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.

Brainswarm's weirdness causes my brain to itch

February 10, 2010

Friendly Psychics Music, as I have recently explained, is a bit out there. Sometimes their weirdness is endearing. Sometimes it’s visionary. Sometimes it’s just weird.

“Just plain weird” is the case with Brainswarm‘s self-titled 5-song EP. I’m used to odd vocals, disjointed song structures and peculiar sound choices from FPM, but Brainswarm is confusing on top of that. Instead of just being fully weird, Brainswarm’s modus operandi is to fuse the peculiar aesthetics indigenous to FPM onto pop songs. And not just indie-pop songs, but straight-up, guitar-jangle, REM-esque pop songs. “Perspectives” has wildly swooping vocals, weird background vocals, and odd noises in the background. But the majority of the song sounds like it could have busted out of the late eighties or early nineties. The bridge redeems the song significantly, but the whole thing is just a tough swallow. The goofy asides at the beginning of songs don’t help the feel that something is off, either.

“Soulship,” however, injects some direction into this otherwise peculiar release. Somewhere between a power-ballad and a wasted-earth pan shot (the latter of which comprises some of the best songs in the FPM catalog), the song pulses along with an otherworldly energy. The vocals sound desperate and certain at the same time, lending an eerie mood to the already off-putting precedings. It’s the track with the most atmosphere and the most successful outcome. Also, it doesn’t sound anything like Michael Stipe. And that helps.

“Brain Swarm” taps into the same vein that “Soulship” hit at the beginning, but it proceeds into guitar stomp that sets it back. It just feels weird against the mood that they had previously set up.

Brainswarm’s self-titled EP is one of the more confusing things that I’ve heard in a while. It is a strange brew, and not one that sits well with me. “Soulship” is great, but the rest of the release leaves me scratching my head. I’d suggest a Dishwater Psychics release or Derecho’s latest for those interested in Friendly Psychics.

Derecho contributes well to the Friendly Psychics catalog

February 5, 2010

Friendly Psychics Music is one of my favorite record labels of all time. It is basically composed of Chris Jones, John Wenzel, and their group of friends. People are occasionally grafted into the group, and each friend gets their own project name. The Jones/Wenzel aesthetic is extremely idiosyncratic, in that I could recognize an a FPM release in less than ten seconds, even if I’ve never heard it. Their vaguely psychedelic, fractured folk and indie rock is incredibly unique and difficult to break into, but it’s rewarding once you do.

Derecho is not far outside the FPM model. Dropped at 10,000 Feet features Dan Miller (a major player in the FPM catalog, although not as forefront as Jones/Wenzel) as the primary songwriter, with Jones on bass and Wenzel contributing on only two songs. Miller has a much more honed pop aesthetic than Jones/Wenzel, and that makes the songs on this EP some of the most straightforward indie-rock tunes that FPM has ever released.

It doesn’t mean they’re normal (I don’ t think FPM does normal), but they’re a lot more accessible than flagship artist Dishwater Psychics. Miller strums his guitar consistently (something that is taken for granted until you hear FPM artists that, well, don’t) and has driving bass and guitar to back it up. Miller’s vocals and lyrics are also much more caustic and bitter than Wenzel’s mournful baritone and overarching sense of disdain, giving the release a distinctly different attitude than other FPM releases.

The songs move quickly and induce head-bobbing, but the caustic delivery of the vocals may turn some off, especially in the self-loathing “Canadian Whiskey” (which, for the record, is my favorite type. I’m drinking some now, in honor). The highlight here is closer “Measured in Millions,” where Wenzel contributes vocals. Wenzel’s voice has become a part of my musical consciousness, but it’s almost always used in jarring and abstract atmospheres. Hearing it paired with the driving, reverb-washed indie-rock of Dan Miller’s invention is incredible. The two pieces fit together perfectly; if Wenzel had sung on each of the tracks on this EP, it would have been even better than it is now. Maybe that’s the next project?

Derecho’s Dropped at 10,000 Feet is a good turn for the FPM guys. It’s not my favorite release by them, but it certainly is high on my list. Reining in some of the more aesthetically challenging parts of the FPM ourve was a nice change. If you like cerebral indie pop (like Grizzly Bear, Beach House, etc) or off-kilter vocals (Modest Mouse, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, etc, although Miller is nowhere near as grating as Alec Ounsworth), this should be one to check out.

Dishwater Psychics-Dry Night Riverbed Friendly Psychics Music

June 1, 2007

dishwaterpsychicsDishwater PsychicsDry Night Riverbed

Friendly Psychics Music

A moody, dark indie-rock experience that draws from lots of genres perfectly.

First off, I must admit that I love Friendly Psychics Music. I love music collectives, I love prolific artists and labels, I love the DIY ethic and I love people who release music that matters to them despite what the greater populace may think, and Friendly Psychics is guilty as charged on all four counts. And it’s getting easier and easier to be in love with them, as each release they put out is better than the one preceding it. Thus is the case with Dishwater Psychics’ Dry Night Riverbed, which is without reservation or second thought the best album that Friendly Psychics has released.

The trick with Friendly Psychics is that, like all collectives, it’s built around a couple key players – in this case, it’s guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist John Wenzel and bassist/lyricist Chris Jones. No matter who they’re playing with or what their title is, each release that FPM puts out shows Wenzel and Jones growing more and more mature as songwriters. From rolling psychedelia to fractured indie-rock to weary folk-pop, Wenzel/Jones have gone through it all. And on their latest outing, the aforementioned duo (with more than occasional player Dan Miller on guitars/backing vox/keys) put all of their influences together into something awesome.

Dry Night Riverbed takes the best influences of all those genres and combines them into a moody, dark indie-rock experience. The mood is extremely well-cultivated (the psychedelia influence), the melodies appear in great number (the folk-pop) and the whole thing grooves on the strength of gritty guitars and propulsive drums (the indie-rock). It’s truly the full experience now – a full palette of musical endeavors has finally been tapped into one canvas.

Considering that a great deal of the Wenzel/Jones catalog is the type of music that you have to focus on, mull over and listen to repeatedly, it feels almost like a reward to sit down to an FPM album that just grabs me. Not to say that nuance isn’t fun, but when the opening arpeggiated acoustic chords of “Decimal Jokes” are scored by a blast of guitar distortion and reinforced by a four-on-the-floor rock drumbeat, it’s exciting. The fact that the song hits, delivers its moody, angry message and quits is also a testament to songwriting growth – gone are the unnecessarily drawn-out melodic sections. In fact, eight of the ten tracks on this album are under 3:30; I don’t know if this is truly a new improvement or if the improvement is the fact that every second of these tunes actually matter.

Even the dour vocals, which have been the major downside to FPM releases for as long as I’ve been reviewing them, are being used in ways that make sense. Standout track “Camp Oconda” features vocals prominently and effectively, allowing Wenzel to intone the memorable line “taking souls, and setting them on fire.” Given the dark indie-rock surroundings, it’s definitely one of the most soul-gripping moments I’ve heard in a while. It just hits.

It’s interesting to note that while “Camp Oconda” is easily a standout, it’s one of the two tracks that tops the 3.5 minute mark. Just more proof that the songwriting duo have finally figured out what is necessary in a song and what can go. There’s literally no fat on this album, and that’s definitely the first time that I’ve been able to say that of an FPM release.

The members of Dishwater Psychics have created a thoroughly and uniquely enjoyable album in Dry Night Riverbed. Dark, introspective indie-rock that doesn’t wig out into useless vamping or one-dimensional moping is tough to come by, and Dishwater Psychics have nailed it on the head here. Definitely one to check out.

-Stephen Carradini

Stephen@independentclauses.com

Dishwater Psychics-The Signal Will Fade

February 1, 2005

dishwaterpsychicsBand: Dishwater Psychics
Album: The Signal Will Fade
Best element: Being meaningful and mellow.
Genre: Indie
Website: www.dishwaterpsychics.com
Label: Friendly Psychics Music (www.friendlypsychicsmusic.com)
Band E-mail: info’friendlypsychicsmusic.com

I really need to stop doing these at the last minute. I just spent 45 minutes listening to Eyes of the Betrayer and now I’m listing to the mellow, sad Dishwater Psychics.

Dishwater Psychics sounds like the band you heard at the soon-to-be-broke acoustic venue last week. They are very mellow, very sad, and yet, very talented. Switching between keyboard and electric guitar, Dan Miller changes the sound each time he plays. Songs like “Step One” and “Warning Patterns”, done entirely on acoustic guitar, really highlight the talents of the band. The one rough spot in the band is the drummer, who seems to be unsure if he is playing correctly or not.

Dishwater Psychics is mellow and nice but nothing to jump up and down about. [u]The Signal Will Fade[/u] was released in 2001, leading me to believe we won’t see anything else from Dishwater Psychics.

-Scott Landis

redbassist66’comcast.net

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

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