Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quick Hits: Wooden Wing / The Brokenmusicbox

July 15, 2012

Wooden Wing‘s Love or Something Similar owes an equal debt to fingerpicked pop-folk and Paul Simon: it’s hard to imagine that this EP exists without the influence of either. The tight, bright tunes have such an easygoing, open feel that I was surprised to find it the work of a quintet. I would not have been surprised to hear it was a guy/girl duo, as two vocalists trade off. Both Ted Gerstle and Mel Senftle have earnest, guileless voices that give a boost of goodwill to folky tunes that could otherwise have been moody.

Wooden Wing is fond of employing pad synths sweeps to bridge the gap between optimistic and despondent (“Bubblegum, “Finish First”), which is a space where Paul Simon spent a large part of his career. So it’s unsurprising that the title track sounds like a long-lost Rhymin’ Simon track, with perky rhythms, polyphonic acoustic guitar lines, and a lot of syllables offhandedly cast into unexpected spaces. It works beautifully, pointing the way toward a bright future for Wooden Wing if they keep writing and growing. Chicagoans, take note: they’re in your neck of the woods.

The heat bubble that engulfed most of the United States for a couple weeks has broken, so it’s been raining almost daily here in Austin. That’s perfect weather to listen to The Brokenmusicbox‘s A Life Less Underground, a heaping helping of wistful, lush, Pacific Northwest indie-folk. The album isn’t strum-heavy; the band depends strongly on vocals and piano to create the mood (although drums and guitar are definitely a part of the sound). With the main push focused on sonorous vocal melodies, the rest of the instruments are turned down in importance; this results in a very consistent release.

There aren’t many instrumental performances to point out in A Life Less Underground that stick out (although the instrumentalists are all talented), because the overall feel of the album is more important. It’s a rousing success on that front: you may not remember the names of any particular tune (except the sparse closer “California Year”), but you’ll know the album was beautiful. Still, opener “We Will,” “My Heart” and “Never” all have charms that set them apart as highlights. Fans of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear will find much to love here.

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

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