Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Ordinary Elephant: comforting songs you feel you’ve known forever

March 26, 2014

ordinaryelephant

I’m thrilled by the new: new songs, new places, new tastes, and new ideas. One of my favorite things about Independent Clauses is that I get to hear the cutting edge sounds as they are happening.

But sometimes I want something comforting and familiar–I’ve listened to Josh Caress’ Letting Go of a Dream probably more than 100 times. Josh Caress’ way with melody and mood are two reasons that I love his record so much, but another is that Letting Go sits in the timeless genre of singer/songwriter. You don’t have to be in that genre to become timeless, but it sure helps.

Ordinary Elephant is firmly situated in a time-honored folk/bluegrass milieu. Their songs sound new and old at the same time: songs I’ve never heard, but wrapped in a style and arrangements that are very recognizable. Crystal Hariu-Damore’s alto pairs with Peter Damore’s tenor over acoustic guitar, banjo, and stand-up bass. The songs on dusty words & cardboard boxes are essentially warm blankets of sound: you can wrap yourself up in them without effort. You don’t have to penetrate any gnarly lyrical difficulties or quirky arrangements; you can just enjoy the songcraft. It’s kind of like a folk version of The Weepies.

“damage is done” is a perfect example of this songwriting style. It’s a mid-tempo tune that contrasts a chipper banjo line with a world-weary vocal performance from Hariu-Damore. The resulting mood is easy-going but a little melancholy; a good “summer porch, warm afternoon” song. Not giddy, not morose–somewhere between, in that muddle and mix. “the great migration” features a violin and mandolin, giving it a fuller flair; closer “could have” is a bright, major key song.

You can pick anywhere in the album to start and you’ll be treated to comfortable, calm, organic tunes. If you’re looking for wild fits of fancy, this is not your jam. If you’re looking for earnest, honest folk music, dusty words & cardboard boxes is going to give you what you’re after. For fans of old-school Caedmon’s Call (when Derek Webb was still in it), stand-up basses, Gillian Welch, and the phrase “good ‘ol fashioned.”

Movin’ and shakin’

September 30, 2011

The latest edition of SLTM the Podcast is sponsored by Independent Clauses. You don’t want to miss it, especially if you’re a fan of heavy music, 1800s poetry, or The Parson Red Heads.

Elizaveta initially comes off as Regina Spektor/Ingrid Michaelson follower, but there’s a sharp left hook in the chorus that has me very excited for the future. Don’t worry; you’ll know it. Hers is a career to watch closely. (As for the video? Well, it’s got serious wtf factor.)

Noisetrade’s Fall Sampler includes several artists that IC has featured among its 30-strong ranks: Brianna Gaither, Jenny and Tyler, Joe Pug, David Ramirez and Sleeping At Last, the last of which was covered so early on in Independent Clauses’ history that the review isn’t even on this version of the site. There are also several bands we highly recommend that haven’t been officially covered here at IC: The Middle East, Derek Webb + Sandra McCracken, Ivan & Alyosha, Josh Rouse and Josh Garrels. I’m guessing the other third is full of joy and wonder as well – I’ll be checking it out soon.

If you’re into the whole ’80s nostalgia thing that’s going around, you’re going to be all over Geoffrey O’Connor. His album Vanity is Forever is streaming in full over here. Seriously, it’s 1985 on that webpage.

Beirut’s The Rip Tide is still keeping me company, and now a visual aid has been supplied! Sunset Television made this bizarre yet somehow fitting clip for “Santa Fe,” and while I’m not really sure what’s happening, I enjoy it.

Sons and Daughters invent their own distribution strategy

October 12, 2010

There is no model for releasing music anymore. Case in point: Sons and Daughters, a band from Franklin, TN, in the vein of Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb, Waterdeep and everything else on Noisetrade (check them out right now, if you haven’t already).

I first heard of the band via blogsurfing; a friend of a friend posted the video of “All the Poor and Powerless” to her blog. The video doesn’t even state the artist; it simply shows the two members of the band playing the gorgeous song, interspersed with beautiful shots of people ostensibly poor and powerless. I scoured the Internet looking for the authors of this song, but no dice. I messaged the guy who posted the video, but he never got back to me.

Fast forward three months. I remembered “All the Poor and Powerless” because of a different song I was listening to while writing this poem, and I sought out the video again. This time, I found the bandcamp page of Sons and Daughters, offering a free download of the song. This version, however, is a bit more tricked out, with a choir and a rhythm track. After a bit more searching, I found the band’s website, which shows evidence that there has been touring. I deduced that the band passed through the Christian college of the enlightening blogger.

I kept digging (surely there must be more, I thought) and found a free two-song sampler from Noisetrade. Unsurprisingly, one of those songs was “All the Poor and Powerless.” The other was a decent track called “Your Glory.” That’s where the trail dies. There are only two recorded songs from a band that has apparently has enough material to be touring.

In short, they are gaining a following after releasing exactly two songs. Their debut release is coming out in May (seven months from now!). This is an incredibly peculiar business strategy.

But! If the goal is to reach people and play music, they’ve hit on exactly the right formula. It’s an odd way to go about it, but they’ve figured something out: one absolutely stunning song can get you far in today’s music world.

“All the Poor and Powerless” is exactly that: absolutely stunning. It is stately, passionate, powerful and calm in turns. But over all of that, it is just breathtaking. The male and female voices are wonderfully paired, the instrumentation is incredibly well recorded, and the songwriting has a gravitas not heard or felt in many songs. You need to hear it (and I’ve given you almost half a dozen links to do so. Here’s the Twitter, for good measure)

So, here’s to “All the Poor and Powerless” and to Sons and Daughters. I eagerly anticipate their upcoming release. And isn’t that what good singles are supposed to do? Yes.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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