Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Awkward Age throws down 8 minutes of no-frills punk glory

November 20, 2011

Awkward Age‘s Demo 2011 is four punk tunes in 8 minutes and 1 second. The band isn’t into economy because it doesn’t know what it’s doing: the three-piece features ex-members of The Knockdown, New Bruises, Ghost Tales and Independent Clauses (yes, an old writer for this magazine!). These vets cram the material that would compose a whole three- or four-minute song in younger hands into two. The result is an EP that rules.

I’ve been a sucker for a drum intro ever since I heard Dave Douglas hammering away on Relient K’s “Kick-Off,” which opened The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek—the first rock album I ever heard. It is unsurprising that I fell in love with the pounding bass/tom/snare intro to “New Teen Fiction.” The rest of the song sets the template for the other tunes: block-chord guitars, uncomplicated bass lines, forceful yet hooky melodies and an irrepressible energy.

“Lucky Man” is a perfect eff you song (literally), and I can only imagine how much fun it is for audiences to yell it out live. “It Never Stops” sounds most like a snare-kick pop-punk song, and that’s totally fine. These guys are self-admittedly about ten years past high school, so this is the sound they were hearing when they were hanging out in the halls. It sounds authentic.

It’s only eight minutes, but it’s a great eight minutes. If you’re into punk, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be all over Demo 2011.

How to get blogs to cover your band: a best practices PSA

August 20, 2011

As I noted yesterday, I recently transitioned from the workforce to academia. There are three major differences for IC with this change:

1. My daily round-trip commute went from 75+ minutes to 5, which significantly cuts into the time I have available for music listening.

2. I will spend a great deal of time attempting to comprehend complex and esoteric theory, the reading of which is not conducive to simultaneous music consumption.

3. My old job allowed me to listen to mainstream indie music at work, allowing time for undiscovered indie stuff on the commute/at home.

These will all work together to ensure that I listen to and write about less new music. I’m still hoping to update IC daily, but it could be about anything music-related, not just undiscovered CD reviews.

BUT!

Even though my music consumption will constrict to stuff that I feel is fantastic (Sorry, Bon Iver, it’s just not as good as For Emma), I’m not going to leave good bands high and dry. I’m not the only blog in the world, and there’s a quick’n’dirty way to find blogs that will potentially like you and write about you.

1. Go to Hype Machine. It’s a blog aggregator, pulling MP3s from a ton of blogs and hosting them in an easy-to-use format.

2. Figure out a band that your band sounds like, or a band that would share similar fans with yours.

3. Enter that band into Hype Machine’s search box (top right).

4. Look at the first listing. It should be “Artist – Song Name.” Under that line of text is a small link that says “Posted by x blogs,” where x is a number. Click that link. (If this link is not below the text, that blog is the only blog that posted the song. Note the name of the blog, then move on to the next listing.)

5. A dropdown should appear, listing the names of blogs that posted the tune and an intro paragraph to the corresponding post. At the end of the intro paragraph will be a link that says “Posted on x y,” where x y is a date. Open that link in a new tab.

6. You are now at the blog that posted about an artist you sound like. Find the contact info for the writer of the post. For larger blogs like Aquarium Drunkard, this person will be different than the editor of the site. Smaller blogs may be a one-person outfit.

7. E-mail them nicely, mentioning the band you sound like in the subject line.

8. Have your music, bio, picture and contact info easily available from the e-mail but not cluttering the page. You want to keep your e-mails short and to the point. Your bio and picture could be good attachments. Blogs have different policies on music submission, but I hate getting huge, attached files. A nice, discrete link to a download site or Bandcamp is great.

This process will help immensely, as blogs get approximately a gazillion e-mails a day, and quick connections make you stand out.

In practice, it looks like this. The band King Rey e-mailed me their EP Street Friends. It’s heavy on the doo-wop pop sound that’s enjoying a resurgence. I’m not a big fan of the genre, even though King Rey sounds talented in their craft. I know that Tennis is a band that has some similar sounds going on. Plug in Tennis, and “Tennis – Pigeon” pops up. Eight blogs have posted it, including Tune the Proletariat, Indie Shuffle and We All Want Someone to Shout For (twice!). Those blogs would be a good idea to hit with an e-mail for King Rey.

Similarly, Killing Kuddles is a rockabilly band. Punching in the word “rockabilly” doesn’t produce very good results, as the word “rockabilly” doesn’t appear in band names or song names often. Searching “Legendary Shack Shakers” brings up several blogs that would be good for KK to e-mail (I am a Moonshiner, ninebullets).

Even though this gives you a good in, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get heard. Blogging is a horribly inexact art, driven in great part by “what I feel like doing today.” There are very disciplined bloggers, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I don’t feel like listening to x band because I’m in y type of mood, even if I would probably like the type of music x band plays if I were in a normal mood. Based on the number of e-mails bloggers get, that disconnect (which is entirely not your fault) could deposit you in the “get to this someday” or “deleted” pile. And that sucks, but that’s the way it happens sometimes.

I love new music, and I’ll still be covering it. But if I send you back an e-mail that says, “Hey, it’s good but it’s not my style, and here’s a way to find some other blogs that will like you guys,” don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me. No, really.

Independent Clauses’ Albums of the Year, pt. 1

December 12, 2010

Independent Clauses has always been a strange beast. I never intended it to be a music blog; I wanted it to be the starting point of a Pitchfork-style website or a Paste-style magazine. So when we did things differently, my thoughts ran thus: “Who cares? We weren’t trying to be like them anyway.” That’s why we would run best-of lists in February, eschew posting MP3s and publish very long articles.

But as people go, so do dreams. Just like mortality isn’t such a terrible bag if you’re ready for it, neither is the death of dreams. Independent Clauses is never going to be the size of Pitchfork, Paste or even dearly departed Delusions of Adequacy (whom I have worked for and dearly love). And that’s perfectly okay.

To that end, it’s starting to look more and more like an MP3 blog over here, as I am accepting what Independent Clauses has become and embracing it. I’m considering getting some extra hosting for 2011 and throwing down d/ls to applicable tunes on posts. I’m also going to redesign this site as an mp3 blog, then not touch the aesthetics till 2012. I’m also going to start using the first person pronoun instead of the third person. It’s just me here now.

Also, I will cover more Pitchfork-level indie music than I have previously. Independent Clauses used to focus exclusively on undiscovered music, and I will still devote much of my time there. One does not throw the baby out with the bathwater, after all; there will just be more Frightened Rabbit and The Mountain Goats in the bath.

As part of the transition, I will be posting two best-of lists this year: one overall best of, and one of releases Independent Clauses reviewed this year. In the future, I will post one list. Without further adieu, here’s the overall top ten best releases this year.

1. Sever Your Roots – The Felix Culpa. I called this “the post-hardcore masterpiece” in January, and I’ll stick by that. It’s near-perfect.

2. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons. Total world dominance: I was in the dentist’s office the other day, and “The Cave” was playing.

3. The Winter of Mixed Drinks – Frightened Rabbit. “Not Miserable” gives me shivers every time, and it’s incredibly rare to give me shivers once. I love every song on this album.

4. The SuburbsArcade Fire. Music world dominance: headlining Madison Square Garden, nominated for album of the year, taking number one on the Billboard Charts. Even if I didn’t like this album it would be in my top ten. It’s a pretty great album, though, even if it does have a few too many ripoffs of The National on it.

5. This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem. Indie world dominance: James Murphy prophesied his title and then backed it up with tracks that made it so. Easily my favorite LCD album, and “You Wanted a Hit” is vying for “favorite LCD song” status.

6. The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens. The man can do whatever he wants and still turn out pure gold. This is easily the most mind-blowing release of the year: it’s hard for me to listen to in heavy rotation because it’s so complex.

7. The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man on Earth. Do you have to die to be re-incarnated? Because Bob Dylan’s found his second coming already. Don’t go electric, Kristian Matsson! Don’t do it!

8. Sidewalks – Matt and Kim. THIS ALBUM DESERVES ALL CAPS! IT IS THAT ENTHUSIASTIC AND WONDERFUL! I DARE YOU TO NOT BE HAPPY WHILE LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM!

9. The Monitor – Titus Andronicus. Straight-up best guitar riffs of the year are in this album. This album rocks so hard that it’s hard to believe that it’s kind of about the Civil War.

10. Of the Blue Colour of the Sky – OK GO. I just really enjoyed this album. They’ve perfected their strain of exuberant pop, and I like it.

Honorable Mentions: Champ – Tokyo Police Club, High Violet – The National, Weathervanes – Freelance Whales.

Gary B and the Notions release a polarizing album of '50s-styled pop

March 12, 2010

So, while we’re in the spirit of full disclosure from yesterday, here’s another one. Gary Barrett, who is the Gary B of Gary B and the Notions, has written for Independent Clauses even more recently than Nate Williams has. Doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about his record, but it does mean that they’re not totally sterilized. I mean, no one’s really objective these days. So passe.

Anyway. Gary B and the Notions just released New Twist and Shout, and it’s an incredibly appropriate title. Barrett has a strong affinity for ’50s pop, and he creates his own fractured and twisted version of it on this album. Barrett nicks the big pop swing and a chord progression straight out of 1954 in “Unannounced,” drops some creepy organ and oddly dissonant guitars over it,  and turns it loose onto the world. “Jenny” has a bit of a surf-pop vibe to it (although I’m pretty sure Brian Wilson and Co. never accused anyone of being “Motherf****** who want to dance and get out of control”). “Hall and Oates” has a bouncy pop feel to it, similar to the girl-pop of the era (anything-ettes).

If the subverted and repurposed ’50s songwriting doesn’t turn you off, Barrett’s vocals might. Barrett has what can be best described as a Northern drawl; he lets syllables hang a long time, sings odd vocal lines, and generally does whatever he wants. The tone is a bit nasal, but not so much that he doesn’t have low notes. It’s just enough to drive a listener crazy on repeated listens. It’s really unique, but it’s an acquired taste.

The highlights here are “Sally,” “Jenny” and the dark “New York Jet Set Trash,” which was exciting because it was different that the rest. The honky tonk of “Landscapes & Skylines” also stands out, providing a punch of energy toward the end of the album.

If you like the ’50s revisited and don’t mind Gary Barrett’s distinctive, unusual vocals, you will like New Twist and Shout. If either of those things don’t happen for you, it’ll be unlikely that you won’t enjoy this.

Proof that The Felix Culpa is Alive and Kicking

September 29, 2009

In terms of what you should play to get famous as a band, The Felix Culpa wins. In terms of what you should do to get famous as a band, they have failed miserably. They released their first album Commitment in 2004. It was generally heralded as awesome by people like Alt Press, PunkNews.org and (yes) Independent Clauses. They followed it up in 2006 with an EP/DVD set (Thought Control), which was again met with raves. They then promised a full-length album, which had everyone in the scene drooling (yes, including us). Continue readingProof that The Felix Culpa is Alive and Kicking…

By this point, we've turned over a whole tree

August 24, 2009

Seasons come and seasons go, but I swear that seasons go by faster than usual at the IC. Right off our summer of posting (mostly) four times a week, we’re going into the school year by…slowing down. We’re going to be posting three times a week until further notice: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

If you’re interested in writing for IC, shoot an e-mail to IndependentClauses@hotmail.com. We get you free music, and you have opinions about it in a timely manner. It’s not a complicated arrangement; the Internet makes it a pretty simple transaction, actually. So yes, if you’d like to do that, we’d love to hear from you.

As to the title? We’re turning over yet another leaf here at the IC. And we’ve turned a lot of them over.

Prep prep prep

May 19, 2009

So, I’m spending the summer working at a Christian summer camp. While this would seem to necessitate a slowdown of Independent Clauses, this is not the case! I’ve been working furiously to get stuff ready for summer, and it seems that we will be moving to four posts a week (as opposed to daily, which is what we were doing early in the semester, and scattershot, which is what we’re doing now). It looks like we’ll be posting Monday-Thursday.

And our twitter will keep twittering away. It’ll be like I’m not even gone!

But that’s where we’ve been for the past couple weeks; furiously preparing for summer. Just thought I’d drop a note and enlighten all of you wonderful people.

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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