Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Pop is the Word

October 1, 2005

Pop is the Word

This month’s singles center around pop and it’s forms- indie-pop, dream-pop, power-pop, and nu-wave emo (which is the new pop/rock). There’s also an indie track thrown in there for good measure, although it’s punky, so you could say that it’s pop-punk. I wouldn’t. But you might. Enjoy.

Song: From Daniel, Chapter 10

Band: Sherlock

Genre: Indie-pop
Album: n/a
Label: Da Capo Aria Records
Website: www.sherlockrock.com

Bottom Line: Mellow, trance-inducing indie-rock that ends jubilantly.

“From Daniel, Chapter 10” starts off very unassumingly- a finger-picked guitar line and a very soft percussion thump bring in the song. The guitar has a very soft-edged tone, which is echoed when the vocals come in- very soothing and sweet, they meld perfectly with the sound. A piano and another percussion instrument are added, increasing the depth of this track. The track drifts onward in a very Pet Sounds-ish way until it spontaneously explodes in a jubilant outcry of a choir singing. As if to counterbalance the outcry, the next section is a very ambient one, completely composed of guitar and ‘ahs’. The trick ending is pretty cool, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself. A splendid indie-rock song that shows talent, diversity, and interesting songwriting ideas.

Song: Dreamy
Band: Felix and Wolf
Genre: Indie-pop
Album: N/a
Label: N/a
Website: www.myspace.com/felixandwolf
Bottom Line: Early track from a very promising solo artist.

Some people would look at Felix and Wolf and say “What is it?!” I look at Felix and Wolf and say “It’s the beginnings of something great!” The peculiar guitar style on “Dreamy” does give off a dreamy effect, but more so than the guitar playing is the vocal section included. In the middle of the song, the vocalist sings an acapella melody, then layers another melody on that, and then a third- creating a joyous hymn of ba-ba-bas. The song then reclaims its guitar roots and finishes out the song, leaving the listener in stunned silence at what has just happened. It may have a couple of wrong notes and a couple of vocal moments that aren’t top-notch, but the ideas behind it are great. Felix and Wolf has a bright future ahead. Definitely one to watch.

Song: Hidden Clouds
Band: Negro Fluo
Genre: Dream-Pop
Album: N/a
Label: N/a
Website: www.myspace.com/negrofluo

Bottom Line: Dreamy, lo-fi pop that soothes with impressive songwriting skill.

Built more on layers of sound than verse/chorus/verse, the clarity with which “Hidden Clouds” is accomplished is impressive. Starting with a wavering synth line, then backed with a clicking, ticking digital beat, this song grows depth without ever seeming too fast paced. Each element is so weighted and measured that by the time you notice it, it’s already there- entrances are never noticed. The ebb and flow of this song only improves when the vocals come in- fey and high-pitched, they are reminiscent of Ben Gibbard without being annoyingly so. The song progresses very easily, retaining the otherworldly quality that all good dream-pop has. The only downside to “Hidden Clouds” is that there is not a well-defined vocal hook. The song ambles along in a very enjoyable manner, but there’s no strong vocal hook to close the deal, leaving the listener a little bit abandoned as the song fades out. It’s about the only thing there is to criticize in “Hidden Clouds”- the rest is extremely tight, captivating dream-pop.

Song: [Insert Long and Winded Song Title About Immaturely Longing for a Girl’s Love Here”>
Band: Shorthand Phonetics
Genre: Indie/punk
Album: Tsefuelha EP
Label: Tsefula Records
Website: www.soundclick.com/shorthandphonetics
Bottom Line: Short, sweet, and worth the time.

“Insert….” is a short blast of indie-punk energy. After a quirky intro, the song pulses to life, setting a punky riff against a rapid-fire vocal performance reminiscent of such caustic vocalists like Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and Jack White of the White Stripes. Lead Singer Abalil Ashari doesn’t reach the manic heights of White or the deranged tones of Brock, but he gets close enough to make this song worth listening to repeatedly. The vocal explosion at the end is great- a reminder of why yelling/screaming was incorporated into music in the first place. The breakdown in the middle falls victim to a lo-fi recording, as it is mostly obscured, but the rest of the song revels in low-fidelity goodness. With a little more practice, Shorthand Phonetics is really going to be something.

Song: Let’s Leave This
Band: The View Between
Genre: Rock/Nu-wave Emo
Album: Promo 2005
Label: Royal Empire Records (www.Royalempirerecords.net)
Website: www.theviewbetween.com
Bottom Line: A song that you want to hear on your radio.

The View Between starts out “Let’s Leave This” in a very strong way- instantly establishing very heavy yet hooky guitars. The riff is nothing new to the rock/nu-wave emo genre, but it’s good enough that you’ll want to hear it again. The vocals throughout are extremely well-done, capitalizing on the fact that the lead singer’s tone is not high or whiny. The background vocals are done well also. The song flows along in a pretty strong way until the breakdown, which is strong musically, but falls down vocally. The melodies just don’t establish anything new. The transition from the bridge to the chorus does save some face, though- they throw in a spoken word section and really connect well. The inclusion of screams only at the end of the song for emphasis also really helps this song. If I heard The View Between on the radio, I’d definitely call back and ask them to play it again- it’s the type of song that would make radio fun to listen to again.

Song: 32
Band: 4 Points West
Genre: Power-pop
Album: Lonesome Demise…EP
Label: N/a
Website: www.myspace.com/4pointswest
Bottom Line: Really good power-pop from OKC.

I think a power-pop scene is forming in Oklahoma City- first I heard the stellar Falcon Five-O, and now I’ve met the rapidly rising 4 Points West. A comparison between the two bands is possible- both have mid-tempo guitars that push the focus towards the vocals, as well as the same general feel-good mood. 4 Points West doesn’t have as good of a chemistry as FFO does, but that’s because they haven’t been a band as long. They still have some really good ideas- the best part of “32” comes when the vocals and bass duel (yes, you read that right). The lead guitar has some really cool melody ideas, especially towards the end of the song. The chemistry will come with time, making their good ideas into great songs, but for right now 4 Points West has a lot of good ideas and average accomplishment of those ideas.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

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

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