Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quick Hits: Leanids / Robert Francis and the Night Tide

August 6, 2014

leanids

Airy, bright, anthemic indie-rock is having a heyday right now: with folk-inspired musicians leaning ever more on the “inspired” and less on the “folk,” tons of bands are embracing big, bright, organic-feeling indie-rock.

Leanids is one of them. The Swedish outfit’s debut album A Wildly mines complex fingerpicking folk territory that fellow countryman The Tallest Man on Earth has done some work in (“Candid & Frank,” “All I Wanted,” the title track), while also nodding toward more power-pop inclinations (“And Then”).

But it’s on tunes like “Trust” that Leanids shine best, mixing complex rhythms, varying tempos, pop melodies, and art-school sentiments into warm, shifting, bursting tracks. The vocalist’s high, occasionally nasal voice is a perfect foil for the sound, as it has a jubilant, celebratory aspect about it. It’s easy to imagine this band as a less-mopey version of Copeland, or a alternate future in which Bright Eyes had turned the treble way up on his guitar. But in this reality, this talented folk-inspired indie-rock act is writing beautiful and interesting tunes. Highly recommended.

Robert-Francis-1

I think that Dawes has some pretty outstanding songwriting, even though most of their songs are way depressing. Their country-rock sound is fresh-faced and tight, making it the perfect sort of alt-country to put forward into the indie-rock world. Robert Francis and the Night Tide‘s Heaven has a similar vibe, combining the tightly compacted sound of power-pop, the rhythms of alt-country, and vocal melodies of modern indie rock. Standout “Baby Was the Devil” also includes a passing resemblance to the synth-powered jams of M83, and that’s no coincidence either. Francis is making the most of the sounds he’s hearing and crafting them into his own tunes.

He’s a bit of a chameleon; lead single “Love is a Chemical” is a straightforward country-rocker, while the title track is a soul-inspired crooner. “Pain” is reminiscent of full-band folk like Fleet Foxes, while “Wasted on You” is an acoustic-and-voice track that is a solid-gold lonely troubadour tune reminiscent of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning-era Bright Eyes. (Standout “I’ve Been Meaning to Call” is also voice-and-guitar; he’s damn good at that, and he should do more of it.) The Josh Ritter-esque rhythms of “Take You to the Water” explode into a synth-pop song (!). But if he circles alt-country, he always comes back to it–nothing ever sounds completely out of that sphere. In the same way that it’s hard to describe Dawes without saying, “It just sounds really good,” it’s hard to describe Francis without it. Heaven is a strong collection of alt-country/folk tunes that never repeat themselves. Sounds pretty great to me.

Post-Copeland?: The Knitted Cap Club and The Seldon Plan

May 29, 2013

antidote

Is Copeland enough of a legend that I can use them as a touchstone referent for other bands, three years after they’ve broken up? I hope so, because that’s the band that I thought of when I was listening to these two EPs.

The Knitted Cap Club‘s three-song The Antidote EP is surprising for several reasons. The first two tracks of the EP are reworked versions of tracks from previous album The Weeping Tree, which I praised as a “stately” and “structured” record. TKCC loosens up some of the formality on the new versions of “Eight Thirteen” and “Tarot Cards and Tea Leaves,” allowing for more flowing, emotive takes on the tunes. The latter really shines, as the airy, gentle energy of the track calls up those Copeland references.

The title track expands on TKCC’s previous sound by adding piano and electric guitar into the mix. The drums give a loose sway to the song, and that mood stands in stark contrast to the very structured rhythms and tones of The Weeping Tree. Meagan Zahora’s vocals retain their classy quality while allowing a little more spontaneity and passion into her measured delivery. I think the new approach works wonderfully, and I look forward to hearing more songs in this vein from the band.

seldonplan

The Seldon Plan’s That Time You Dreamed [EP] is quite appropriately titled, as it calls to mind the way that Copeland could wring rock songs out of hazy, dreamy guitarwork. The songs clamor and clang, but never lose sight of that warm melodic core. From the meandering title track to the heavily rhythmic “Setting the Scene” and perky closer “Revelation 1.0,” the tracks are consistently welcoming. The Seldon Plan has a firm grasp on what they’re trying to accomplish in these nine minutes, and they succeed at those goals. If you’re a fan of dreamy indie-rock circa 2003, you should head on over to The Seldon Plan’s Bandcamp.

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

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