Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

February 16 Singles: Acoustic

February 4, 2016

Acoustic

1. “Heart Song” – Samuel Alty. Captures the enthusiasm of flamenco and distills it into a two-and-a-half-minute romp that I can’t get out of my head. The music video perfectly complements the ecstatic vibe of the tune: a group of people slowly getting accustomed to dancing in public. This is way, way fun.

2. “Silent Moon” – Supersmall. It’s a warm blanket of a tune–the soft guitars, the comfortable vocals, and the gentle arrangement all come together to just be a lovely acoustic indie-pop tune.

3. “Roman Tic” – John Helix. Fans of Elliott Smith will fall hard for this spare-yet-endearing tune.

4. “21 Years” – Malory Torr. The quirky songwriting and vocal delivery of Regina Spektor (except on guitar) fused to a Bohemian version of Five for Fighting’s “100 Years.” Love the group vocals throughout.

5. “Drinking Song” – Haley Heynderickx. This slightly woozy, charming tune sounds like Laura Marling and Laura Stephenson collaborated on an acoustic jam. The vocals here are quirky and lovely.

6. “Turn to Stone” – Nice Motor. Combines back-porch picking with West Coast, Laurel Canyon country vibes to create a tune that’s not quite either thing: it kinda sounds like The Eagles somehow turned into a folk band.

7. “Sweet Innocence” – Kylie Odetta. It’s rare that the drums stand out in a singer/songwriter tune, but they provide the perfect counterpoint to Odetta’s warm alto lines in this calm, confident tune.

8. “We Sing with Angels” – The Project. With a singer/songwriter chorus, Spanish finger-style guitar verses, and traditional melodic structure evocative of ancient hymnody, this tune goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. The pieces come together for a unique experience.

9. “The One” – Erik Fastén. There’s a sense of noble, dignified romantic angst here, employed through a careful guitar performance, breathy vocals, and fluttering strings.

10. “Follow the Sun” – Hand Drawn Maps. An early-’00s sense of full-band indie-pop melancholy permeates this track–it makes perfect sense that they’re from LA, the home of Phantom Planet and inspiration of Death Cab’s “Why You’d Want to Live Here.”

11. “The Planets Align” – Chris Belson. A deep, silky, enveloping, enigmatic voice dances over a simple guitar.

12. “1963” – Nikki Gregoroff. Gregoroff makes a simple piano line arresting with a bright, clear, magnetic vocal performance.

13. “Kaydence” – Triana Presley. Sometimes you just want to hear a melancholy piano-pop ballad. I’ve been known to love Something Corporate and Taylor Swift. I’ll admit it.

14. “Can’t Erase It” – Kylie Odetta. Somewhere between Norah Jones and Adele lives this beatuiful, wistful track. Odetta’s voice reads far older than her years. (Rare double entry on the same post!)

Bits and Bobs: Electro

May 9, 2015

Bits and Bobs: Electro

1. “Too Deep in Love” – Kylie Odetta. Post-modern pop that mashes hip-hop and torch song, electro jam and walking-speed diva pop tune. It’s an infectious blend.

2. “Tide Teeth” – Night Beds. So I didn’t expect Night Beds to go all electro-soul on us, but he’s cranking out the sensuous slow jamz here.

3. “Kindred” – Red Cosmos. Smeary synths, staccato percussion, perky treble melodies and dour vocals create a unique space somewhere between dream-pop and downtempo psych-rock.

4. “Khazé” – Mune. That moment where post-punk was turning into new wave (which would soon birth synth-pop) was a hazy phaze where energy and lackadaisical dreaming seemed to coexist. Mune gets that.

5. “Aftergold” – Big Wild. Electro doesn’t always have to feature big, walloping synths: “Aftergold” relies on strings, plunky marimba, uncomplicated beats, and burbling vocals to create an energizing, impressive track.

6. “ Ghost ft. Patrick Baker” – Lane 8. Artsy electro drawing off trance and funk instead of dubstep is a welcome thing in my book. This tune never has a major drop, and that’s 100% cool with me.

7. “Away – Reptile Youth. The Flaming Lips dabble in electronic music, but Reptile Youth puts the creaky, eccentric, cosmic vibes that the lips peddle firmly into the electro milieu. The vocals of the two outfits are particularly similar.

8. “Amalie” – Colornoise. This track has the sort of mystic, atmospheric vibes that Fleetwood Mac was able to conjure up, only with a bit more ominous, gritty vibe on one end and sweeter vocals on the other.

Mix: Quiet, Calm, Take Us Home

February 10, 2015

Quiet, Calm, Take Us Home

1. “Muscle Memory” – Laura and Greg. Do you miss the Weepies? Laura and Greg’s precise, delicate picking and close harmonies are augmented by just the right amount of indie affectation to end up with a totally charming outcome. This is sort of song that sticks in your brain and doesn’t let go. I can’t wait to hear where they go from here.

2. “Promised Myself” – Kylie Odetta. There’s an “towering pop vocals” button in my soul, and it doesn’t get pushed by Adele that often (come on, 25!). Kylie Odetta writes those torchy, piano-led dramatic tunes and backs them up with soulful, belting vocals. (The video is an unusual mashup of the “’80s pop star in empty building” trope and Odetta hanging out in a coffeeshop; welcome to 2015.)

3. “The Secret” – Sam Joole. Joole’s got the old-school piano ballad down, and his tender, gentle vocals sell the tune beautifully.

4. “Memoria No. 1” – The Greatest Hoax. TGH offers up more downtempo ambient, but this time with a more electronic bent. More Album Leaf, less Ólöf Arnalds, all chill and wonderful.

5. “Stormy Grey Eyes” – Knitted Cap Club. Meagan Zahora of KCC pushes the “dusky, cabaret dramatic vocals” button, which is right next to the “towering pop vocals” button. This could have been written in the 1920s, which I feel is a major compliment if you’re going to be in this genre.

6. “Four Sisters Part One” – Lowland Hum. This one’s a duet, but the female vocals are no less arresting for being lead by a tenor vocalist. The intimate harmonies on the phrase “use your voice” couldn’t be more perfect in this acoustic tune.

7. “In the During of a Moment” – The Lowest Pair. This duet is lead by the female alto vocalist, with the man chiming in on harmonies. It’s a stark, hushed recording that seems like it could be happening just behind you; the room reverb warms up the whole performance and fits perfectly with the tune.

8. “Hands and Feet” – Lowlands. Vintage rock’n’roll music has been getting a lot of love recently: the ’50s rock vibes here are cut by modern indie-pop melodies in the chorus. It’s an appealing mix. (And yes, I put Lowland Hum, Lowlands and The Lowest Pair in the same mix because seriously how often does that happen?)

9. “Let It Burn” – Magic Giant. MG’s new single is just as hooky, infectious, and enthusiastic as their previous rave-folk tunes. It doesn’t seem like dance music and folk-pop could come together so perfectly, but that’s why you listen to music, right? It always surprises.

November MP3s: Sing Yr Song

November 18, 2014

Here’s November’s singles, over the next few days.

Sing Yr Song

1. “Echo” – Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders. Some people have the greatness inside them, and it’s present in flashes that don’t reveal the whole thing. That was Squires’ previous work, and “Echo” is the revelation: the yelpy vocals, the singer/songwriter lyrics, and propulsive indie-rock arrangements all come together to give me shivers. Color me thrilled for the new album.

2. “Strange the Way” – James Hearne. Here’s a tight country arrangement paired with a great chorus. There is some great country in the world, y’all. I’m not even throwing “alt” on this. It’s country. And it’s good. You won’t be aurally injured by listening, I promise. You’ll like the chorus, for sure. You like Jason Isbell, you know? It’s okay. Admit it. Country.

3. “Pretend With Me” – Great Spirit. Remember a couple of years ago when back porch-style folk was in? Great Spirit is on that porch, still doin’ its loose, warm, optimistic string band thing. Break out your mason jars. (I love mason jars. This is not ironic.)

4. “Breathe Your Last” – Jameson. Banjo, bright production, swamp shuffle percussion, and some grit on the edges of the vocals make this track a keeper. Oh, also the giant chorus.

5. “Wolf Hall” – Twin Lakes. Smooth, lush indie-pop with dramatic leanings.

6. “My Ears Are Ringing” – Sama Dams. That sort of yearning, desperate, indie-infused neo-soul that the Antlers have nearly patented, now with 100% more sweeeeeet, crunchy guitar solo.

7. “Sirens” – AM Static. Chillwave with some glitchy backbone and cooing vocals. I love it.

8. “Let Me Love You (Acoustic)” – Kylie Odetta. I’m a sucker for a torchy vocal, a lounge piano, and a sultry mood.

9. “Bell’s View” – Jason Lytle. Also a sucker for a dramatic piano line, a sad singer/songwriter, and a romantically morose vibe. (Ex-Grandaddy, just in case. I love me some Grandaddy.)

July Videos, pt. 2!

July 11, 2014

Colony House has impressed me repeatedly in the short time they’ve been around, but this takes the cake. They’ve made the studio video (which I am usually bored by) into something exciting and vibrant. It helps that “Waiting For My Time to Come” is an excellent tune that combines U2 melodies with low-slung roots-rock precision, then throws some horns and a choir of friends at it. They won’t have to wait much longer with songs like this one. Can we get NeedtoBreathe on the phone?

Amy Correia is still incredible, just in case you had forgotten. This live cut of “City Girl” is way fun. Also, note that she’s playing a tenor ukulele slung like a punk rock guitar.

Kylie Odetta has pipes similar to Adele and lyrics like Lady Gaga, making this a pretty appealing piano-and-vocals performance.

MAXIMUM SINGLENESS part two

April 13, 2014

Continuing the massive singles drop from yesterday, here’s part deux.

MAXIMUM SINGLENESS (moody part)

1. “Com Et Dius?” – Royal Shoals. If you like your post-punk wiry, methodical, rhythmic and without a lot of repetition, Royal Shoals has a song for you.

2. “Everything (And Nothing)” – The Dark Ales. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear an organ in rock again without thinking of The Doors. Aussies The Dark Ales put a nice spin on not-too-grungy grunge with that organ. Also, rockin’ name, guys.

3. “Daily Echo” – Quickly Quietly. Thick, heavy distortion without being abrasive; whirling atmospherics without getting esoteric; rhythms without getting directly danceable. They’ve got something going on here, folks.

4. “Tongue-cut Sparrow” – Life in a Blender. A towering marching band a la “Tusk” dominates this mood-jumping, cabaret, Tom Waits-ian, carnival-hawking experience. If you’re adventurous…

5. “Buyin’ Time” – Black Girls. Woozy without overdoing it, poppy without underselling it–the Beatles would have been proud.

6. “Heartless” – Sean Michael Savage. Tender, confessional folk meets Ultravox. Just trust me on this one.

7. “Shallow Breath” – Early Morning Rebel. Quiet, tense, melodic: kind of like Snow Patrol, but without all the terrible connotations you probably just thought of.

8. “Bad Addiction” – Kylie Odetta. Torchy, dramatic female vocals over lounge-lit piano make this ballad a keeper.

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

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