Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Single: "Holograms" — Founds

June 24, 2011

So I somehow ended up on this incredible Australian PR list, and I’ve been receiving all sorts of crazy music from our friends down under: Teleprompter, New Manic Spree, and now Founds.

Founds’ latest single “Holograms” is the sort of lush indie-pop/rock that I’m coming to covet. Rave Magazine already beat me to the Jonsi comparisons, but they’re accurate: breathy, wide-eyed wonder is set atop (and contrasted against) jaunty rhythms and a immaculately recorded instruments in “Holograms.”

It starts off with a gentle guitar and cooed female vocals, then ratchets the intensity from there all the way up. In that way it’s a sort of optimistic post-rock, only crammed full of pop touches. That combination causes the song to exude a unique vibe, drawing me to it repeatedly; it’s not anything I’ve heard before in exactly this way. There’s no “chorus,” per se, but it doesn’t need one, based on the way the song flows.

This makes me want more Founds as quickly as possible. Let’s make this happen, people. Get the track for free here.

Quick Hits: Built by Animals

April 5, 2011

Last year I fell in love with the perky, poppy sound of NYC’s Built by Animals. Their brand of hook-laden indie-rock could only come out of some NYC loft; it’s equal parts confident swagger, self-deprecating groan, guitar oomph and pop melodies. They do nothing to change the formula on their three-song EP “Summer of Shmiz.” Since these are only songs number 5-7 for our boys in Built by Animals, let’s give them a pass on “growth” for this one.

The vocals are a joy throughout, whether creaking, snarling, screaming or singing; there’s enough personality contained in them to power this whole EP. But they don’t have to shoulder the load, because the tom-heavy groove and acrobatic guitar work of “Animal Parade,”  the bass-heavy and spazzy-within-limits “Ellen Page,” and the whipsawing moods of “Red-Breasted Bastard; Or, The Feel Bad Hit of the Summer” all give good reasons for repeat listens.

I’d love to go to a Built by Animals show, ’cause I bet they’re just tons of fun. If they can back up their entertaining songs with any amount of showmanship, I know they are. If you like your rock with sunglasses at night and a bit of NYC cool, Built by Animals can be your fix. Rock.

Porcupine's technical, impressive rock recalls an earlier time

June 21, 2010

The songs on Porcupine‘s The Trouble With You combine the best parts of the late nineties/early two-thousands punk, math rock and indie rock together in a way that would have made fans of all three genres sit up and take notice. The fuzzed-out guitar riffs give way to mathy runs with a melodic bent before muscling through a chorus or two. These guys know their underground music history, or somehow appropriated an entire time period without knowing about it (which would be pretty amazing). As a result (or magically, if the latter is true), their songwriting espouses the ideas of those genres in that time. That means a lot of things, but one really important thing: there are melodies here, but these songs don’t rely on pop melodies as much as current rock/punk/indie bands do.

That makes the album a difficult sell; pretty much every genre of music has been subsumed into the theory that there should be a memorable hook to every song. Not convinced? The Metal Bastard says the words “the by far best grindcore band in history” and “catchy vocal line” in his review of Nasum’s last album. Even grindcore, which many people wouldn’t even call music, is subject to pop these days.

If you’re into punk and rock that’s more about mood, attitude, aesthetics and instrumentals than singalongs, then Porcupine is your band. You’ll love the technical ability of “Picture Perfect,” the punchy rhythms of “So Far So Good,” the herky-jerky guitarwork of “Cliff Diver” and the rest of the great, interesting moments on this album. If you like pop-punk, you should probably move along, or if you’re really determined, check out “Books,” which has the closest thing to a catchy vocal melody on the album.

But if you don’t appreciate that “Books” is awesome because of the tight interplay between the guitar, bass and drums, you’re missing a lot of what Porcupine is about. I hope that Porcupine finds an audience that will embrace this for what it is and not condemn it for what it isn’t (and for that matter, what I don’t think it was trying to be in the first place).

We Sing the Body Electric Misses a Few Notes

April 6, 2009

I was a bit let down by the Lonely Forest’s We Sing the Body Electric – I expected great things from the first hard-hitting notes of “Two Pink Pills.” While the The Lonely Forest is capable of some intricate musicality and occasionally setting a mood that is uniquely theirs,  the album suffers from two things: sameness from song to song and a very annoying voice.

Though I don’t like to admit it, I can barely stand the voice of the lead singer, who sounds like Kermit the Frog. I would hate it if someone said I sounded like Kermit the Frog, but I found it really hard to enjoy the music past the first few songs when I felt like I was being sung to by a Muppet. While this closed-off throat sound and self-deprecating style is still fashionable for up-and-coming bands, it’s going to sound really dated ten years from now.

But for some positive things: The Lonely Forest is usually capable of coming up with some unique moods that might suffice for someone looking for something out of the way. Most songs are not too varied, but there is a moment of what I would almost call “sheer brilliance.”

The highlight of the album for me is “Tomato Soup,” an original piano-based song that is deceptively simple. I like this simplicity; it shows the band’s softer side, and here the band finds a sound that really works. “Tomato Soup” is almost ballad-like, and I like this song much better than their straight-ahead pop/rock songs, which seem to try too hard to be like Death Cab for Cutie.

Another ballad-like song, “Julia,” is also pretty good. Overall, the band is stronger on their down tempo tracks that happen to feature piano.

I didn’t really enjoy the Lonely Forest’s We Sing the Body Electric. It does have its moments, but consistently, the songs are just pale imitations of bands that are better them. Combined with a grating voice and songs that seem to sound the same from one to the next, it was hard to listen to at times. I would reccommend the magnificent “Tomato Soup” and “Julia,” but I would pass on the album.

Fairmont Transcends their previous work.

January 9, 2009

I’ve followed Fairmont through three full-length albums and an EP. It’s not a surprise to me that Transcendence, the fourth full-length by Neil Sabatino and Co. that I’ve had the privilege of  reviewing, improves on their last work musically. This is a trend they have continued (with only the occasional slip-up) since the beginning of their time as a band. The startling thing about Transcendence is the fact that everything else about the album is amazing as well.

Not to knock on Fairmont’s previous work (you will find my glowing reviews of their previous work if you search), but it always fell just short of that thing that kept it playing in my CD player. Maybe the lyrics were horribly morose.  The song order was sketchy. Sometimes the songs had great parts and regrettable parts mashed next to each other.  Transcendence fixes all these problems and creates a total album.

Yes, Transcendence should be played front to back each time, because the song order matters. The album has an ebb and flow that would be totally lost in a pick-and-choose listening. The songs of Transcendence seem autobiographical in the best sense: the album feels chronological, as if I were reading a book about Neil Sabatino. This, again, is due to the song order, which places a discussion of his childhood spent in an apocalyptic commune first. The bizarre conduct of the cult sets the stage for the skepticism and existentialism that characterize the rest of the album. It’s easy to draw connections in all of the other songs from points within the first song (the easiest being a reprise of the bridge in the last song, with more obscure references and touchpoints throughout). In short, the lyrics and song order suck me into a world that I inhabit for forty minutes. Seeing as Sabatino’s existentialism is completely counter to my Christian worldview, my total immersement in the ideas and themes of the album while I’m hearing it is a compliment to the descriptive and impassioned quality of the lyrics.

But it’s not just the lyrics that make tunes like “Everyone Hates a Critic” and “Luck Will Change” into the outstanding pieces of music they are. Highlight “Everyone Hates a Critic” has an incredibly interesting rhythmic pattern and a neat chord progression. It’s hard to not like it. “Luck Will Change,” while being the bleakest on the album, lyrically, is pretty upbeat and fun. Both songs feature piano/synths, which is a new thing for Fairmont, and it’s a very good thing.

In terms of rocking, “Omaha” wins. It has a raucous riff, a sinister mood, and a vaguely surf-rock mood. I sing it when it comes up on the album. “Melt Your Heart” is also pretty punked-out for being a love song.

“Melt Your Heart” ends with the bridge from the first song “Being and Nothingness,” as  the male and female vocalists declare their love for each other over the repeated group-sing of “aimless!” It’s the transcendence that Fairmont named the album after; love will overcome the existential angst of being. Whether or not that’s what you think, you will enjoy this pop/rock album; it’s expertly crafted and precisely written. Easily the best Fairmont has produced.

Indie Rock is Invincible

April 1, 2006

I have just found another sure-fire way to drive yourself nuts. The first way I found was to try understanding just how many planets there are in the universe by trying to ponder the amount of galaxies, then stars, then planets around those stars. It’s guaranteed to make you twitch.

The second way to do it, as I have just found, is to go all the way through a single blog roll on an mp3 blog. I did this on one rather inconspicuous Friday night, using the blog roll at my favorite mp3 blog *sixeyes. Some were defunct, and some didn’t appeal to me, but the sheer volumes of music that pass through many of these sites is literally mind-boggling. When I see a site that posts a new band every day, I am impressed, definitely. But when I see a site that posts two, three, four new bands a day, as Gorilla vs. Bear and *sixeyes do, I am staggered.

But what really blew the cover off, what really alerted me that mp3 blogging can and will blow your mind, is when I found an interview with Page France on the extremely well-written You Ain’t No Picasso blog. The very same Page France that I reviewed way back in the day with their debut [u]Come! I’m a Lion![/u], when they were unsigned. This isn’t self-congratulating (although that is fun)- this is merely a recognition that there are infinite pieces to the independent music puzzle, and they can all be added together by someone with no life, a fast internet connection, and a blog roll. That freaks me out. It literally gave me shivers.

And then, to make matters so much worse, I found the official SXSW bit-torrent- 1000+ bands, one song each, two words: holy goodness. There is officially no end to indie-rock. It goes on forever into the sunset. I am nothing in the face of the greater picture of indie-rock. Even Independent Clauses as a magazine is a tiny blip on the screen of indie rock. In fact, even if we became a nationally syndicated magazine, became well-respected in the indie rock world, maybe even went international with our pages- we would still be a blip on the indie-rock world.

Indie rock will never die. Music will always be good. We as a magazine will strive our best to bring you the good music, whether we find it out of the purevolume.com general promo forums, the mp3 blogs we visit, the local shows we watch, or random referrals. I am but a student in this great game of indie-rock, and I will always be a student. It’s when we think we know something that we really don’t know anything at all.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses’hotmail.com

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

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