Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

March MP3s: Acoustic

March 5, 2016

Acoustic

1. “Days With Wings” – Black Balsam. In a post-Mumford world, folk-pop is seen with some suspicion. Tunes as genuinely engaging and fun as this one should help with the fears of those who are over-banjoed.

2. “Sugar Moon” – Jonas Friddle. Folk-pop can also regain its footing by not taking itself too seriously, and Friddle’s artwork of a man playing a banjo that turns into a pelican by the end of the fretboard is a good start. The tune itself sounds like Illinois-era Sufjan mashed up with a Lumineers track at a Beirut concert. In other words, it pulls from everywhere and ultimately becomes a Friddle tune. Totally stoked for this album.

3. “Star of Hope” – Mairearad Green (feat. King Creosote). Green is what Frightened Rabbit would sound like if they weren’t constantly thinking about death: chipper, major-key, acoustic-led indie-rock led by a vocalist with an unapologetically Scottish accent. It’s just fantastic.

4. “We’ll Live” – Stephen Douglas Wolfe. Wolfe’s tenor voice carries this alt-country tune with great aplomb. The pedal steel also provides a great amount of character here.

5. “Only Time” – Ryan Downey. I know you’re not going to believe this, but this is a multitracked-vocals-and-clapping version of the Enya staple. It seems remarkably honest in its intentions, and it’s remarkably engaging as a result. You think you’ve seen it all, and then…

6. “If I Could Fly Away” – Alan Engelmann. The warm brightness of this acoustic pop song makes me think of the spring with a great longing.

7. “Where Am I?” – Amy Virginia. A clear, bright voice cutting across a stark folk frame makes for engaging listening.

8. “Either Way” – Sorority Noise. We’ve come a long, long way from “Good Riddance” on the punk-bands-with-acoustic-guitars front: Cam Boucher’s musing on suicide and loss is a heartrendingly beautiful, spare tune that can fit right next to any early Damien Jurado track (who, of course, was once a punk with an acoustic guitar).

9. “The Curse (Acoustic)” – The Eastern Sea. An intimate performance of rapid fingerpicking and emotional vocals. Not much more I could ask for.

10. “Prologue” – Letters to You. A gentle, pensive acoustic ditty expands into a beauty-minded post-rock bit.

11. “what if i fall in love (with you)” – Isaac Magalhães. A soothing, nylon-stringed guitar performance matches a bedroom-pop, lo-fi vocal performance to create something deeply personal-sounding. Impressionistic RIYLs: Iron and Wine and Elliott Smith.

12. “Most of the Time I Can’t Even Pay Attention” – Crocodile. An off-the-cuff sort of air floats through this one, as if you showed up at your friend’s house and he was already playing a song, so you let him finish and then you both go off to hang out. The lyrics are a bit heavy, but the soft, kind vocal performance calms me anyway. It won’t ask too much of you, but it gives you a lot if you’re into it. You could end up writing a lot about it, you know?

13. “Pickup Truck” – Avi Jacob. It’s hard to quantify maturity, but it’s sort of a mix between knowing your skills, knowing how to maximize them, and not trying to push beyond that. It’s the “sweet spot.” Avi Jacobs hits it here, putting accordion, piano, fingerpicked guitar, and female background vocals into an arrangement that perfectly suits his just-a-bit-creaky-around-the-edges voice. From the first second to the last, it hits hard. Keep a close watch on Jacob.

Last 2015 Singles, pt. 1 

January 4, 2016

1. “Hot and Bothered” – Tameca Jones. Funky female-fronted soul with a touch of disco and a whole lot of sass.

2. “Be Your Man” – Rah Rah. Despite the title and the chipper power-pop included in the song, it’s actually a break-up song from the guy doing the dumping. Ouch, but at least we can dance along.

3. “When the Day is Fresh and the Light is New” – The Wooden Sky. You want some straight-ahead power-pop that you can feel good about? Of course you do.

4. “The Move” – Michael Persall. We can keep updating that ’50s/’60s perky pop sound forever, and I hope we do. The horns, clapping, and general enthusiasm here really seal the deal.

5. “Give Up the Ghost” – Legends of Et Cetera. Synthy new wave/power-pop a la the Cars with an alto female vocalist and a roaring chorus? Sign me up.

6. “Break” – Jesse Owen Astin. Blink and you’ll miss this indie-electro empowerment jam–if you need a stomping tune to get you through a tough thing from the indie spectrum, here you are.

7. “I Feel This Place” – Goldensuns. I never get why some people put only hazy, fuzzy old-school Super 8 footage on their music videos, but if Goldensuns did that for this song it would make perfect sense and I would love it. Languid, ethereal, nostalgic, and yet right on the current waves.

8. “White Flags” – I Used to Be a Sparrow. Andrea Caccese and co. pack a lot into this tune: charging guitars, soaring vocal lines, wiry instrumental sections, memorable melodic parts, and more. I’m always excited to hear more IUtBaS music, and this song is no letdown.

9. “Ode to the Spring” – Crocodile. If Bombadil’s quirky-yet-earnest approach to songwriting collided with Pet Sounds, the results would be similar to this acoustic-led track that balances psych wandering with straightforward acoustic pop.

10. “I Could Never Say No” – Heather LaRose. Here’s a fun modern pop song with solid vocal and synthesizer melodies. LaRose knows how to write a tune that sticks.

11. “Cobwebs” – Fell Runner. This one’s got a ton of atmosphere, as the indie-rock tune gives off the vibe of a meandering trip down a dark, foggy night street.

12. “Sigil of Forgiveness” – Kaito Gigantia. Any description of this song is going to be somewhat deceptive: R&B keys, trumpet, and whispered vocals power this tune, but this deconstructed/experimental take on the genre is like no R&B track you’ve ever heard. For adventurous fans.

 

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

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