and outs of metal.
This is true for me of rap, metal, hardcore, modern rock/post-grunge, blues and jazz. I like a bit of each (K’Naan, Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan, Traindodge, The Flavor and John Coltrane, for starters), but I just feel unqualified to review it. So I’m pretty much going to stop reviewing those genres and focus in on folk, alt-country, indie-pop, indie-rock and post-rock. I’m taking a break from punk so that I can love it again in the near future.
The reason I bring this up is that The Boxing Lesson falls on the outskirts of my knowledge, just on this side of the border. I don’t listen to much psychedelic music, partially because I’ve never had the desire to be high. I say “much” because The Flaming Lips are Oklahoma’s rock heroes, and I listen to their music almost de facto.
The Boxing Lesson has the space-rock/psych thing going on its Muerta EP. “Darker Side of the Moog” features synths galore in a sweeping, atmospheric way. The song transforms into a slow-moving but cohesive bit of pop-influenced songwriting; it’s not exactly go-for-the-hook songcraft, but the melodies are recognizable to those who love a v/c/v setup (me). “Muerta” and “Cassiopeia” are much the same, calling up some Pink Floyd references in their expansive, slow-moving folds.
Closer “Drone to Sleep” is most like a pop song, in that fuzzed out guitar strum and a dominant vocal melody carry the song. It’s still got the synths and spaced-out vibe; its woozy self will definitely still to the core demographic of psych-heads. But people who enjoy meandering pop and folk will find much to love in the track. It really does make me want to go to sleep as the sound washes over me, in a Spiritualized sort of way. It’s kind of like Jonsi, honestly – and that’s really cool. It’s easily my favorite track on the EP.
So, I’m not the best guy to be evaluating The Boxing Lesson, and I’m not too proud to admit it. But it does have some elements that can be appreciated by all — and that’s the mark of great songwriting.
I try very hard to keep my inbox clean. I have gone to great lengths to view the “no messages” notice before I log out. It’s just comforting to have some control over the situation. Yes, I know there’s a psychoanalysis here, but take off your Freud cap and roll with me.
Here’s a bunch of stuff that’s come into my inbox lately that I need to put in front of you.
The Boxing Lesson threw down this goofy, DIY video for instrumental psych track “Three.” Check it.
Charlotte & Magon are very rapidly moving up the list of bands to watch. They keep releasing stark, intimate, brilliant videos of incredible songs, and their latest is no different. A fingerpicked guitar, Charlotte’s elegant voice and a gentle arrangement makes “Black Horses” a mesmerizing tune.
In sadder news, Carter Hulsey‘s “The Love Is All Around Us” Tour ended in an unlovely fashion, when someone stole all the band’s stuff after the last show. More info and a donation link to help the band get back on its feet are here. The world is a hard place, and music makes it better. Let’s help Carter Hulsey win out over the evil in the world this time and get back to making it better with music.
The Boxing Lessonclaims to be from Austin, Texas (and I guess I believe them), but they sound like they’re from outer space. The group’s latest album, Wild Streaks & Windy Days, establishes a psychedelic, dreamy sound that remains consistent throughout.
The opening track of the album is titled “Dark Side of the Moog” – a funny name for an otherwise serious song. Paul Waclawsky’s guitar riff is head-bangable, and Jaylinn Davidson’s moog playing gives the song its otherworldly feel. The driving beat (provided by Jake Mitchell) adds a heavier rock flavor that makes this song a strong opener. Surely, there must be aliens somewhere out there, doing drugs or dancing (or both) to “Dark Side of the Moog.”
“Hopscotch & Sodapop” has the biggest pop influence on Wild Streaks & Windy Days, which is unsurprising when taking the song title into account, and therefore stands out compared to the rest of the album. It doesn’t differ too much, however, because the guitar and synthesizers keep the mood psychedelic. There is also a breakdown moment in the middle, where the fast tempo slows down a bit; this sounds more like the rest of Wild Steaks & Windy Days.
“Hanging with the Wrong Crowd” and “Dance with Meow” both have an electronica/dance feel, but, again, they still fit nicely with the other songs on the album. Probably the strongest aspect of this release from The Boxing Lesson is their ability to blend several different styles with their own predominant genre of space-rock. As a result, the album has enough diversity to be interesting, but is also very cohesive.
Waclawsky’s vocals really shine in “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” the last track. Its slow tempo gives him a chance to show off his clear, high voice, and it also makes this song sound a little like Sigur Rós. Overall, this album is recommended for Pink Floyd fans, or for astronaut-wannabes. The Boxing Lesson is currently on tour, and is coming at The Opolis next week, for all you Normanites.
In the world of CD art, The Boxing Lesson would be considered minimalist. The booklet, the back art, even the art on the disc itself is just one picture in various forms. In the musical aspect, they might be considered minimalist as well. But that’s just an incorrect label slapped on them because they play quiet music. Their melancholy meld of dream-pop, psychedelica, and shoegazer is easily accessible, but also easily taken for granted. When you relax, you just take in skin-deep stuff, and never really get into the musicality that makes it so relaxing.
As for musicality, it is intense throughout. Each of these soft, sweet epics possess sleep inducing guitar parts, but they are in tempo and distinct, unlike some. They do get a radiohead-like distortion quality at times, but mostly the melodies are fluffy like pillows. The drums and bass are extremely good supporting actors: they contribute often and well, but never steal the spotlight. Also good support are the dreamy, swooping vocals. Despite the high talent and quality of the vocal lines, they serve strictly as an afterthought to the music. In fact, most of these songs could be without vocals and still be pretty good. That’s a big thing to say, because these songs average a length of 5 minutes and 45 seconds. If you’ve ever listened to a six-minute slow song, you know it’s either fantastic or positively horrid. Usually bands can’t even pull off one, but TBL packs two fantastic ones on one album. It was so good that I, a music critic who separates work and play, felt compelled to play this in my spare time. In fact, One of the two six-minute tracks, the best track from the album (“Hard To Fake”) is so comforting that I used it as the coveted ‘Last Song of the Night’.
I give The Boxing Lesson the tin medal (the highest award I can give) for creating an ambitious album that succeeds on all cylinders. It’s soft, it’s creative, it’s intricate, it’s beautiful….What else can you ask for in an album? A pleasant sleepiness overcame me when I finished listening to this, and it will get you too. That yawn is proof that The Boxing Lesson is doing their job right. Congratulations.