1. “Run With Me” – Heather LaRose. A great pop song that has that Imagine Dragons / Magic Giant / Lumineers type of enthusiasm tinged with minor-key drama. You’ll be humming this one.
2. “New Minuits” – Tri-State. This low-slung rock tune escaped from some preternaturally chill realm: it’s smart, cool, moody, lyrically clever and vocally impressive without breaking a sweat.
3. “Nothing to Say” – WOOF. THAT BASS LINE. (Also, this a burbling, frenetic, arpeggiator-decorated mid-’00s indie-pop-rock tune. Tokyo Police Club would be proud.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH. THAT BASS.
4. “Take Me To a Party” – Sweet Spirit. “I’ve got a broken heart / so take me to a party” hollers the lead female vocalist over energetic, fractured rock music that sounds suitably unhinged.
5. “Corduroy” – Redcast. Gosh, there’s just something irresistible about a fresh-faced, clean-scrubbed pop-rock group with equal parts Beatles, twee indie-pop, and The Cars references.
6. “Soldiers” – Swim Season. Everything about this track makes way more success when you realize that it’s about to be summer in the band’s native Australia. This summery electro-rock jam slinks, sways and swaggers its way into your ears.
7. “Movies” – Captain Kudzu. Meticulous slacker pop seems like a paradox, but Captain Kudzu’s carefully crafted tune here sounds excellently like it’s not trying too hard. Foresty, moody vibes track with the easiness, making it an intriguing song.
8. “Captive” – WYLDR. Temper Trap + Passion Pit + a dash of Colony House = radio gold.
9. “Every Day” – Dream Culture. Here’s a funky psych-rock nugget with one foot firmly in the ’70s and one in outer space. The tension between grounded riffing and free-floating atmosphere pulls at each other in all the right ways.
10. “Hey Little League” – Michael Daughtry. John Mayer’s suave alt-pop touch collides with some tight ’90s pop-rock vibes to turn out this tune.
11. “Time to Share” – Model Village. Grows from a delicate pop tune to a surprising, swirling post-disco tune without ever losing a gentle touch.
12. “You Have Saved Our Lives, We Are Eternally Grateful” – Wovoka Gentle. Chiming voices float over shape-shifting synths, bouncy guitars, and an overall joyous mood. It’s kind of like a female-fronted Freelance Whales, only weirder in the best possible way.
1. “Whine of the Mystic” – Nap Eyes. Major-key guitar-rock infused with so much martial tension from the drums and the wavering high guitar part that it feels like it is always about to explode–with the exception of the preternaturally calm vocalist that tethers the tune the ground. The tune never explodes in giant guitar fury. I’m impressed.
2. “Getaway” – Jaill. Bass-heavy surf-rock that eschews much of the whining treble that categorizes the genre: suddenly, it just sounds like tip-top driving pop-rock music.
3. “Be What You Are” – The Cairo Gang. The less garage-y garage rock gets, the more it sounds like ’60s rock and pop. This has Beach Boys, Beatles, Kinks, and more influences crammed into it. Rock on.
4. “Incarceration Casserole” – Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. Uncorked James Brown-esque soul/funk complete with sax meets blast-off ’50s rock in a high-energy blender of a song that’s about not knowing how to make food and eat because his wife is in jail. This is the first time you’ve heard a song like this.
5. “Creature” – It Looks Sad. Every now and then a punk song jumps out of the ether, slaps me across the face, and demands that I cover it. This one, with its towering choruses, huge-yet-not-abrasive guitars, and early ’00s/White Octave-esque emotional palette did that to me.
6. “Kashyyyk” – We Take Fire. A mind-bending genre blender of a song that combines post-rock, post-hardcore, dance-rock, and Coheed & Cambria-esque flights of fancy into one massively headturning rock song.
7. “Smokesignals” – The Feel Bad Hit. Here’s an punk-inspired instrumental rock tune that has nothing post- about it: the band just crushes it without vocals. ‘Nuff said.
8. “Love Like Crazy” – Jessica Lee Wilkes. Wilkes offers up some sax-powered, vaguely surfy vintage pop that sounds fresh as anything.
9. “Crossing on a Bend” – Bourbon Street Beat. Not a big rockabilly fan? Try this track, which includes enough modern melodic sentiment to seem less uncomfortably foreign and more exotic and interesting.
10. “Port City” – I Am the Albatross. Buoyant acoustic rhythm guitar, crunchy electric guitars (complete with guitar solo!), jubilant chorus, creaky vocals, big drums: this is an old-school rock tune, y’all.
11. “Business” – The Good Field. I have an ambient understanding of what ’70s AM radio rock sounded like: warm, major-key, fuzzed out, concerned with formal songwriting tactics, and generally hooky. The Good Field fit my impressionistic ideas of what that style sounded like to a T.
12. “Aubrey” – Lake Malawi. Low-slung but still peppy, chilled-out but still energetic, this sounds like a Strokes-ian indie band accidentally getting lost in ’80s radio pop and emerging with an artifact that isn’t either genre, exactly.
13. “Young” – Kyle and the Pity Party. This song declares “I’d do anything for you/I’d even listen to Brand New/if that’s what you want me to.” Without waxing poetic about the early 2000s (Deja Entenduforever), I can confidently say that this sort of emotional rock and roll is a direct descendant of that scene (with some of the angular edges worn off).
1. “Keep It Coming” – Topher Mohr. It’s hard to write a timeless pop song, but Mohr has put together a wonder of a tune that feels like it could have come out of the ’70s AM Radio scene or the mid-’00s MGMT-esque pop stuff. It’s just a great track all around.
2. “Ice Fishing” – The Cairo Gang. The sort of guitar-rock tune that splits the difference between classic rock, Beatles pop, and San Fran garage rock with ease. Between God? and Burger (and its many offshoots) Records, it feels like we’re in a genuine moment for hooky garage rock.
3. “Sugar Coated” – Jessie Jones. It sounds like everyone, from the bassist to the drummer to the vocalist, is having fun on this hooky garage-rock track.
4. “Timepiece” – Ripple Green. Classic rock guitar and vocals meet a radio-ready modern pop chorus, putting a foot in each world.
5. “Dusty Springfield” – The Fontaines. A little bit of indie-rock, a little bit of ’50s girl-pop, a whole lot of catchy.
6. “Long Way Down” – Vienna Ditto. Minor-key surf-punk? Why not? Vienna Ditto own it, complete with whirring organ, honking saxes, and frantic tom rolls.
7. “Big Bright World” – Jeremy Pinnell. This is about as authentic as country gets: western swing rhythms, weeping pedal still, deep-voiced sadness, and a narrator with a former(?) drug problem. Still, the sun shines through, just like the title suggests.
8. “The Night Before” – No Dry County. You don’t have to sound like Bob Wills to catch my ear with a country tune; this modern country tune has a great melody, a solid arrangement, and an evocative vocal performance. It’s like a country Jimmy Eat World, maybe.
9. “Soaring” -WindfallFound. Post-rock of the beauty-inclined variety, complete with distant, processed vocals, Appleseed Cast-style.
10. “She Knows It” – Shannen Nicole. Goes from “ooh” to “whoa” in no time flat: starts off as a dusky torch song, then amps up to a thunderous torcher by the end. A formidable performance.
11. “The Gold Standard” – Marrow. The Hold Steady’s wry, jubilant mantra “Gonna walk around and drink some more” drops the jubilant part here: this low-slung, slow-build indie-rock tune has a woozy calm that belies the sort of difficult, composed walking that comes of one too many drinks.
1. “The Last Generation of Love” – The Holy Gasp. Hugely theatrical vocals, driving conga drums, stabbing horns, and an overall feel of wild desperation permeate this wild track. It feels like a lost ’60s bossa nova played at triple the speed with an apocalyptic poet dropping remix bars over it. In short, this one’s different.
2. “Hot Coffee” – Greg Chiapello. Somewhere between Brill Building formal pop songcraft and Beatles-esque arrangement affectations sits this perky, smile-inducing, timeless tune.
3. “Wake Up and Fight” – Gaston Light. If you’re looking for a widescreen folk creed, this tune builds from a single bass note to a fist-raised anthem. Gaston Light attempts to channel Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Conor Oberst, and more.
4. “Evil Dreams” – Elstow. ’50s girl-pop mixed with some 9 p.m. vibes and reverb = solid track.
6. “All This Wandering Around” – Ivan and Alyosha. Ivan and Alyosha are back with a chipper indie-rock song that will get you tapping your toes.
7. “Less Traveled” – Johanna Warren. A lilting soprano supported by low flutes and burbling fingerpicking developed into technical guitarwork that lifted my eyebrows. There’s a lot of talent going on here. I love what Team Love is up to this year.
8. “Folding” – Martin Callingham. Callingham has crafted the sort of tune that’s almost inarguable: it floats lightly on your consciousness, gently working its way through to the end of the tune. If Joshua Radin had gotten a few more instruments involved without going rock…
9. “Wild at Heart” – Trans Van Santos. Does Calexico have a patent of the sound of the high desert? Mark Matos hopes not, as the baritone-voiced songwriter of Trans Van Santos has a way with the guitar delays and reverbs of that venerable sound. Perfect for your jaunts to or from Flagstaff.
10. “Don’t You Honey Me” – Timothy Jaromir. Here’s a bluesy country duet with excellent come-hither female vocals, muted horns, and romance on the mind.
It’s the middle of the year! Independent Clauses always gets more music than it knows what to do with, so mid-year and end-of-year are a good time to clean out the files and point out all the amazing things that I missed the first time around. So here goes three days of that! These singles could have been released yesterday or months ago; these and the following posts are not time-sensitive whatsoever.
Mid-year, pt. 1: Rock, etc.
1. “A Place Called Space” – The Juan Maclean. LCD Soundsystem is gone, but The Juan Maclean is still around to fill that rubbery, propulsive dance tune-shaped space in our hearts. THE JUAN MACLEAN FOREVER.
2. “Mama Gold” – North by North. Pounding, fuzzy guitar, yelping vocals, heavy low end? Welcome to rock’n’roll, people.
3. “Blood::Muscles::Bones” – Street Eaters. This punk band is composed entirely of distorted bass guitar, drums, female vocals, and male vocals. THIS IS ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.
4. “Everybody Pretends” – Ostrich Run. A high-drama violin riff kicks off this dark indie-rock tune. The vocals keep me going the rest of the way.
5. “Serious Things Are Stupid” – Cayetana. The rise of Cayetana in the punk scene has been fun to watch, as innate songwriters start to match the talent with the ability. Impressive tune here.
6. “Dirty Roofs” – Edmonton. Do you like The Offspring? You’ll love Edmonton, which sounds similar, but with a heart that The Offspring haven’t had for a while (/ever).
7. “You’re Cold” – The Black Tibetans. Stuff that Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) produces is starting to be as distinctive as Stuff Steve Albini or Jack White does: rifftastic, slightly scuzzy, classic-rock-inspired blues heaviness with melodies galore. The Black Tibetans deliver on that promise.
8. “Every Night, Every Day” – The Sheens. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes it just sounds right. Here we have female-fronted rock with punk and new wave-y overtones, and it’s just a ton of fun.
9. “Hi-Lo” – North Elementary. Check that opening riff on this power-pop tune. The vocals and arrangement have some Arcade Fire vibes thrown in for good measure.
10. “Pack of Cards” – Wood Ear. Straightforward rock’n’roll, Glossary-style, doesn’t get enough love here on Independent Clauses. Wood Ear throws down some organ-laden rock that just feels right.
11. “Loving You Is Hard” – The Parrots. Sometimes you just want some brash, off-the-cuff, speedy, infectious surf-rock. The Parrots are here for you.
12. “We’ll Be Fine” – Action Item. So I really like big, shiny pop-rock like Hot Chelle Rae, and Action Item delivers it in spades. HAVE FUN, Y’ALL!
13. “Always” – Annabel. Jangly guitars, tom-heavy percussion, and yearning male vocals satisfy my craving for earnest, serious indie-pop-rock.
14. “House” – Thunderhank. The tension builds and builds in this electro-influenced rock song, but it resolves in ways other than you’d expect. Keep ’em guessing, Thunderhank.
15. “Whistle for My Love” – Jimmy & The Revolvers. If the Beatles had kept cranking out the pop tunes instead of going all psych, they could have ended up here. Total old-school pop bliss (with some modern rhythms, of course).
16. “Pool Guard” – Inspired and the Sleep. Sometimes the title really does tell you everything you need to know.
The fact that Spottiswoode’s well-developed melodic touch is on full display should seal the deal for that group. For those less high on the Fab Four, there’s still a great chance of purchasing this album. If you hear the songs once, you’ll hear them replayed in your head multiple times — you’ll need the recorded versions so you can stop the earworm record player.
From the get-go, Spottiswoode pummels listeners with hook after hook. And like mid-era Beatles (and later pop fanatics Fountains of Wayne), each song takes on a different persona from the pop canon.
“Beautiful Monday” is a perky piano-pop tune that ELO could have written. “Happy or Not” has some upbeat Motown swagger to go with a saxophone and an incredible chorus. “Purple River Yellow Sun” is a hippie anthem; “All in the Past” is a Joseph Arthur tune that turns into a crushing rock song. “Just a Word I Use” appropriates/mocks faux-Parisian tunes that were popular in the ’50s and earlier. “I’d Even Follow You to Philadelphia” is a passionate piano-based crooner that rings completely true (an astonishing feat, honestly).
That’s just the first six of seventeen tracks. This album goes on for over an hour, and there’s barely a clunker in the batch. (Closer “You Won’t Forget Your Dream” does stretch the bounds of attention at 9 minutes, even if it does have a great deal of variation.) Spottiswoode’s complete control over his vocal timbre and arrangements makes him able to sell every one of the tunes. You’re guaranteed to not like the genre of one or two of these tunes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cast-off.
Wild Goosechase Expedition is a fascinating, lengthy album exploring pop music in just about every form I can think of that existed prior to 1981 (there’s no electro-anything here). And the band pulls it off. I kept expecting it to fall on its face as I got further in to the run time, but it never did. If you still have an attention span that longs for albums, Spottiswoode and His Enemies have a present for you.
The Lava Children’s self-titled mini-LP was released a couple of weeks ago. It isn’t terribly long, hence the “mini-” designation, but the five tracks they offer are a good collection of their efforts thus far. The PR blurb I received said something about their music being like nothing I’d ever heard before. I was immediately skeptical – most bands, or at least the agents that represent them, like to think that their band is unique and unlike anything else ever produced.
While this isn’t entirely true with The Lava Children, their sound is probably the closest I’ve heard to matching that claim in a while. It’s soft, ethereal trip-rock, with female lead vocals that range from barely comprehensible to entirely indecipherable, and simple but catchy instrumentals. I kept trying to think of bands that they sounded like, and then realizing what I’d come up with was nothing like their sound. Pixies? Nope, and I’m not sure why I even thought that. Joy Division, Eisley, Sixpence? No, no, and no, though The Lava Children have a little in common with each of them. I’m going to try to capture what their sound really is, so read on, sir/ma’am.
“I Am A Pony” kicks off the mini-LP with a bit more energy than the rest of the tracks. Guitar and bass bits are strong, contrasting nicely with the vocals. They (the vocals) really aren’t lyrical. You can occasionally hear words, but it’s more just tonal singing. Oh, and it’s trippy stuff, if you didn’t catch that, all echo-y and seemingly nonsensical. There’s a cool, if not strange beat throughout. It feels like one of the songs that belongs in a “caper” movie (Ocean’s Eleven, etc).
The album slows with “Particles.” It’s a load of crazy moaning, both from the guitar and from the vocalist. Everything is slow and exaggerated. It reminds me a bit of the later Beatles’ acid stuff. There are tons of effects on this song, which pair with the slower tempo to create a meandering, dreamy effect. There’s something of a dark undercurrent as well. “Troll” is similar, with a long, trippy instrumental intro. It features some interesting changes in tempo when moving between in and out of the chorus, mixing the slightly-more energetic with the dreamy. Most of the vocals sound as though the singer was on the other side of the room from the mic – far away, and a good fit for the overall tone.
“Firefly” includes male vocals in the background that aren’t featured elsewhere. It’s a good sound – dare I say better than with the lead vocalist by herself? I like the effect, anyway. It’s got the same overall sound as “Particles,” though the chorus is clear and has better movement to it. The album is finished with “The Green Word,” a song with great guitar bits and somewhat more understandable lyrics than earlier.
I would prefer to hear more along the lines of “Firefly” or “I Am A Pony” and less “Particles” in The Lava Children’s future releases. Trippy music is all well and good, but it should retain energy and purpose – frankly, trippy for trippy’s sake gets boring. This is otherwise a solid album, with strong continuity between songs. Listening to The Lava Children mini-LP in its entirety makes for a much better experience than giving the songs a listen one at a time. Give it a go if you want to experience something quite different from your usual fare. Trust me, whatever that is, The Lava Children are different.
A little bit punk, a little bit alt rock, and a whole lot of 1960s-style pop rock, Ring of Truth’s album Everything’s The Same But In A Different Place is a musical adventure that takes you along as the band explores variations on a signature sound. That sounded weird, let me rephrase. They experiment a bit, but you’ll easily be able to identify a common, unifying thread through the album. It’s an enjoyable if somewhat short work, clocking in at just over half an hour. Their sound seems like a mix of Sons and Daughters, the Raconteurs, and the Beatles. It’s energetic and earnest, the kind of stuff where you can tell they’re really enjoying performing.
The song “Well, I Walked” caught my ear almost immediately; it’s one of the most distinctive on the album, and quite representative of their sound. Generally Ring of Truth have a 1960s sound not unlike the Beatles or Beach Boys, and it works quite well for them. A sweet little guitar lick in the middle completes the track, and tempted me to air guitar a bit. “Maybe this is heaven, maybe this is hell / it seems to me these days they’re one and the same.” You won’t find any deep lyrics here, just light, catchy pop-rock.
The 1960s-styling continues into “Why Should This Be?,” albeit with a different tone near the end. It took on an almost psychedelic feel to it, a sonic blending of guitars, multiple vocal parts, and what sounded suspiciously like a sitar (correct me if I’m wrong, guys). The vocalist’s full potential shows through on the track as he gives it a bit more energy and emotion, with a sound that’s a bit rough on occasion. The end melts into a guitar-heavy instrumental session, a fitting end to the song.
Ring of Truth’s punk influence shows through in “Never Compromise,” which takes on a slightly 1980s, doomsday-ish tone in the chorus. They sing, ” I never compromised / you never compromised / we never compromised / there’s no compromise.” Amusingly enough, they can’t seem to leave out that 1960s influence, as the style mutates back into pop-rock for five or ten seconds at a time. “A Spanish Hunger” further fleshes out the album with a sound that is distinctly Ring of Truth, but also a clear break from earlier songs. Frantic hand claps and easygoing rhythm guitar create a fun, almost tropical style.
That potential I mentioned the vocalist had on “Why Should This Be?” comes out full-force on “Smile,” the next-to-last song of the album. It’s raucous and a bit crazy, with the lead singer wailing his lyrics over distorted guitar that has a touch of soul to it. It’s a strong performance from Ring of Truth, and I absolutely loved it. The album progresses well, going from the pop-rock, lighter fare of the opening, to more of a mellow tone in the middle, ending with the likes of “Smile” that are pure, unadulterated rock in all its vibrant and energetic glory.
Everything’s The Same But In A Different Place is a strong offering from Ring of Truth . It’s clean and polished, with a sound that at once pays homage to music of an earlier time and makes its own way. It makes for a fun listen, and I’d recommend it for listeners of diverse tastes – as long as you like some form of rock, you’ll probably like this one.
When someone says “Seattle scene,” my thoughts instantly jump to Nirvana, Soundgarden, and any whatever-have-you grunge band.
Flash forward to the Seattle of the 2000s, and you will find the power pop scene. In that scene, there is a wonderful band called Shake Some Action! which plays some sweet pop songs which shine like the sun in otherwise cloudy Seattle.
Sunny Days Ahead is the second album by Shake Some Action! I haven’t listened to the first, but the strength of this one makes me want to pick it up. Being part of a genre called “power pop,” Shake Some Action! is expectedly very catchy. Now, I don’t listen to super-catchy music very often, but just listening to Sunny Days Ahead makes me think this is a wrong lifestyle choice. Catchy music is amazing because it’s so happy-sounding and can really lift your mood. It’s bands like Shake Some Action! that give me faith that there are plenty of bands out there who can craft pop masterpieces, even if they mostly go unnoticed.
Shake Some Action! seem to be drawing inspiration from the Monkees, early Beatles, the Beach Boys…pretty much any super catchy ’60s music group. Now take the harder edge of the Kinks, and add it to some roughness from punk. And voila, you have their brand of power pop.
Shake Some Action! is hardly the only power pop band around, but it’s the only one I’ve heard. The music style is reminscent of early R.E.M. for being so jangly and fun, probably along the lines of R.E.M’s Life’s Rich Pageant and Green. I’m almost tempted to call them a more fun version of R.E.M that doesn’t really mess around with all the heavy and cryptic lyrics.
This album was entirely recorded by one person – James Hall, who played drums, two guitar parts, and bass for the recording. This quite impressive feat goes to show Hall’s musical talent. For live shows, Hall has recruited a band that now frequently plays shows in the Seattle area. Now, if only they got a little bigger and did a tour which came through Oklahoma.
The album is short mostly because the songs are short. These are pop songs, and are meant to be brief and fun. The lyrics don’t really talk about anything deep, but don’t mistake that to mean they don’t talk about anything meaningful. They mostly deal with the theme that makes any pop song great: love. I would call the lyrics familiar rather than cliche.
I recommend Sunny Days Ahead to anyone looking for something poppy, fast-paced, and fun. It’s easy to enjoy as there’s not really much to wrap your head around. Just sit back and have fun!
Marc with a C writes some amazing lyrics. All of the songs on this CD, with the exception of three written by Chris Zabriskie, were penned by the well-versed Marc Sirdoreus. Although the music left me feeling flat, the lyrics excited me. I would hungrily sit down to read any ranting by Sirdoreus or any book of poetry he may decide to write.
My problem with the music is it is so cliché. I’ve heard these chords before, on every grassy expanse of land on every college campus in the United States of America. The first thing I noticed was perhaps a David Bowie/Beatles/Bob Dylan/Something more recent influence in the music. It is your average acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied by a little percussion here and there, but not often. The songs are poppy and light; however, they are enjoyable, no doubt. But something is just not there in the music and in his voice. It’s been done. There are slight variations from song to song, but not enough to make me gasp and say “WOW!”In order to really draw a listener in with this type of acoustic guitar, Sirdoreus’ voice needs more girth or something that would make it unique to balance out the averageness of each song.
But keep in mind that not all is lost with this album. “All My Drug Use Is Accidental” pleased me. It really drove home my feeling that this album is worth listening to purely for the lyrical value. “Born Vintage” was notable too, for its music as well as lyrics. A sampling of why I love the lyrics on this album: “You’re not right and we’re not wrong,” as well as “What’s the point of being punk if punk means I belong?” The song “Jessica, I Heard You Like The Who” forced me to fall in love with it. The lyrics are appealing because they touch on familiar subjects, and even thoughts I have had, which I thought no one would ever dare to think.
As is the case with almost every song on Linda Lovelace for President, the album itself starts out strong, and then seems to lose passion and inspiration by the end, musically. The harmonies present in a lot of the tracks are the same in every song; nice, but repetitive. The music is one-dimensional, but the feeling I get from listening to his words, the sense of his wit and the humor that comes across in the lyrics really stand out.
You know what, Marc with a C? Regardless of how I feel about the college campus guitar, I’m putting you on my iPod. Because I enjoyed what you have to say just enough to play Linda Lovelace for President next time I am road tripping to wherever.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.