Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Premiere: Jake McKelvie’s “Rhinestone Busboy”

November 18, 2016

The last time IC checked in with Jake McKelvie, he was blasting off at rocket speed over folk-punk strumming. If the title track/first single of McKelvie’s new EP The Rhinestone Busboy is any indication, this release is going to be a lot different.

“Rhinestone Busboy” is a pristine, walking-speed country shuffle with indie arranging tendencies, much like Clem Snide’s work. Over a brushed snare shuffle and unhurried acoustic strum, warm keys and electric guitar with vintage-style reverb settings ring out in a precise yet charming method. The engineering is bright and sharp, which results in a very effective fusion of the traditional with the modern.

The delicate, carefully constructed arrangement is matched by McKelvie’s languid, easygoing vocal delivery–he’s perfectly at ease here, allowing his voice to have all sorts of honest, subtle emotional inflections. The lyrics tell a story of a romantic reconnection that actually turned into ships passing in the night–a tale with more twists and turns than I’d expect from the musical style. But even in simplicity, McKelvie can draw out complexity. It’s a fascinating track that calls for repeated listens and has me quite excited for the full EP, which drops December 20.




Moon Hooch: Two horns and a drum kit make out-of-this-world noise

November 14, 2016


Saxophone and horn have definitely moved out of marching band. Moon Hooch is a trio consisting of James Muschler (drums) and Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen (saxophone). Students at The New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, they honed their performance style in the subway system of New York City and recorded Red Sky at The Bunker in Brooklyn. Red Sky brings together a host of talents in composition coupled with raw energy: the energy of the city turns the album into a trip on the dance floor–no matter where you are. A captivating third release, this fourteen track album (including bonus track) dances its way into a transcendent experience for the listener.

“I think Red Sky is more focused than any of our past albums,” reflects McGowen. “We practice meditation and yoga, and I think that we’re more evolved as people than we’ve ever been right now. That evolution expresses itself as focus, and through focus comes our energy.” Thoughtful sequencing is part of this release. They open with the title track, then follow with “That’s What They Say,” where the celebrated baritone sax flows into the first intoxicating melody. Influenced by electronica, there is an auditory rave going on here. Making a sax sing is an amazing talent, and the jazz influences are evident. Intricate tenor sax runs only punctuate the complex composition. NY Mag got it right, once referring to their sound as “Jay Gatsby on ecstasy.”

Bringing it down a notch is “Sunken Ship,” featuring introspective, seductive lyrics. This song reflects the fact that the band uses found items to manipulate the sound of their instruments. It is also just plain cool. Stomping back in with trademark horn runs is “Love 5”; the horns give a familiarity that kicks toe-tapping into dancing gear. The reference points range from John Coltrane to Clarence Clemons and beyond, coming together into a unique tongueing style that makes this music magic.

“Psychotubes” goes ethereal, leading with a beastly percussion invitation to fall in head first. Having spent time in India and practicing meditation, “On The Sun” flows in a stream of consciousness set to music. “I went to India, and the first morning I woke up, it was like 5am, and I followed this music along the banks of the Ganges,” McGowan remembers. “I eventually ended up finding this amazing tabla player, and after his performance, I asked him for lessons. He agreed, and I went for daily lessons with him and another guy for the next two weeks. After that, I took a train to Calcutta, where I met with the guru that I’d studied with in New York, and I did morning lessons with him and practiced throughout the day. It was an incredible musical immersion experience.”

Kicking in with the only countdown is “Booty Call” as a return to the exuberance of the now-familiar melodies twisted up a notch. The song continues to evolve in new ways with a subtle jazz vibe. “Shot” redefines what the music here is and how the instruments are used. Energetic and expansive mixes help the vocals on this song feel special, making it an integral piece of the puzzle. Tripping into “Something Else,” the music soars and plunges like a roller coaster with mini breaks in exuberance. “Rough Sex” brings back that rave club vibe, driving and sexy sax blended with the DJ thing that keeps the party rocking. From high hat to the building melody, the experience is real, all the way down to the final breakdown.

Taking the album out is an “Alien Invasion,” which at this point does not feel alien at all. The out of this world musicianship of this trio from Brooklyn shines: funky beats with the trademark bass lines make this song shine out of this world. Intricate melodies are layered with stellar grace, giving each instrument a chance to shine. Moon Hooch is continuing to tour in support of Red Sky with upcoming dates in Reno, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Pawling (New York), Providence, and Portland (Maine). In the meantime, make sure and listen to Red Sky by Moon Hooch. This album is out of this world.–Lisa Whealy

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: 2

October 25, 2016

1. “kid.” – Arwen & the Mega Reset. Man, I was super-into Braids when Native Speaker came out, so I am predisposed to like any spacious, dreamy, female-fronted indie-rock. Arwen & the Mega Reset (what a rad name, btw) here take a more direct approach to vocals than Raphaelle Standell-Preston, creating a nice tension between the wisping, chiming, processed guitar sounds that form the mood and the powerful vocal lines (a la Lake Street Dive, maybe?). Also, the artwork for this song makes me totally want to try riding down a hill on a mattress held up by skateboards. In short, this is totally rad. Check it out.

2. “Hyaena (Vols. 1-3)” – Naked Waste. This tune has a lot going on, so you’re going to have to prepare yourself. Naked Waste uses mostly just a bass guitar (awesome!) by manipulating the sounds that come out in a wide variety of ways. So it actually doesn’t sound like there’s a bass guitar at all in the song. The vocals here are very idiosyncratic, especially in the verses–but they resolve into a glorious chorus melody that hooked me. There are also three parts to this song, and one of them is a gospel-style chorus of people who sound more traditional than lead vocalist Paul Cumming. It’s a five-minute journey that I highly recommend that the adventurous listener take.

3. “Company” – Pepa Knight. Pepa Knight’s run of infectious singles continues with a tune that meshes huge tom percussion through burbling, low-key electro work to create a carefully-managed tension between electronic and organic sounds. Knight’s vocals fit perfectly over the arrangement.

4. “Bottles” – Bad Pony. Here’s a live band fusing mid-’00s dance-rock enthusiasm with tasteful, accentuating post-dub electronics. Nerdy connection: Anyone remember Head Automatica? I immediately thought of Beating Heart Baby when I heard the tune. This is nothing but a good thing.

5. “Getting Through” – Inspired & the Sleep. Sometimes you just want to hear a stuttery, low-key indie-pop song a la Generationals. Eat it up.

6. “Long Way to the Moon” – Alright Gandhi. Bass guitar, skittering beats, squiggly synths, and commanding female vocals drive this atypical indie-pop song. Totally interesting.

6. “Take Me Away (ft. Filous)” – Tigertown. And sometimes you want to hear a danceable yet low-key electro-dance song.

7. “The Wicked” – Ender & Valentine. A careful fusion of acoustic, electro, and pop-rock results in a song that’s a lot of fun but also wistful and resonant. The delicate balance pays off in a fantastic tune.

8. “Always on Fire” – Troup. The aura of Bruce Springsteen floats above this intense, earnest roots-rock tune, but never gets in the way. Instead, the punchy percussion and deft vocal performance take front and center. The engineering work on this pushes the bass way up in the mix, which I love.

9. “A Beautiful Mystery” – Katie Costello. Cars-esque New Wave meet ’00s guitar pop (a la KT Tunstall) for a chipper, perky blast of pop that yet resists being saccharine.

10. “Float” – Silver Liz. Adds scuzzed-out garage rock guitars to feathery female vocals and some woozy synths for a stomping, punchy rock tune.

11. “Who’s Afraid of Sarah Little?” – Tim de Vil and His Imaginary Friends. A manic fever dream of a song, with singer Justin Robbins speak/singing (and then hollering) over an stoic-by-contrast acoustic indie-rock backdrop. It packs more punch in two and a half minutes than many bands can in 10 or 20. There’s some unavoidable Nick Cave comparison to be had, but unhinged modern indie rockers like The Yellow Dress and MeWithoutYou are closer to the core.

12. “Scarecrow” – Apricot Rail. What if The Album Leaf included a clarinet? This freeflowing, wide-eyed, soothing instrumental answers that question.




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.

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

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