Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Kursed / American Wolf

February 27, 2013

I don’t cover much rock these days. It’s not because I’m anti-rock; it’s just not my primary interest. Since I don’t seek it out, I don’t have a network of rock bands that are passing my name among them (as I do with folk bands). But every now and then a rock album or two crosses my desk that is simply too good to resist.

miaow

Miaow by Kursed is just such an album. The French trio makes rock with the crunch and pop hooks in a strong balance, and the airtight production helps as well: I haven’t heard a set of independent rock tunes sound so clean and tight in a long while. The sound is anchored by stomping guitars and a powerful male vocals that sit nicely between the sky-high tenor of pop-rock bands and the baritone of The National. The vocalist sounds completely comfortable in his own sound, which is an incredibly important and impressive aspect of Kursed’s sound. When he’s singing soaring lines (“Pirate Song”) or sounding ominous (“Tarantino”), he sounds right at home. He struggles a bit when he tries to get overly emotional (“I Feel You”), but there are more hits than misses.

The same can be said for the band: they absolutely crush what they’re good at, and they stick to it most of the time. Dark, pounding rock is where’s it at for them: opener “Tsa Tsa Tsu” is a wiry, riff-driven adrenaline kick, while the buzzy intensity of “Wall” is a remarkable turn for the band. When they get too bluesy, it starts to fall a bit far from the tree: “Movie Star” and “Modern Politician fell a bit too much like Clutch without the intensity. But tunes like “Exam,” which incorporate unique melodies and rhythms into their heavy rock, sell the whole thing excellently.

Miaow by Kursed has some completely dominating tracks when all of their elements are on. They still have some kinks to work out in their sound, but this release proves that they’ve got some really good songs in them, now and in the future.

americanwolf

American Wolf has fewer stomping rock moments in their tunes, hearkening back to old-school Muse’s mix of elegant melodic sections and huge riffs. Myriad also incorporates Radiohead-esque moody sections and Mars Volta-style vocal contributions. The mix comes off surprisingly well: opener “A Dark Matter” fits a heavily patterned guitar work and rhythm synths into the pounding of a hyperactive drummer. The vocalists, pulled far back in the mix, coo and call over the turbulent arrangement, creating a remarkable tension. It’s a pretty powerful opening statement.

Thoughtful, intense arrangements characterize the rest of the album: it’s easy to miss some of the pieces on first glance, but there are touches all throughout for the discerning listener. With diverse influences ranging from math rock (the shiver-inducing middle section of “Mahrz”) to atmospheric downtempo (“Skin Tight”) to acoustic folk (“The Secret to Passing Through”), this fascinating album has surprises galore for someone who likes listening deep in the mix. If you’re a fan of complex rock that rewards multiple listens, Myriad is a strong bet.

Review Split: Mad Anthony and The Yellow Belts b/w The Gromble

September 23, 2011

Sometimes split releases pair incongruous bands, but Mad Anthony and The Yellow Belts complement each other perfectly. Each band contributes a song to a 7″ of rowdy rock’n’roll. The Yellow Belts’ hard-charging “War on Science” combines the four-on-the-floor urgency of Clutch with elements of the early ’00s rock revival, while Mad Anthony’s “Bear Attack” more directly draws from the Strokes/Hives/Vines rock sounds in songwriting style, guitar sound and overall mood. Both songs are pulled off with ferocity and fervor, making it a completely enjoyable 6:54. If you’re into rock, you’ll be into this.

Pop-rockers The Gromble are releasing a full-length later this year, but their self-titled EP is starting to work its way into my consciousness. If I had to put the The Gromble on a musical map, they’d be somewhere between Jack’s Mannequin on the high side and OK Go on the low side in terms of saccharine pop qualities. (I’m a big fan of both bands, so take that as a compliment.) Guitar-heavy tunes like “Cold Wolves” and “Toto” evoke the treadmill-running merrymakers, while the lazy “NYC Frog” has a melodic core reminiscent of Andrew McMahon’s work. If you’re into pop-rock, The Gromble needs to be on your radar. I’m looking forward to the full-length album immensely.

Shaky Deville's raw rock'n'roll will bowl you over

June 17, 2011

If all rock sounded more like Shaky DeVille and less like Nickelback, I’d listen to a lot more rock’n’roll. Shaky DeVille sounds like the lovechild of rock’s Clutch, country-punk’s 500 Miles to Memphis, Irish punk’s Dropkick Murphys  and Bullets and Octane’s roaring, attitude-filled vocals. Let’s take a moment and think about that sentence. How could this band not be awesome?

You only have to listen to the first thirty seconds of “Come Out Ye Black and Tan” to know everything you need to know about Shaky DeVille. A distorted riff starts out the song, then transforms into crunchy, ear-pleasing guitar mashing. The galloping drums frantically press the sound forward, while the classic country bass line pulls the sound back. It makes Shakey DeVille sound completely awesome and somewhat like the world’s loudest, rawest country band.

“Prayers” has a similar country-esque effect, while the delightfully manic “Let’s Roll” jacks up the tempo even more. “You Had It Good” introduces some old-school metal influence. Title track “Hot Asphalt” sounds like an Irish punk song without the kitsch.

By the time straight-up country-punk tune “Red Sultan” closed out the disc, I’d been completely converted. If you like the idea of rockabilly or country-punk, but think that all the current incarnations are a bit wimpy, Shakey DeVille’s amalgam will take you home. Hot Asphalt is a rock record of which to be proud. Cheers, Shakey DeVille. Have you heard of 500 Miles to Memphis? I think you guys would get along.

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