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Happy Birthday to Us! (Six Years!)

So, the official beginning date of Independent Clauses is murky. I distinctly remember putting up a crappy, crappy website named VRCnet.tripod.com in November of 2002, but I can find no evidence to support this. I can, however, find that the earliest post from the original incarnation of Independent Clauses (again: http://vrcnet.tripod.com – it’s still online!) is dated May 15, 2003. This means that today is our sixth birthday.

Thanks to all the people who have helped make this dream possible:

The Stellas (RIP) and All Against Adam, for giving me free music at that very first show I ever tried to get review copies at.
Traindodge, for sending me a CD of On a Lake of Dead Trees that was probably the first actually talented submission I received.
ReedKD, for befriending me.
Purevolume.com’s General Promo boards, where we found most of our initial friends.
Scott Landis, for helping me turn this into a real organization.
All the staff I’ve ever had. Illogically, this number is reaching fifty.
Megan Morgan and Nate Williams, for being the longest-running writers I’ve ever had.
Kyle Ellman, for anticipating problems with IC and generally being the best web guru solid affection and slight bribery can buy.
All the PR companies that (somewhat illogically) send us music to review (especially Chuck from Beartrap).
All the record labels that (somewhat illogically) send us music (Lobster/Oort, especially).
All the independent artists that stay loyal to us through multiple albums (Fairmont, Evan from Futants, Josh Caress, so many more).
Everyone who has stayed with us through multiple losses of albums, websites, staff and more. (DBG, your review goes up tomorrow. It’s already scheduled)
Everyone who’s ever let me go to a show for free, or attempted to let me go to a show for free (Sugar Free All-Stars, I love you; Pontiak, I love you more, because I wasn’t 21 at the time).
And everyone who has ever read this; we’ve had upwards of 50,000 hits some months, which means that people are getting their kicks right here at Independent Clauses.

I’ll post a more philosophical musing on six years later, but I wanted to thank everyone profusely first. As with all good liner notes, thanks to Jesus Christ, without whom this wouldn’t exist. And thanks to all those people I forgot to thank that deserve to be thanked. Comment on this and I will thank you immensely.

All Apologies

So, the IC has been a bit sporadic recently. Our Twitter has been super-active, but we haven’t posted a lot of reviews. This will change, starting tomorrow. Expect us to be back on a daily schedule for the rest of the summer.

Thanks for your patience.

Favorite bands right now: School of Seven Bells, Avett Brothers, K’naan.

Upcoming (overdue) reviews: Leonard Mynx, Love of Pi, several more.

Norman Music Festival Features: Traindodge

Traindodge had one of the earliest slots at the Norman Music Festival, and the opening slot at the Red Room venue. Having reviewed their album On a Lake of Dead Trees at the very beginning of Independent Clauses, I was interested to see what Traindodge had morphed into over the six years since I had heard them.

The guys in Traindodge are an older lot, which surprised me somewhat when they set up their drums/bass/guitar set-up. The Traindodge I knew was heavy…really heavy. They dispelled any uneasiness I may have had when they tore into their first song. Their brand of rock is heavy on dissonance and yelled vocals, but it also features intricate drumming patterns, digital beats, keyboards, and synthesizer backing. These never drop them into kitschy range, though; much like the Appleseed Cast, they use the more melodic elements of their sound as droning backdrops, stabbing asides, and gritty atmosphere.

Their sound was energizing and somewhat mesmerizing; the keys and beats sucked me in, while the guitars, drums and bass pummeled their way in afterwards. These guys can write a rock song, that is for sure.

Another interesting aspect of Traindodge is the fact that they have reached past the point of pretension. They have been doing this for so long that they don’t have to put on a show to make themselves feel comfortable. They could have played to a thousand or half a dozen people (there were about 50 people there, perhaps, by the end), and they would have performed exactly the same. They were having fun, and the fact that they were truly interested and excited in what they were doing for the sake of what they were doing made their set great.

They have a new album coming out at the beginning of June; I would recommend picking it up. Highly recommended for fans of Appleseed Cast, Life and Times, Dredg, Muse, etc.

Norman Music Festival

I’m hitting up the Norman Music Festival today. I’ll be tweeting things as I go. I’ll be posting full reviews with some pictures throughout this upcoming week. This does pre-empt some of our scheduled coverage, but we’ll jump right back on track on Wednesday or Thursday. Bands most excited to see: Uglysuit, Man Man, the Non, Sugar-Free Allstars. Default interest on Of Montreal, but I only know two or three of their songs.

But I did enjoy how I described them to a friend who hadn’t heard of them:

“Take Sufjan 33 records and bump the speed up to forty-five, then through in a high-pitched singer. Then they all look like David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust era. Then you add some girls in the mix, and you’ve got Of Montreal.”

It’s a pretty poor description, but hey. It’s Of Montreal. What do you expect?

Throwing out the Bake Sale, going for the history books: Cool Kids concert review and interview

The Cool Kids recently played a show last weekend at the college I attend, Hendrix College, in Conway, Arkansas. The Cool Kids are one of the more recently exciting hip-hop groups to emerge recently. Some label their sound as “hipster-hop”, and others cite the heavy influences of the Golden Age of Hip Hop.  The point is, you can’t pin their sound, and they are always doing something new. The Cool Kids are a couple of really young, laid-back dudes. It took about four hours to get an interview with them, but not because of their ego or pretentiousness. It’s just their youth; like the rest of most young people, it’s tough to get down to business. The concert was presented by KHDX, and the profits of tickets went to the charity club, Campus Kitty. The Tennessee native hip-hop group Free Sol opened for them, and I missed it because of the interview.  After the interview, The Cool Kids were chill and discussed hip-hop with me. When The Cool Kids finally performed, the show was fantastic. The turn-out was small, but those who came got into the music, even though most of them didn’t know most of the songs. The Cool Kids surprised with a  beatbox rendition of “Mikey Rocks” and brought a few new songs out, which suggested that new bloods are keeping hip-hop alive. These guys were the perfect choice for the night’s entertainment.

How did you guys feel about asking to be played at a show in Conway, Arkansas, at Hendrix College?

Chuck Inglish: I didn’t know that I had a show here til’… two days ago. We were working when we got the news. If I wasn’t working I’d probably be more excited, but we were in the groove. But I’m excited now that I’m here. Everybody’s been extremely nice. It looks like it’s gonna be a nice show. About to do a brand new song that we did two days ago.

Which song?

Chuck Inglish: It’s a song off of our Gone Fishing mixtape. We’re gonna have everybody with camera phones put their camera phones up, and I want everybody to put that shit on Youtube, once we do the song.

You guys are stationed in Chicago and are on your own label. So, how is Chicago for an independent rap artist?

Chuck Inglish: The worst place ever. [Laughs]

Mikey Rocks: Yeah, this ain’t your planet right now.

Chuck Inglish: It’s against all odds. This ain’t 1999, where everything works. Like, you got to damn near be a rapping Olympian in order to get shit poppin’ nowadays, and at the same time it’s cool. But the worst part about is that anybody new that’s been coming along has been a flash in a pan, that was the whole set-up. Like, we got this song with “these guys,” you don’t even know the guys…. And the song runs, don’t know who did the song, and the next thing you know they disappear. It’s just how hip-hop’s getting treated; we’re getting treated like Bush right now. Basically anybody new that comes along has to bury the shit that someone else f*cked up for a really long time.

There seems to be a lot of guys, Hollywood Holt, Mic Terror, etc., that are part of the immortal nation movement in Chicago. Can you explain more about this?

Chuck Inglish: The Movement? Yeah, those are friends of ours. We know them beyond music.

Mikey Rocks: It’s more of just, you know, we’re just friends. It’s less about making songs together, and more about just everybody being cool.

Are there any of those guys that are going to be breaking out?

Chuck Inglish: I think Mic Terror… Mic Terror will murder shit, if it’s done right. Mic Terror’s got a song that he just put back out. He’s working with our sound engineer right now on some stuff, and he’s got some really good songs.

The album you’re working on is called When Fish Ride Bicycles. Where’d you guys come up with that name?

Chuck Inglish: We were really, really “relaxed,” and were watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” And, I believe it happened when Hillary was going to do a Playboy shoot for the weather girls, and Carleton wanted to go to the Playboy mansion, and he asked and Phil told him, “When fish ride bicycles.”

How is the album progressing right now?

Chuck Inglish: It’s done.

What can listeners expect?

Chuck Inglish: You’ll throw Bake Sale out. We’re brand new people. That’s just what happened.

Mikey Rocks: It’s a whole new album, it’s not a continuation.

Chuck Inglish: I can say this on this day, ‘cause it’s just realized. The Bake Sale was us being kids, and just getting shit out.

Mickey Rocks: Yeah, just playing around making songs, not really knowing how to record.

Chuck Inglish: Now that this is our life, we are taking it as serious as our life. We want to go down, we want to be in that history book, in the first couple of pages. We ain’t trying to be in the back of that book. We’re just working towards it, and I don’t believe in talking yourself up. I believe in “you shut up and you work,” and you make people recognize you for who you are for what you’ve done, not what you’ve said. Like, a lot of the shit we did before, we would never even listen to. If The Cool Kids came out right now, like two years ago, I would hate them. I can be honest with you, I’d be like “yo, those motherf*ckers are wack.” I would seriously do a “diss record” against us two years ago. But now, because we know each other way better, we’ve been roommates for the past two years, we play. When I come up with a new sound, or he comes up with a new style of rap, we are ready to go there with it. That’s basically what we did with this album. We wanted to see how far we could go, and we went there.

How do you guys feel about the state of mainstream hip-hop right now?

Mikey Rocks: It’s f*cked up.

Chuck Inglish: It is what it is. It is what people wanted it to be.

Mikey Rocks: I see how it happened though. It started out when we had a couple of select people that were a little bit smarter than people who were currently in power of hip-hop, and they took advantage of them. They thought “we could make some bread off of this shit.” They didn’t care about the state of the art form, they didn’t care about quality of the music, or the effect it would have on the kids.

Chuck Inglish: When shit gets bought out, that’s when it’s over. A lot of thing lose it’s mystique when you sell your shit for a price.

Mikey Rocks: Yeah, turn it into a Walmart or Target. Pick your sound, pick your clothes, and go up there… and that’s it.

Chuck Inglish: Rappers shouldn’t have stylists. You can quote that. They came in setting shit. The drug dealers were dressing like the rappers were. Now, the rappers are dressing like the drug dealers. It’s like the tables have turned. That’s what happened, it became a supermarket. You find someone who can halfway rap, if you have enough money, you can get a whole bunch of hot-ass beats and a bunch of expensive producers. People hear that’s who did their album, so it must be good, and then it ain’t good. If you do that 15 times for 10 years straight, people are going to be like “all right, I get it, I’m sick of you crying wolf all the time.”

Do think the mainstream is going to stay like this for a while?

Mikey Rocks: Nah, because the money is not coming in as much as it used to, and you’re going to start seeing it crumble. You are going to start seeing those people who were in power, are going to start backing up and think, “whoa, I’m not making cash no more, I’m done with this shit.” Eventually, it’ll break down into what it once was. Because as soon as that money starts leaving, you’re going to see who really enjoys this, who’s really trying to rap here. You’re going to see a lot of people going back to work, and going back to shooting hoops and shit, trying to get it some other way.

Chuck Inglish: You can live off of it, but at certain times, even I think how can you possibly get really rich off this?

Mikey Rocks: You can definitely live off it, but the millions and all of that crazy shit that was happening, that’s about to be x’d. …That’s really not going to make money any more.

Chuck Enlgish: That comes with work.

Mikey Rocks: Technology’s too advanced for people to be getting screwed over anymore. They ain’t gonna have that “people trying to steal your shit, and charge some money for some wack-ass single that you made.” The money level of hip-hop is not the same as it was a couple years ago. It’s a different world, now that everybody’s kind of tightening their belts. Those that really give a f*ck about trying to be the next Bill Gates of rapping, those people are starting to get a little bit more frugal. But people who are still going to decide to do this regardless, are going to do it anyway.

Are there any particular artists that you’d want to be able to work with at some point?

Chuck Inglish: For me, yeah, cause I write songs, and I like making music for other people. As far as The Cool Kids go, I don’t know. I feel that every time we work, we’re working with someone. Because he always knows something I don’t, or I’ll come up on something he doesn’t know. He started making beats now, so things are getting a little interesting. On our mix tape we have a collaboration with a girl name Jada. I didn’t know here prior to yesterday. She was just there, and she heard the beat and starts kicking a rap over it, and we were like “yo, you should go rap that.” So, that’s what a collaboration is, it’s not like “let’s force something because it’ll chart.” You can’t work out with people you can’t hang out with.

Do you guys plan to be doing this for a while?

Chuck Inglish: Yeah, I ain’t got no other plan. I’m not gonna be the rapper that retires. I’m going to do this ‘til I can’t speak.

Mikey Rocks: Yeah, I’m setting up shop for a while.

Chuck Inglish: The shit I rap about is everyday regular man stuff. Where me, you, some kids you grew up with, and some kids I grew up with can be in a room and all laugh about the same shit, because it’s the same stuff that all of us go through. As we get older, the people that like us now… Just like, how Guns and Roses can do a concert, and the crowd’s all old and some are little, it’s just you take your fans with you. You get older, they get older too. That’s what people’s problem is, they get older and they want to get the young kids, but the young kids always want to know about the older stuff first, so just stick to your guns. Young kids now f*ck with Ghostface; he’s not done anything different. He still kicks the same ill-ass shit he’s done since day one. He didn’t do a song with Mariah Carey cause she’s popular.

Kings and an Untruth

It took me a little longer than usual to write this review. I downloaded the Lie To Me EP by Kingsbury, unzipped it, and added the album to my music library. Once it started playing, I threw it on repeat. I do this because first, I want to listen to an album as much as I can before passing judgment, and second, I like to take notes while I’m listening.  Hearing each song multiple times lets me be pretty thorough in that regard. After that, well, suddenly it was three hours later. I’d totally gotten lost in the music, and managed to listen to the album seven times straight through without writing a single word.

There’s a pretty good reason for this. Kingsbury is dark indie rock. It’s somber and chock-full of emotion. The instrumentals are simple, mostly relying on piano and guitar, along with some synth and percussion. Vocals are soft and melancholy, with appropriate lyrics to back that up. Any one song won’t blow your mind, but as a whole, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Lie To Me opens with “Ocarina Mountaintop,” a post-rock, instrumental piece that sets the mood quite nicely. It grows somewhat over the course of the song, taking on a sound that’s something like This Will Destroy You, but without ever really hitting a loud or defining moment. The album then flows seamlessly into “Back in the Orange Grove,” building on the previous number with vocals that intone, “I’ll never go / back in the orange grove.” I love frontman Bruce Reed’s voice; he conveys quite a bit without using a ton of range or volume. Kingsbury defines itself with slow, rolling music that has body and depth to it.

The album continues with “As I See It” and “Lie To Me,” both of which hold their value in their lyrics. Stuff like “Everything has got to be just like I want it / Everything has got to be as I see it /  Everybody in the world has to care” from the former and, “The deeper we go, the higher we are / No one can say if you take this too far” from the latter are priceless, if only because the real meaning of each song lies in what goes unsaid. The music itself just serves to emphasize and reinforce the emotional impact of the words. “Lie To Me” feels like the darkest song on the album, though it does so quietly, instead of getting all death and destruction and mayhem on you.

All the parts here work well together and contribute to the overall tone. The songs are long, but it works for them. This is one of those albums that’s a continuous experience; each song seems to melt into the next. I want to describe the sound as haunting, but that’s cliché, and I use it too much to describe music. Maybe regretful or remorseful is better.

This album is strong, but it’s because of Kingsbury’s restraint, not because of loud guitar riffs or bombastic lyrics. The moderately repetitive instrumental and vocal parts are what bring home the emotional impact of the EP. For this I say well done, Kingsbury. They created an album that I’ve really enjoyed, and they’ve earned my respect as artists. If you want to hear the Lie To Me EP, it’s available online as a free download at http://www.kingsburymusic.net/audio/released_mp3s/lie_to_me.zip

Independent Clauses is now on Twitter

Yes, we finally have caved to the most ADD of all social media. You can follow us as we follow music at twitter.com/indieclauses. I am currently incredibly amused, so I’ll be keeping it up obsessively for as long as my interest remains piqued. Then we’ll settle in to a nice, steady rhythm. I am not sure when this will equalize.

Also, we are trying to think of a good abbreviation of IndependentClauses so that we can get a shorter domain name. Unfortunately, IC.com and theIC.com are taken; we’re thinking indieclauses.com, indiec.com, independency.com (just kidding), or something else if someone else comes up with something good (someone suggested eyesee.com, but it’s taken).

Thoughts on either point? hit up the comments.

Some notes and some songs

To keep all you readers in the loop: this upcoming week is going to be kinda scattershot with the posts. On the 19th we’re going to start regular daily posting, and even that will be erratic for a week or two as we get used to our new system. Bear with us. The rust is pretty thick after eight months, you know. It’s tough to shake it off quickly.

Some stuff to tide you over:

David Shultz has a beautiful new demo up called “Down the Road.” You can check it out at end of his player on his Myspace.

Novi Split has three new demos posted. My favorite Novi Split songs are demos, so this is awesome. In fact, Keep Moving was nothing but demos (as evidenced by the fact that follow-up Pink in the Sink sounded like what would have happened on Keep Moving if more than one instrument was playing at a time). As with most things Novi Split, these three new songs are gorgeous, precise and will stick with you.

I stumbled across obscure songs by Jim Ward (Sparta/Sleepercar) and Tim Kasher (Cursive/The Good Life) on this myspace. I own this album (the My Favorite Songwriters compilation album, put out to celebrate Five One, Inc.‘s ten-year anniversary), and it’s a pretty solid comp with all-original tracks. The overall mood is a little bit darker than I usually listen to on a whim, but it’s hard to knock any of the tracks.

My Music of 2008

This year has been really fragmented for me. After having the last five years totally absorbed by music (via Independent Clauses or various bands I’ve been in), I spent most of this year not doing anything music-related. In the eight months that Independent Clauses was down, I busied myself with other things. Thus, I don’t have enough information to really make an adequate top ten or even top five list of the year’s best. What I do have is a playlist composed of the tracks that I listened to the most in 2008. Some of these tracks are old; some of these came from 2008. “Now” by Mates of State is my favorite track off my favorite album of 2008 (Re-arrange Us). “Sax Rohmer #1” is a stand-out track from Heretic Pride by the Mountain Goats, another top album of ’08. “Talking in Code” and “Price is Right” take the prize for best overall songs I discovered.

Work Out Your Salvation Through Fear and Trembling: a 2008 retrospective

1. “Brother” by Annuals
2. “The Lining is Silver” by Relient K
3. “You Can Make Him Like You” by The Hold Steady
4. “Story Problem” by the Envy Corps
5. “Now” by Mates of State
6. “Weird” by Clem Snide
7. “Sax Rohmer #1” by the Mountain Goats
8. “Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love” by Coldplay
9. “Blue Eleanor” by Old Canes
10. “The Swiss Army Romance” by Dashboard Confessional
11. “My Rollercoaster” by Kimya Dawson
12. “Sinaloan Milk Snake Song” by the Mountain Goats
13. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” by Right Away, Great Captain!
14. “Monster Ballads” by Josh Ritter
15. “Table for Two” by Caedmon’s Call
16. “California Skies” by Novi Split
17. “Talking in Code” by Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s
18. “Makers” by Rocky Votolato
19. “Murder in the City” by Avett Brothers
20. “Price is Right” by Aaron Robinson and the Lost Verses

"Valley Winter Song" gets tapped by L.L. Bean

The criminally underappreciated Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne should get a boost. L.L. Bean tapped “Valley Winter Song,” one of my favorite tracks off the album, for a commercial. The commercial isn’t anything that exciting, but the fact that Fountains of Wayne is getting some love (that doesn’t include Rachel Hunter or “Stacy’s Mom”) is exciting to me.

Here’s the L.L. Bean commercial.

Here’s a couple other commercials with indie bands in them.

Kira Willey was introduced to me via this Dell Commercial.

Of Montreal parodies themselves for Outback steakhouse.

An emotionally impactful GM commercial with Brandi Carlisle in it.

This trend is good; I hope it continues with many more  undiscovered (and discovered) bands.