Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Scott Fant / The Project / Killing Kuddles

April 29, 2013

Pig Iron

I’ve been getting into electronic music a little bit more recently, but I still have the deepest part of my musical heart reserved for singer/songwriters armed with nothing but an acoustic guitar. Scott Fant fits that description perfectly, as he employs his careworn tenor over a six-string for the five tunes of Pig Iron. Fant balances precise, melodic guitarwork with a careworn voice that includes weariness but isn’t defined by it. It’s not a gruff or rough tone, but one that has nicks around the edges, as in the excellent “Worse for the Wear.” The memorable vocals are framed well by both chord strumming and fingerpicking. Fant likes to remain in folk-singer mode, but there are some worthy blues inclusions (“8 Lb. Sledge”) and even a bit of classical influence (“Restless Wind”). Fans of Joe Pug, Joe Purdy and maybe even Ray LaMontagne (although without the romantic overtones) will eat this up. Fant is a strong songwriter that should be watched closely: as they say in the draft, he’s got a lot of upside and a really high ceiling.

themartyrsproject

Christian martyrs Quirinus, Sadoth, and Ri may not be household names, but Martyr’s Prayers by The Project moves them out of the Fox’s Book of Martyrs and into the musical sphere. The album’s best moments come when the band focuses on acoustic folk treatments like lead single “Romero,” the cello-led “Becket,” and the melodically memorable “Clement.” Most of the album leans this way, but there are some louder moments in the stories of the martyrs. The dramatic “Carpus” opens with arch piano arrangement before unveiling some wailing guitar work over the despondent chords. While “Bonhoeffer” has unexpected alt-rock guitar that disrupts the flow of the album, “Sadoth” is a straight-up classic rocker that fits the character of the album much more. It fits because the “classic” tag leans into some of the folk work too, as “Ignatius” and “Ravensbruck” recall the arrangements of older folk heroes like America and Simon & Garfunkel. Martyr’s Prayers is a unique album that’s worth a listen for fans of folk and/or church history, as long as some unexpected turns don’t bother you.

killingkuddles

Killing Kuddles was introduced to me as a rockabilly band, but some of the “abilly” edges have worn off between then and now. Odd Man Out is a five-song release that leans heavily on old-school rock’n’roll sounds for its sonic and lyrical material (“Rock & Roll Is Dead”). The guitars clang admirably, the cymbals thrash mightily, and the bass wallops. The element that most signifies any sort of country-ish vibe is Elwood Kuddles’ raspy throat, which lands between a punk sneer and a Tom Waits growl. It leans toward the former on the rapid-fire opener “Not Coming Back” and more toward the latter in the folk-punk “Dropped the Pop.”

Killing Kuddles’ old-school rock sound has some connection to modern punk rock bands like The Gaslight Anthem and Titus Andronicus: bands that adhere to an old-school idea that rock should be loud and fast and unadorned by labels. Those bands might be right; it could be that I’m doing these songs a disservice trying to categorize them. If you like rock with the amps turned up and a rebellious sneer, Odd Man Out is going to be in your wheelhouse.

Anchoring Down on Solid Rock

June 11, 2009

It might be bad to say that I’m immediately reminded of several other bands by the Steel to Dust EP from Portland band Anchor Down.
First of all, and bearing no weight on the quality of the music, the band’s name is reminiscent of a band that I’ve reviewed here on IC – Anchors For Arms – which subsequently reminds me of the now defunct local OKC band, Arms For Arsenal. So initially it was difficult to identify the band separately from these bands in my mind.

Upon listening comes the second set of bands I’m reminded of. Anchor Down favors the same sort of melodic, Midwestern-flavored punk rock that one might hear from the likes of the Gaslight Anthem (one of my favorite bands, so that’s a good thing for this reviewer), American Steel and my good friends from OKC, Red City Radio. The sound is strong and definitely feels like the sort of anthem one needs for a long car drive with the windows down on a summer afternoon with fists pumping. It’s energetic and has a lot of spirit to it.

The guitars are relatively simple but highly effective, with driving power chords and subdued riffs that never come off as flashy. The bass and drums on these six songs are both solid and show a degree of skill from Matt Brown and Sean Cisneros, but Brown’s bass definitely takes a backseat to Cisneros’ drumming and is by far the least noticeable part of the band’s sound. Cisneros especially shows his skill in the intro to “Crass-A-Nova.” The vocals from guitarists Alex Hudjohn and Lucas Andrews compliment the music quite well, but fail to really stand out over the instrumentation, since both rarely show more variation or range that a gruff baritone. This slight monotony tends to make the vocals less attention-grabbing, which is a shame because the lyrics are quite well written. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem for “World War 1,” the EP’s definite stand-out track, or for “Never Was A Lesson Learned (Remember Me),” which I would say is runner up to the title.

I think Steel to Dust shows a great amount of promise from this group, and I very much look forward to future releases to see how they refine their sound. I will be quite content to let the songs play whenever they pop up on my iTunes, but I can’t say I’ll be listening to this EP over and over again. If you enjoy bands like Gaslight Anthem or Dillinger Four, or just like good, solid rock music, I would definitely recommend checking out Anchor Down.

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

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