Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Happy 7th Birthday to us, pt 2: FREE MP3s!

May 18, 2010

…we have the tunes that keep you movin’.

We here at Independent Clauses have covered music for years, but we’ve never put any music into the world. This is a problem that we are fixing right now. We are releasing for your ears’ delight, Independent Clauses, vol. 1: Our Friends are All Freaking Awesome. Seeing as this is our first time releasing music, we’ve got a few kinks to work out and a few curves to learn. But, below is the zip file.

Independent Clauses, vol. 1: Our Friends Are All Freaking Awesome

1.  “Brian, Jenny, and the Mayan Calendar” by Marc with a C
2. “I Won’t Back Down” by Chris Hickey (Tom Petty Cover)
3. “I Melt With You” by Fairmont (Modern English Cover)
4. “Another Stripe – Carradini Mix” by Dishwater Psychics

Super props to all four bands that contributed; this is a dream of mine, and I’m so grateful to them for making it happen. Props to all the bands that we’ve worked with over the years who have motivated us to want to release music in the first place. Super thanks to my friends Katy and Albert, who allowed me to use their computer to make this post happen (my internet is jacked, which is why there wasn’t a post yesterday).

The art, metadata, and more are on the way. I just really wanted to get this out, because I’m excited about it. I once was concerned about everything being perfect on the first try; seven years later, I’m convinced that everything is a work in progress.

So, enjoy the songs! Three of them are unreleased, with the Fairmont cover being a rare b-side. I’m really excited about all of the tunes, as evidenced by the title, and I hope you are as well.

Chris Hickey allows access to his songwriting process with Razzmatazz

March 24, 2010

I have always been fascinated by the idea of artistic output. I want to leave behind a set of things that people look back on and say, “Ah, that’s what he did.” Authors get to put books on a shelf. Musicians take up significant space on people’s iPods or CD books (I still have a CD book. It is a monster). Visual artists leave their works all over the world, inadvertently creating a massive scavenger hunt for the mouth-breathing faithful.

Overall output is impressive to me, like the 20 Mountain Goats albums, dozens of books by John Piper, or prodigious output of some visual artists. But contained output has been an obsession of mine as well. That’s where Chris Hickey’s Razzmatazz comes in. These sixteen songs were “written and recorded (on a hand-held digital recorder) by Chris Hickey in March, 2009 as part of a song-a-day undertaking.” Which means there were probably more where these came from, but I’ll be glad with what I’ve got.

Each of these songs but one features nothing but Chris Hickey’s voice and an acoustic guitar. No overdubs, no cuts. This is pure, unadulterated songwriting. There is nowhere to hide, no room to polish, no time to make the lyrics perfect or craft a perfect bridge to finish out the song. This is a picture of how a songwriter writes. And it is absolutely fascinating.

These songs hover around a minute and a half, with the two longest at two and a half. They somewhat apply to pop structures, although Hickey has no problem destroying rhythm to get a point across. The most memorable instance of this is the hilarious moment on “Kerouac” where he repeats a chord for ten seconds so he can cram about twenty extra syllables into a single line. It’s understandable to me; since he doesn’t have a lot of time to polish his lyrics, the words and rhythms come out raw and unusual. His unedited thoughts and rhythms make this album the fascinating thing that it is.

The songs themselves are as simple as you imagine they would be if you had to write one every day. There are often no more than two parts to a song, and some of them only have one guitar part with different sung parts over it. They generally fall between Jack Johnson pop and Josh Radin folk; there’s lots of fingerpicking and gentle strumming, sometimes fast and sometimes slow. It’s a thoroughly mellow collection of tunes, and it’s great accompaniment for driving on a sunny day.

There are some high highs and low lows, due to the constraints of writing one a day. “Down” is a beautiful, memorable song with a great chorus. “Down a Long Haul” has a jaunty vibe to it that puts a grin on my face. “Shine” is the most complete of all the songs, with full chorus and verses. “Soft Sell” has a gentle groove and benefits from the aforementioned excellent lyrics. The speak-sung, charming “Places to Go” is the highlight of the album, as it is suitably unique, relatable, poppy, and interesting.

There are some entirely weird tracks, like a cappella closer “What You Are,” the out-of-character “A Man is Rich,” and the awkward rhythms of “Nothing is Real.” But those tracks are overshadowed by the excellent tracks.

Razzmatazz is a fascinating, entertaining, engrossing album that allows access to the unfiltered workings of a musician’s writing process. It’s almost like watching an artist paint or a sculptor sculpt. It’s that interesting. Get this if you’re a fan of fingerpicked folk or gentle acoustic pop.

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

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