Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

November Singles 4

November 12, 2016

1. “Crocodile” – Folk is People. With that gentle repudiation of the term folk in the band name, you’d expect this to be a genre-savvy work. And it is: there’s some nice acoustic fingerpicking welded to a pop-rock drums-and-bass chassis, but it explodes into overdriven garage rock for the chorus (but retains strong melodic vocal lines). A really fun ride.

2. “The Hardest Lesson” – Brock’s Folly. Starts out as a pensive, pastoral folk song, then ratchets up to a scratchy indie-rock stomp: “the hardest lesson I ever learned / was to let my young ambitions burn / now they’re gone.”

3. “Stovetop Coffee” – The Northern Folk. There’s a touch of Gregory Alan Isakov’s romanticism here paired with a more punchy folk arrangement that features a warm horn section.

4. “Summer Nun” – Tri-State. Punchy, thoughtful indie-pop-rock that incorporates some Eastern sounds into its mix without sacrificing any of their pop charm.

5. “Je Danse Dans La Discotheque Avec Toulouse Lautrec” – Christine Leakey. This relentlessly inventive, wild pastiche of sounds comes off like being trapped in a music box that is rapidly becoming unhinged: operatic vocals, frantic piano, saxophone, French, and more contribute to an incredibly fascinating tune.

6. “Nobody Else” – Wy. Starts off as a cavernous electro freeze-out and then blossoms into punchy mid-tempo guitar-pop for the chorus.

7. “Late Night Store” – Husky. This indie rock tune with some electro-dance elements actual sounds like the vibe you might find at a late night store as you’re going out to the club (or if you’re really excited to be going home)–not giddy, but excited, and with some seedy atmosphere in the background.

8. “Break” – ADLT VIDEO. This electro-pop tune hooked me entirely on the strength and prominence of the bass work (The bassist/bass keyboardist/downtuned guitar gets a solo!). The rest of the song is pretty solid, from the vocals to the arrangements, but I’m here for the bass.

9. “Genesis” – Grex. Pensive, patient electro that is a little more active than ambient but not by much. The mood is delicious.




November Singles 3: Acoustic!

November 11, 2016

1. “Freight Train” – Micah Huang. This is how you do lo-fi: instead of using lo-fi as a cover for lack of skills, the tape hiss/atmospheric sounds lend a humility and gravitas to the Elizabeth Cotten cover. It’s a beautiful rendition of a beautiful song.

2. “Falling For You” – Eric and Happie. Bouncy, punchy folk-pop with big melodies and (yes) the occasional “hey!”–I’m still into it, y’all. I am. Twin Forks forever.

3. “Man Upon The Hill” – Stars and Rabbit. Fans of instantly recognizable vocal styles will connect with Stars and Rabbit, as the lead singer is reminiscent of Joanna Newsom but not quite. The way she uses her voice is intriguing as well, beyond the tone of it. The rest of the tune is an adventure of building sounds, from alt-folky to indie rock to even Sigur Ros-like. All in all, a wild ride.

4. “Heart’s Desire” – The Loft Club. Sort of Zeppelin meets Laurel Canyon, which is a delicate balance to hold.

5. “Drop the Hammer (& Raise Some Hell)” – The Roadhouse Clams. Blue-collar alt-country with a Friday night bar flavor and a knowing wink. It’s a blast.

6. “Bridges” – Jordan Moe. There’s usually a pretty clear line between Adult Alternative and folk (Matt Nathanson/Jack Johnson vs. Joe Pug/Josh Ritter), but Jordan Moe blurs the line with delicate guitar, emotional vocal performance, and thoughtful arrangement. It ends up being more like Parachutes-era Coldplay than either of the genres mentioned.

7. “Freedom or This” – Joe Wilkinson. I was never a huge Dispatch fan, but I can appreciate groove-laden acoustic folk of that ilk. Wilkinson’s work here incorporates the usual suspects (hand percussion, acoustic guitars, group vocals, speak/singing) but puts them together in a warm, inviting manner that has appeal outside the niche.

8. “Scared of America” – Jesse Ruben. We’re going to see a whole lot more protest songs, I think, and here’s a literate, well-considered one. The chipper guitar and hummable vocal lines try to offset the bitterness of the protest; the whole “spoonful of sugar” approach.

9. “Heavy Metal” – Furniture from the Fifties. The lyrics of this delicate tune start off like a “amicable split” work, but then wander off in more intriguing directions. The song’s only 1:25, but it opens spaces to ask questions and ponder. It’s really cool.

10. “In Your Arms” – Katie Ferrara. Straightforward singer/songwriter tunes rely heavily on the vocal tone and vocal melodies. Ferrara’s vocal tone is beautiful, and her melodies here are unusually soothing and warm. Sold.

11. “Wolves of the Revolution” – The Arcadian Wild. The sort of spacious, well-outfitted, wintry folk that sounds like the soundtrack to running through a forest with snow on the ground and freedom on the mind.

12. “Amethyst” – Deda. This dusky acoustic jaunt joins whisper-folk and giant-expansive-arrangement folk to create a unique vibe.

13. “Come Back” – Rosin. When all four of the quartet get going at about 3:40 in, this Appalachian/classical string outfit really starts to connect their chops with emotional punch.




November Singles 2

November 10, 2016

1. “Georgia” – Raccoon Raccoon. A stand-up bass, fluttery acoustic guitar, and a breathy duet come together uniquely: if this is where their sound is headed, they could carve out their own unique space between The Weepies, Josh Radin, and St. Even. Good, good stuff here.

2. “Un De Plus” – The Coconut Kids. You definitely need a lilting, suave ballad sung entirely in French and accompanied by Beirut-esque trumpet in your life.

3. “Lock & Key” – Mouths of Babes. Who can resist whistling in a chipper acoustic-pop/Americana tune?

4. “Over Romantic” – The Watanabes. Here’s a wistful, restrained, romantic acoustic indie-pop song about being too romantic. May it never be!

5. “LYM (Leave Your Man)” – Stevie Talks. Takes a well-turned adult-alternative vibe and transforms it into something different with a feathery Sufjan-esque vocal melody and arrangement in the chorus.

6. “Great Pumpkin Waltz” – Brad Myers and Michael Sharfe. This low-key, unassuming jazz trio performance of the Vince Guaraldi (Charlie Brown) tune retains all the wistful melodic qualities that Guaraldi was so keen on but also explores the spaces created by the translation of the piano-led work into a guitar-led one. Thoughtful and interesting.

7. “Left My Heart” – Matthew Leeb. Man, once upon a time I was big into Mat Kearney’s sound. Leeb’s smooth, soulful take on acoustic-based hip-hop pushes all those same buttons for me. Also, I always love an Oklahoma shout-out. Represent.

8. “Spanish Bird” – Common Jack. Think back to the first time you heard “Boots of Spanish Leather” by The Tallest Man on Earth: the blast of vocal enthusiasm, the charging guitars, the sunshiny mood of the whole thing. Now add some extra Dylan vocal intonation into that, and that was my experience of hearing this song for the first time. (And this song references leather boots and Spain!)

9. “Wake the Dawn” – The Internal Frontier. A bold, brash, pop-rock-informed folk-pop tune that hits along Magic Giant lines with some Black Keys-inspired lead guitar work. Tasty.

10. “Romance Abroad” – -ness. I’m a sucker for a cool piano line, so of course the intro to this song hooked me. The anthemic, dramatic acoustic pop kept me after that. It should be noted that I was a fan of OneRepublic before I heard their stuff one million times in every possible public space, so keep that in mind as you listen.

11. “From Rest” – Cold Weather Company. The rushing, passionate piano that undergirds this track counterpoints (and then matches) the speedy guitar melodies here, resulting in a torrential whirlwind of a song.

12. “As Far as I Can” – Kylypso. Transforms a keyboard and an 808 into a smooth, lithe electro-pop track. It’s sort of like when you look at holographic plastic undulating slowly: a mesmerizing yet sleek experience.

13. “Police” – KING. I’m not going to lie, this has a lot of connection to “Lean On.” Also true: I had my hands in the air while I was sitting in my cubicle listening to this. (No shame.) That chorus tho.




Early November Singles 1

November 9, 2016

1. “Ours for the Taking” – Quinn Erwin. Erwin seems to be an endless fount of memorable melodies, arresting arrangements, and punchy mood. This mid-tempo indie-pop track leaps off the page, which is a tough thing to do.

2. “Laser Eyes” – Liyv. If M.I.A. were fused with a twee-pop band, the resulting staccato, bubbly, multi-colored, hiccuping track might sound something like this. Really unique.

3. “About the World” – Little Quirks. If the definition of indie-pop is pop songs that won’t get on the radio, this one is a perfect example. It’s a charming jangle-pop tune that has everything you could want: pep, charm, great melodies, fun arrangements, and an overall sense of wonder.

4. “Atlantic City” – JOA. For me, Bruce Springsteen is an artist that I appreciate more in cover than in originals. I have nothing against his originals, but the covers I hear of his work are often just spot-on. And JOA’s low-key electro-acoustic-pop version of “Atlantic City” is just that: excellent.

5. “Keep Trying” – Paul Cook & the Chronicles. With a little bit of funk, a little bit of soul, some handclaps, and a lot of indie-pop, Cook has turned out a head-bobbing, slinky tune.

6. “Blue Sky” – Internal Eye. This is a relaxing, harmonious, peaceful piece of work that blends the electronic and the acoustic beautifully and falls somewhere between the Album Leaf and Teen Daze. (Currently only available as a video on Facebook.)

7. “Mulberry Hill” – Almond&Olive. Weeping pedal steel, a male/female duet, soaring group vocals on the chorus, even a swooping fiddle. Almond and Olive take the pedestrian and make it shine, putting all these parts together into a majestic tune.

8. “A Girl Said Yes” – The Marrieds. Thought this was another romantic acoustic ballad from a married duo? Well, you’d be right, other than the slight punch of power-pop infused to the acoustic part. But boy, the songwriting and melodies are awesome. They know what’s up.

9. “New Streets ft. Caroline Saunders” – Ross Nicol. Floats above the chaos with a clear, bright duet anchored by solid piano chords and gentle percussion pulse (at least until the expansion of the arrangement in the coda, which is also lovely).

10. “Bound by Blood” – Hollow Twin. High drama acoustic work is a tough thing to pull off without sounding maudlin or bombastic, but Hollow Twin deftly manages the two extremes and comes up with some booming percussion, confident alto vocals, and carefully handled arrangements. It’s both intimate and stadium-sized, perhaps like Bon Iver.

11. “Clarity” – Ziegler Co. Descended from trip-hop and cousins with the Antlers’ style of cloudy neo-soul, this tune has subtle groove and tiny instrumental flourishes that make the work pop. The video has fittingly emotive modern dance.

12. “Sin Against Sins” – Joe & the Anchor. It’s as if Leonard Cohen and Jason Molina had collaborated on a dramatic, expansive, emotionally crushing piece of music. The lyrics are as poetic as the former and as spartan as the latter.




Late October Singles: 3

October 26, 2016

1. “Fallen” – Gert Taberner. Subtlety is difficult and underappreciated, which makes it pretty unappealing. However, Taberner here masters subtlety. From the careful, gentle strumming to the unadorned, direct vocal performance to the earnest, honest lyrics, every piece here has touches that belie the great amount of work that went into it. Fans of Glen Hansard, Damien Rice, and Passenger will find themselves in love.

2. “Photographs” – Chloe Jane. Chloe Jane’s interpretation of acoustic pop in 2016 is absolutely lovely, incorporating the best of what we’ve come to expect from acoustic pop. Immediate production, catchy melodies in the verse and chorus, glockenspiel, a great arrangement that adds to the quality of the song but doesn’t get in the way, and an overall sense of happiness, even though the song is sad. This is how you do acoustic pop right.

3. “Farewell Teddy” – Patrick Eugene. A quirky, unusual tale of paranoia written in the style of 1920s/1930s comic pop, the sort that descended from old-school burlesque theaters and the like. Adventurous listeners, rejoice.

4. “Any Town” – Joey Salvia. Hollering is the time-tested weapon of the folk protest singer, but Salvia shows here that an incisive set of lyrics and a calm delivery can be just as devastating. This one’s about suburban sprawl and the loss of distinct places in what I like to call “big box America”–but it’s also just a really great sounding song.

5. “Noah Jade” – Dog Mountain. A humble little song: a companion for the road, a friend in time of need, a fragile peace, a warm fire, comfort.

6. “The Northern State” – Jordie Saenz. This tender, intimate eulogy for a lost loved one features tape hiss that provides warmth, but the rest of the instruments are clear and bright. The fingerpicking and free-floating arrangement are reminiscent of early work by Sufjan Stevens and his collaborators.

7. “Exposta” – Johnny Fox. Have you ever heard an Irishman sing in Portuguese? If you click the link, you may have the experience for the first time. The acoustic-based arrangement falls somewhere between the perky-yet-subdued work of Lisa Hannigan and the enthusiastic cultural melange of Beirut.

8. “Hey There Miss” – Eric Smith. A little bit coffeeshop singer/songwriter, a little bit Laurel Canyon alt-country, a little bit Dawes, and a little bit Billy Joel love song results in a song with a whole lot of heart.

9. “Gold Ring” – Redvers Bailey. The oft-goofy, oft-ecstatic Bailey calms his work and produces a lovely acoustic singer/songwriter song anchored by a remarkable falsetto. It’s closer to Brett Dennen than Kimya Dawson, but it still works beautifully.

10. “Better Lands” – When Tomorrow Becomes Yesterday. A delicate, fragile acoustic tune featuring a beautiful trio vocal performance that evokes the uncertainty of climate change in sound and lyric. The kalimba only adds to the fragile otherness of the piece.

11. “Cave” – Matt Millz. Sometimes all you need is a trembling voice, a guitar, and an opening line of “I had a cave / that was three years deep” to suck the listener in.

12. “In Your Name” – Tyson Motsenbocker. Grief, faith, doubt, and politics are all often all wrapped together, and Motsenbocker’s tune balances them all in this moving singer/songwriter tune.

13. “Luna” – Akira Kosemura. Patience–this clip does start out with 20 seconds of silence and the image of birds flying. That enforcing of peace is the essence of the lo-fi piano composition that follows: amid the sound of piano pedals working and Kosemura sighing, a tranquil piano elegy unspools.

14. “Death” – Theo Alexander. This piano piece is anchored by an ostinato mid-range note pattern but not dominated by it–there’s a murky sense of change and uncertainty that course through the piece as the sections change. There’s a touch of John Luther Adams’ emotive clouds at the back half of the piece as well, making this a diverse, intriguing piece over the two and a half minutes of the work.

15. “Black Water” – James McWilliam. A yearning, searching orchestral piece driven by a forlorn violin solo, this composition balances tension through the continuous movement of the orchestra and despair through the soloist.

16. “Take Me In” – Broken Stems. I don’t usually mix my media in these posts, but this song is elegant and the video is haunting. Both are very much worth your time. The video is especially powerful: I can’t watch it without shivers. Don’t multitask this one–dedicate the 3:27. It’s worth it.




Late October Singles: 1

October 24, 2016

1. “Bones” – Lowlight. The female vocals here are just dripping with emotion, touring the listener through distinct, evocative spaces. The video is enigmatic but similarly suffused with emotional images. A great example of a tune that clearly has a folk tune soul, even though it’s set up in an electro environment.

2. “Fountain” – Démira. A zeitgest-capturing piece that’s just specific enough to relate to a lot of things going on in the world today. The mantra/hook “My hands are up / my hands are up” seems like direct appropriation of language included in the ongoing policing discussion, but Démira immediately following it with “for both of us” complicates the relationship. (The ongoing refugee crisis seems to be relevant here as well.) Ambiguity, purgatory, and surrender weave their way through the lyrics. The piece is an electro-pop work, but it doesn’t announce itself prominently; it keeps the song flowing, but at times melts away to give the stage to the engaging vocals and lyrics. A fascinating, deeply interesting song. The video gives even more layers of complexity.

3. “Back to Earth” – Jackie Venson. The patter of hollow toms matches the subtle strumming of the rattling electric guitar, creating a feeling of rushing water that Venson’s voice dances over. It’s a dramatic song without going for any of the normal high-drama approaches, and in that way it is spectacular.

4. “WIRES” – SNOWDRIFTS. The heavy, buzzy synths and wavering vocals seem unmoored from the beats, creating the impression of a School of Seven Bells song being played slightly out of phase. It’s an intriguing, enveloping soundscape.

5. “Carry Me” – Heart Years. At its core, this is a dreamy indie-pop tune, but it’s got layers of static, zipping arpeggiators, and other effects that create a mysterious, engaging mood.

6. “[Re]Cycle” – Lunacre. The dusky, too-cool atmosphere of trip-hop is combined with the subtle motion and gentle beats of electro-indie-pop for a lithe, smooth, headbobbing experiene.

7. “Macroburst” – Scaphoid. Post-rock? Prog-rock? Rock? Whatever this winding, twisting, riff-heavy, dramatic piece is, it’s certainly not ambient in the Brian Eno sense of the term. Although, if Eno’s original intent was to create a tint for the room, barely noticed, but changing the feel, this could work, if your room was an tension-ridden action film in a dark, gritty, nighttime urban environment. Semantic quibbles aside, this piece captures the drama that post-rock is often going for by leansing on intricate riffs rather than the soft/wall of sound/soft trope. A fascinating piece.

8. “Molded Ocean” – Candy Cigarettes. The sea shanty is often exaggerated for effect, but here Candy Cigarettes turns the oft-careening form into a gently swaying, carefully-crafted, thoughtful acoustic indie song. Even with the occasional towering percussion line and the giant crescendo ending, this is probably the sweetest sea shanty I’ve ever heard.

9. “Psycho Killer” – Smoke Season. Turns the Talking Heads’ jittery art-rock into an ominous, slow-motion, post-dub electro biopic. There’s a lot of people who want to pull this sort of cover transformation off, but few really take a song and own it the way that Smoke Season does here.

10. “Heathens” – Blondfire. The ominous hip-hop of the Twentyone Pilots original is transmuted into a desperate plea over an acoustic guitar.

11. “Autumn Falls” – Erik Jonasson. There’s a remarkable tenderness all through this tune that sets this folk/electro ballad apart from the pack. The ending goes a bit stadium, and it still sounds intimate. Wow.

12. “Wrapped Up” – Allen Tate. If you’re a fan of The National but think that their theatricality can get a bit out of your depth, this low-slung, unassuming, yet very thoughtfully created indie-rock tune will hit the spot perfectly.

13. “Dissolving the Dream” – Scaphoid. Here’s another side of Scaphoid: this version draws on acoustic sounds, especially flowing Spanish-inspired ones, to create a distinct, unique mood. This one is more “anxiously searching a forest for a downed technology before the enemies find it” in the images it evokes for me.

14. “Henry Green” – John White. Somewhere between between Simon & Garfunkel and Irish folk, this tune sounds like a traditional sea/murder ballad of an imagined country.

15. “You Are Here” – River. Any ballad that includes a harp has a lot of good going for it, de facto. This ballad has more than just harp, but everything flows from that smart inclusion in this piano-led piece.




Videos: Some Incredible Clips

October 17, 2016

I’m much slower at getting video posts out than MP3 posts, but that just means the quality is super-high when I get one out. Check out these incredible clips.

Tango? A compelling story? Pitch-perfect set and costuming? A seemingly incongruous set before old people? A great tune? What more could you possibly ask for in an incredible music video? Seriously, this video is almost perfect.

Music videos don’t usually make me cry, but this bildungsroman did. Maybe keep an onion around for plausible deniability. Simply an incredible piece of filmmaking.

How many ways are there to tell the story of a relationship? As many as there are relationships. This one is a beautiful tale gorgeously told, with Mt. Wolf’s hazy, distant electro-acoustic-pop lending the perfect soundtrack.

The clip for Grace Joyner’s “Dreams” tells the aftermath of a relationship (or something equally terrible). The evening unfolds.

Sometimes a video perfectly fits with the mood and topic of the song. I’m not ruining anything in this video for you–just watch it.

Here’s a intricate, moving modern dance interpreting the interpersonal horrors of substance abuse in the midst of a romantic relationship.

This haunting acoustic tune is given visual life by an evocative, mystic, wooded dreamscape.

Mid-October Singles, pt. 3

1. “We’re So Close” – MOON. Heavy doesn’t shock anymore, but it certainly can still make a big bang. As such, the thundering electric guitar entrances in this indie-rock tune are really, really rad. I would love to see this live: I can imagine it would be an impressive experience.

2. “Chaperone” – TOLMAN. I hear electro-indie-pop tunes all the time, and yet some still make me turn my head (and fast; somehow the song makes me know in seconds that it has arrived). This electro jam has some zinging treble synths, sultry female vocals, and squelchy bass synths. The words don’t do it justice–it kicks.

3. “Cold Sunshine” – Dan Webb and the Spiders. Webb usually throws down brash and speedy pop-punk, but this one slows down into a mid-tempo rocker that makes me think as much about The Hold Steady as it does The Gaslight Anthem and other not-quite-pop-punk-but-whatever bands. Webb turns in a great, evocative vocal performance here.

4. “I Can’t Resist” – The Great Escape. Sassy organ, squawking guitars, roaring vocals, stomping percussion; this reads like a mix of The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes.

5. “Show Me Your Facebook Page” – Samantha Echo. This is a wild ride: Echo creates a cabaret/show-tune style piano-pop song about the emotional troubles that Facebook causes. That simple statement can’t encompass the many twists and turns of this song, but it’s the best I got. Just listen to it.

6. “Cigarette” – PANG! feat. Cameron Douglas. Manages, manipulates, and ultimately owns the space between introspective folk and Avicii-style electro-pop-folk. Beautiful, but also catchy and punchy.

7. “Bad Girlfriend” – Keith Monacchio. The downtempo, talking-style singer/songwriter work is immediately arresting. The lyrics are fantastic as well; the sort of simple, “I could have written that but I guess I didn’t” sort of plaintive concern that connects deep.

8. “Evening Light” – Paul Sweeney. This instrumental acoustic piece is the sort that has distinct, robust lead melodies that could have been vocal melodies, had Sweeney so desired. Instead, it’s a highly melodic piece with a lot of body and development.


Mid-October Singles, pt. 2

October 15, 2016

1. “Papernote” – Tigertown. I had the same reaction to this song as I did the first time I heard The Naked and Famous: “whoa, now that is an electro-pop song.” Big, giddy, skittering all over the place; be still my heart.

2. “The World Is a Gumball” – Heavy Heart. Heavy Heart’s song-a-month project continues with a mid-tempo rock piece that blurs the boundaries between ’90s alt-rock and early ’00s female-fronted emo by dint of some shoegaze-y guitar textures. Hazy, dreamy, and yet oddly propulsive (thanks to the bass).

3. “Basic Instructions” – Gleneagle. Unhinged, permanently-threatening-to-come-apart alt-country is attractive because it always barely manages to stay together: here the vocals threaten to dissolve into an uncoordinated rage, only restrained by the carefully coordinated guitar rock going on behind it. The cathartic/jubilant conclusion is all you hope it will be from the first time you hear Bryden Scott’s vocals.

4. “Only at Night” – Candysound. Somehow strikes a warm, comforting balance between jaunty and subdued, like Bloc Party chilling way out or Vampire Weekend on downers.

5. “Revolution (feat. First Aid Kit)” – Van William. Everything that First Aid Kit lends their voices to immediately becomes 4 times better than it was before. This was a good folk-pop song with charming trumpet before their vocals come in; after their vocals, it’s a great song. Straight up.

6. “Life 101” – Sonoride. Shuffle-snare percussion, walking bass, rolling guitar and wistful vocals come together into an excellent folk tune.

7. “All We Do” – Daniel Trakell. The soaring vocal melody in the chorus of this acoustic-pop song just takes off and pushes this song to a whole new level.

8. “That’s All You Get” – Chaperone Picks. Raw, enthusiastic, lo-fi singer/songwriter with some country overtones. For those days when it seems like no one doesn’t use autotune and maxxed out production values, Chaperone Picks is there for you. Realness.

9. “Runaways” – Gabriel Wolfchild and the Northern Light. I feel an expansiveness in my soul when I listen to this song, not unlike that which I feel during Gregory Alan Isakov’s “The Stable Song.”

10. “Agata” – Sam and the Black Seas. This acoustic tune has serious gravitas and yet remains a floating world of a song, barely over two minutes.

11. “Alstroemeria” – TOLEDO. A dignified, composed, carefully constructed piece of acoustic music that shows off the male vocal tone and the ability to make all the pieces fit together intricately.

12. “I Found a Home” – Brooklyn Doran. The pristine guitar playing features an intriguing bass line. The guitar fits between Doran’s Adele-esque vocals and chord-heavy piano playing, creating a strong pop song.

13. “When We Were Young” – Anna Atkinson. Dramatic high alto/low soprano vocals and fiddle duet for the first chunk of this tune, evoking solitary, yearning mountain folk songs. The introduction of guitar somehow amplifies those feelings instead of diminishing them.

Mid-October Singles, pt. 1

October 14, 2016

1. “Devil Yellow Sun” – Small Town Glow. If the emotional indie-rock of Frightened Rabbit had been born in the grunge-laden ’90s, it would have been as gloriously slackery, goofy, and relatable as this tune.

2. “Fossil” – Readership. The present or future ghosts of Modest Mouse, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Arcade Fire, and Spoon dance to the beat of this impeccably crafted, relentlessly endearing indie-rock tune. It’s a rare tune that ends way before I wanted it to.

3. “You Know It’s True” – Quinn Devlin & The Bridge Street Kings. Van Morrison has been popping up in my life a lot recently. Whether it’s in essays, songs, or Spotify recommendations, Van the Man is calling my name. Is this a getting older thing? Is this like classical music? Whatever it is, here’s some earthy-yet-ethereal blue-eyed soul that carries that Van torch forward. Also there’s some Hall & Oates in there? I mean that in the most positive way possible. You know what, ignore all that. It’s just a great song.

4. “Be There” – Buddha Trixie. Hectic/loping, quirky/formal, exuberant/laidback, manic/careful; there’s a lot of duality going on in this joyous indie-pop tune.

5. “there’s nothing better” – Eugene Gallagher. A beautiful, tender, herky-jerky love-song that feels like Delicate Steve’s burbling enthusiasms mixed with a male version of Kimya Dawson’s vocals. (I think you’ll forgive the seemingly ridiculous comparisons once you hear it.)

6. “Bow Down” – TD Lind. Protest folk at its vocal belting, harmonica-toting, major-key best.

7. “The Swim” – Case Conrad. One of those alt-country tunes that balances on the edge of so many things (is it a singer/songwriter tune? is it about to go full-on rock? are the vocals about to explode?) that it keeps the listener on her toes the whole way. Surprisingly, it’s deeply satisfying through all the tension. A fantastic tune.

8. “Melting” – Lindy Vopnfjord. Have you ever walked up a forested mountain near dusk? The beauty of the setting sun unveils a sort of ominous beauty, where the unknown is both gorgeous and dangerous. Those tensions are encompassed in this acoustic/electric minor-key folk tune.

9. “Aelia Laelia (Edit)” – Christopher Chaplin. I can give this complex, complicated piece one of my highest compliments: it defied easy conventions, making me ask, “What is this?” Part post-rock, part ambient/industrial electronic, part neo-classical performance, part operatic vocal songcraft, this composition bends the boundaries. Chaplin is really inventive and engaging here.

10. “Bombs” – EDGES. Reverb can serve to obscure, but it can also make things more intimate, as if you’re sitting next to the musician in a huge church. This acoustic tune is the latter, as the patient guitar and gently yearning vocals create a sense of closeness and warmth amid a giant building.

11. “Like a Funeral (Joel Rampage Duet Remake)” – Erik Jonasson. There will be approximately 1,000,000 slow-jam electro ballads released this year, but I would wager that maybe five will make me want to cry. This heartbreaking, expansive tune is one of them.

12. “She Floats” – Van-Anh Nguyen. Ambient by dint of crackles, breaths, and distant noises that run throughout, this delicate, piano-driven piece evokes a seaside boardwalk in the early morning.

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

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