Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

July Mp3s: Upbeat

July 31, 2015

Upbeat

1. “Saturday” – SPORTS. This evanescent (1:13!), earnest, perky garage-rock track hits all the right notes and touches a chord in me. It’s the perfect mix of enthusiasm and grit. Father/Daughter Records is on a roll.

2. “Vultures” – Delta Mainline. Call it Spiritualized at its most arch or acoustic-based ’90s Britpop (Oasis, The Verve) at its most early-morning woozy–this track is a memorable one.

3. “Wall Ball” – Art Contest. Any band that can make math-rock accessible and hooky is greatly to be praised. Art Contest’s impressive technical chops are only overshadowed by their incredible songwriting ones. This song is an adventure.

4. “There’s No Love” – We Are Magnetic. It’s summer, so I need a continuous stream of brash, upbeat dance-rock tunes. This one plays out like a less yelpy Passion Pit, complete with a giant chorus anchored by a soaring melody and backed with a choir. Get your dance on.

5. “Pistoletta” – North by North. Imagine My Chemical Romance had a little more rock and a little less theatrics, or think of late ’60s/early ’70s rock, right as glam was breaking out and wasn’t really there yet. Soaring vocals, rock drama, and crunchy guitars sell it.

6. “Get on the Boat” – Little Red Lung. This female-fronted outfit calls up Florence and the Machine comparisons through its adventurous arrangements (check that booming cello), minor-key vibes, and front-and-center vocals.

7. “Then Comes the Wonder” – The Landing. An ecstatic mishmash of handclaps, burbling synths, piano, and falsetto vocals creates a song that makes me think of a half-dozen disparate sonic influences (Foals, Prince, Fleet Foxes, and the Flaming Lips among them).

8. “Dust Silhouettes” – CFIT. Glitchy electro-pop noises give way to psych-influenced guitar and vocals, all stacked on top of an indie-rock backline. It’s a head-spinner in the best sort of way.

9. “Take Me Away” – Late Nite Cable. The chorus in this song is the electro-pop equivalent of the sun coming out from behind clouds after two days of rain.

10. “ONE” – Moving Panoramas. Sometimes I wonder what people are listening to when they’re walking down the street with headphones in. This feels like it could be one of those things: a walking-speed indie-pop-rock song with excellent bass work, down-to-earth vocals, and a little sense of wonder.

11. “Alien Youth” – The Albino Eyes. Calls back to the time when synth-rock meant The Cars: the zinging, charming synths over slightly-smoothed out garage-rock is nostalgic in the best of ways.

12. “Strangers” – Balaclade. Balancing guitar crunch with feathery vocals makes this an engaging post-’90s-indie-rock track.

13. “Falling” – Here We Go Magic. This warm, swirly, electronics-laden pop-rock tune calls to mind School of Seven Bells, if their sound was a little more tethered to acoustic instrumentation.

Nightmare Fortress: Ghostly thrilling darkwave

June 9, 2015

Nightmare Fortress Album Art

I don’t think anything else would sound equally fitting as a horror flick soundtrack than Nightmare Fortress’s debut album The Wanting. I mean this with the utmost awe for the Seattle quartet’s ability to package such huge soundscape range into a dark pop/electronic record.

Alicia Amiri is like Florence Welch’s gothic sister. Full of alto depth that pairs well with her foreboding lyrics, Amiri’s voice embodies the album’s enticing gloom. “You can’t control what history knows/Disgrace, cover your face/Trying to hide what daylight knows,” she sings on opener “No Exit,” which makes clear that unapologetic exposure is a theme of this album.

The Wanting has strong gothic style with splatters of synth-pop and dance-ready beats, exemplified on “The Perfect Feeling” and “Crawl to Me.” “The Perfect Feeling” gets you amped-up on red lip-stained sassiness and don’t-mess-with-me attitude of which Amiri is a poster child. With the use of heavy organ, think modern-day Phantom of the Opera visits a warehouse party and fits right in. “Crawl to Me,” a dance-rock track, proclaims like an anthem with Amiri’s bold lyrics. Her opening line, “There’s a place where it always rains and when you’re ready to die/Just stand outside, mouth open,” is no doubt deserving of your attention.

The more dungeon-like tracks on the album include “Mourning Star,” which focuses on a man’s decline, and “After Death.” “After Death” builds suspense with a strong repetitive rhythm like the sound of someone stomping down an empty hallway, dramatized condensation dripping from a low ceiling, and then an eerie, escalating choir echo in the background.

Don’t think The Wanting is only meant for those attracted to the darker side, though. The atmospheric mood of “Terminal” and trance qualities of “Crusher” weigh on the opposite end of the spectrum. “Crusher” includes an array of sonic texturing, such as dial-tone synth and bouts of air being pressed and ushered over bass like overworked machinery in an engine room.

“A Life Worth Leaving” is a standout on The Wanting. With a blend of atmospheric guitar, bouncy rhythm, and 80s-esque vocals, it’s a testament to anyone who has ever known they deserved better in any relationship. “Scratching at my door, like a dog, always begging me for more,” Amiri sings, having no problem admitting, “Either way, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.” Amiri is matter-of-fact, and it’s this cool admittance throughout the record that makes The Wanting so captivating.

Nightmare Fortress’s debut album leaves you strangely refreshed in its bluntness. Between Alicia Amiri’s scarlet-colored vocals and the band’s unique take on darkwave, get ready for something ghostly thrilling. —Rachel Haney

 

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

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