Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

MAXIMUM SINGLENESS

April 12, 2014

It’s release season, which means that there are literally more things coming out than I can possibly review. The way I can best make sense of this is by dropping massive singles lists and then augmenting with reviews of the very best stuff. So here’s part one of a massive amount of singles.

MAXIMUM SINGLENESS (cheery part)

1. “Rahh!” – Pepa Knight. I’m generally anti-congas, but Pepa Knight makes them sound so delightful in this jubilant indie-pop/pop gem.

2. “Murphy’s Law” – Clockwise. JUST START DANCING NOW. ALSO GET READY TO CLAP. SUMMMMMEEEEERRRRRRR

3. “Suns Out Guns Out” – Concord America. Garage rock needed a shot of the Beastie Boys’ mid-’80s total abandon, and Concord America delivers.

4. “Melody” – Plustwo. This song was a hit in 1983, at the tail end of disco. Now it’s been redone and re-released. Since it sounds pretty much like it could have been written today, it’s now time to say: DISCO IS ALIVE, FOLKS.

5. “Gold Soundz” – Ray and Remora. Respectin’ their indie elders with a low-key indie-electro verzion.

6. “Dirty Mouth“- Killing Kuddles. Here’s a folk song that just couldn’t contain all the raucous energy it had, so it turned into a punk song. Excellent slice of folk-punk here, complete with wicked guitar solo.

7. “Faucet” – Samuel Cooper. Tons ‘o dudes doing the hazy-indie-pop thing, but not so many can do it with such endearing vocal tone and strong melodies.

8. “Running Game” – Awning. Melding ’90s pop to gentle electro to acoustic-pop, Awning are doing something a little different than the rest of us.

9. “When You Call” – July Child. Sometimes R&B is too limp for me, but the energy and strong vocal performance here make this track wistful without being wimpy.

10. “I Can’t Wait (to Get My Hands on You)” – Kelly Lee Keel. Fun, raw, lo-fi, female-penned alt-country ode to the female libido.

11. “Better Ride” – Curtin. Sometimes I hear a song and think, “damn, s/he must have been writing songs for a long time.” This chill alt-country tune just smacks of experience and expertise. Absolutely gorgeous.

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.

How to get blogs to notice your band, by a guy who notices bands for a blog

August 21, 2011

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.

If you get back an e-mail that says, “Hey, it’s good but it’s not my style,” don’t take it personally. There are tons of other blogs out there. Go get ’em.

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.

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

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