Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

June Rock List

July 3, 2015

June Rock List

1. “Whine of the Mystic” – Nap Eyes. Major-key guitar-rock infused with so much martial tension from the drums and the wavering high guitar part that it feels like it is always about to explode–with the exception of the preternaturally calm vocalist that tethers the tune the ground. The tune never explodes in giant guitar fury. I’m impressed.

2. “Getaway” – Jaill. Bass-heavy surf-rock that eschews much of the whining treble that categorizes the genre: suddenly, it just sounds like tip-top driving pop-rock music.

3. “Be What You Are” – The Cairo Gang. The less garage-y garage rock gets, the more it sounds like ’60s rock and pop. This has Beach Boys, Beatles, Kinks, and more influences crammed into it. Rock on.

4. “Incarceration Casserole” – Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. Uncorked James Brown-esque soul/funk complete with sax meets blast-off ’50s rock in a high-energy blender of a song that’s about not knowing how to make food and eat because his wife is in jail. This is the first time you’ve heard a song like this.

5. “Creature” – It Looks Sad. Every now and then a punk song jumps out of the ether, slaps me across the face, and demands that I cover it. This one, with its towering choruses, huge-yet-not-abrasive guitars, and early ’00s/White Octave-esque emotional palette did that to me.

6. “Kashyyyk” – We Take Fire. A mind-bending genre blender of a song that combines post-rock, post-hardcore, dance-rock, and Coheed & Cambria-esque flights of fancy into one massively headturning rock song.

7. “Smokesignals” – The Feel Bad Hit. Here’s an punk-inspired instrumental rock tune that has nothing post- about it: the band just crushes it without vocals. ‘Nuff said.

8. “Love Like Crazy” – Jessica Lee Wilkes. Wilkes offers up some sax-powered, vaguely surfy vintage pop that sounds fresh as anything.

9. “Crossing on a Bend” – Bourbon Street Beat. Not a big rockabilly fan? Try this track, which includes enough modern melodic sentiment to seem less uncomfortably foreign and more exotic and interesting.

10. “Port City” – I Am the Albatross. Buoyant acoustic rhythm guitar, crunchy electric guitars (complete with guitar solo!), jubilant chorus, creaky vocals, big drums: this is an old-school rock tune, y’all.

11. “Business” – The Good Field. I have an ambient understanding of what ’70s AM radio rock sounded like: warm, major-key, fuzzed out, concerned with formal songwriting tactics, and generally hooky. The Good Field fit my impressionistic ideas of what that style sounded like to a T.

12. “Aubrey” – Lake Malawi. Low-slung but still peppy, chilled-out but still energetic, this sounds like a Strokes-ian indie band accidentally getting lost in ’80s radio pop and emerging with an artifact that isn’t either genre, exactly.

13. “Young” – Kyle and the Pity Party. This song declares “I’d do anything for you/I’d even listen to Brand New/if that’s what you want me to.” Without waxing poetic about the early 2000s (Deja Entendu forever), I can confidently say that this sort of emotional rock and roll is a direct descendant of that scene (with some of the angular edges worn off).

Sunny Days Ahead is a bright ray of sunshine.

February 11, 2009

When someone says “Seattle scene,” my thoughts instantly jump to Nirvana, Soundgarden, and any whatever-have-you grunge band.

Flash forward to the Seattle of the 2000s, and you will find the power pop scene. In that scene, there is a wonderful band called Shake Some Action! which plays some sweet pop songs which shine like the sun in otherwise cloudy Seattle.

Sunny Days Ahead is the second album by Shake Some Action! I haven’t listened to the first, but the strength of this one makes me want to pick it up. Being part of a genre called “power pop,” Shake Some Action! is expectedly very catchy.  Now, I don’t listen to super-catchy music very often, but just listening to Sunny Days Ahead makes me think this is a wrong lifestyle choice. Catchy music is amazing because it’s so happy-sounding and can really lift your mood. It’s bands like Shake Some Action! that give me faith that there are plenty of bands out there who can craft pop masterpieces, even if they mostly go unnoticed.

Shake Some Action! seem to be drawing inspiration from the Monkees, early Beatles,  the Beach Boys…pretty much any super catchy ’60s music group. Now take the harder edge of the Kinks, and add it to some roughness from punk. And voila, you have their brand of power pop.

Shake Some Action! is hardly the only power pop band around, but it’s the only one I’ve heard.  The music style is reminscent of early R.E.M. for being so jangly and fun, probably along the lines of R.E.M’s  Life’s Rich Pageant and Green.  I’m almost tempted to call them a more fun version of R.E.M that doesn’t really mess around with all the heavy and cryptic lyrics.

This album was entirely recorded by one person – James Hall, who played drums, two guitar parts, and bass for the recording. This quite impressive feat goes to show Hall’s musical talent. For live shows, Hall has recruited a band that now frequently plays shows in the Seattle area. Now, if only they got a little bigger and did a tour which came through Oklahoma.

The album is short mostly because the songs are short. These are pop songs, and are meant to be brief and fun. The lyrics don’t really talk about anything deep, but don’t mistake that to mean they don’t talk about anything meaningful. They mostly deal with the theme that makes any pop song great: love. I would call the lyrics familiar rather than cliche.

I recommend Sunny Days Ahead to anyone looking for something poppy, fast-paced, and fun. It’s easy to enjoy as there’s not really much to wrap your head around. Just sit back and have fun!

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

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