Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Citizen 5's Circles: Super Globalized Yet Super Indie

April 26, 2009

Citizen 5, out of Norman, OK, is a band of many roots, musically and geographically. Musically, they range from pop country of the lead singer Jimmilea Manley to the Latin influences of keyboardist Ricardo Sasaki to the heavy rock of guitarist Scott Sunderman to the indie influences of bassist Jason Long.

They come from many places, from Bolivia to Mexico to just local homegrown Oklahomans. Citizen 5 is unique in that they are a globalized band, which ties into their name, connected with the fact that they are five citizens of the world. This is where they are talented, and even the title of the album plays on the interconnection of everyone.

Definitely Citizen 5’s melding of genres and styles helps make them unique an indie market where being unique is a prerequisite for success. The intro and outro, for example, are Latin-influenced,with a talented trumpeter from the premier mariachi band in Oklahoma playing a Latin dirge. New wave influences can be heard in much of the music, notably in “Make it Real,” where singer Jimmilea Manley’s strong and soaring vocals add a womanly, southern twang, strangely complimenting the indie and psychedelic influences already at play. Add to that their retro eighties-like chord progressions, you’d think these guys would be going overboard. But the band manages to make solid pop songs that tie all these influences together without really jumping off the experimental cliff.

I had the chance to sit down keyboardist and producer Ricardo Sasaki, who said Citizen 5 has been influenced by acts ranging from Led Zeppelin to David Bowie to Oklahoma’s greatest recent psychedelic success story, the Flaming Lips. Produced by very indie label Ares Recording (which has only been in business for about three weeks), right next door to a Starlight Mints-owned Opolis, a live act club, Citizen 5 definitely has the indie cred to make a footprint on the music world outside the local scene.

But more important than the connections that Sasaki has from his eighteen years of producing and world tromping is just the talent I heard when listening to Circles. Sometimes its buried, but I can still hear it – this is a band that has yet to realize its potential. Things I was impressed with include the way the band manages to craft very familiar lyrics and chord progressions without sounding cliché. Perhaps the influence of all the aforementioned backgrounds of the members of Citizen 5 keep things fresh, like a mango from South America or a homegrown tomato from an Oklahoma backyard.

Sasaki himself said that their next LP, currently untitled and due for release in a few months, is better than the first. I am eagerly awaiting that release, hoping that in it that the band’s voice rings stronger than the first. If I had to guess, I would say the band’s voice can be found from the melding of their different backgrounds, musical and geographical. I think that if they just somehow amplified all these influences and dared to experiment a little more, they could be scary good.

But for what it’s worth, I recommend Citizen 5 and Circles heartily. It’s a fun indie/retro listen.

RadioRadio – Alarm 1 Alarm 2 EP

February 3, 2009

I enjoyed RadioRadio’s EP Alarm 1 Alarm 2.  Being a fan of eighties music, this retro-leaning band would seem a pretty good fit for me. And being from my own backyard in Tulsa, OK, makes them all the more interesting. I can probably look forward to a live show sometime soon.

On to the music.  I would classify RadioRadio’s music as alternative retro, with a very big focus on the eighties. Although Alarm 1 Alarm 2 is strong enough to make me pick up their debut album, Watch ‘Em All Come Runnin’, RadioRadio’s Alarm 1 Alarm 2 doesn’t stand out to me.

This made me a little frustrasted, because this shouldn’t be the case. Singer Greg Hosterman has a good voice, and bassist Paul Cristiano really grooves. Drummer Paul Sanders and guitarist Jay Hunt do their parts well.  The production is good, and RadioRadio’s incorporation of electronica is well-placed and not overdone–the bane of much eighties music. Though this band has only been recording and playing since 2007, they have a lot of talent and work cohesively as a group.

So what is it about this EP that makes it so-so to me? The fact that they are retro might have something to do with it. Listening to Alarm 1 Alarm 2, it’s not hard to imagine that it might have come straight out of the eighties. The band’s potential originality is buried under ideas that have already been exhausted.  For example, the bass lines reminded me of Joy Division. This is in and of itself isn’t a bad thing; Interpol’s debut album is highly inspired by Joy Division. The difference between Interpol and RadioRadio is that the former doesn’t sound exactly like the eighties; there are some updates to the sound.

I know it’s unfair to compare RadioRadio with Interpol, one of my favorite bands. RadioRadio do a good a job for what they’re trying to accomplish – be an eighties-inspired rock band. Fans looking for this will love RadioRadio. As for me, someone who has listened to a lot of eighties music, RadioRadio doesn’t seem fresh and new. Perhaps this will not be the case for someone who has not listened to a lot of eighties music.

It seems impossible in today’s world to just be a “normal” rock band. There always has to be some sort of spin that makes the band different – for RadioRadio, that spin is their eighties flavor, which, admittedly, not too many bands do. Unfortunately, at least for me, this keeps some freshness and originality out of their music.

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

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