Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

April MP3s: 2

April 2, 2016

1. “War and Opera” – Montoya. The careful, restrained arranging that Montoya deploys in this melodic indie-pop tune gives it a maturity and dignity that separate it from other tunes. The delicate guitar and alto vocals still create thoroughly enough interest to power this intriguing song.

2. “ALIEN” – Laura and Greg. The duo has transformed from a pristine acoustic duo into a punchy, noisy indie-pop-rock outfit. It’s not exactly Sleigh Bells, but they’re heading in that direction–but Laura’s charming vocals and fun keys keep the song on this side of full-on-indie-rock assault.

3. “Call Me Out” – Jesse Alexander. A former member of Cobalt and the Hired Guns keeps the ska / indie-pop fusion tunes coming: this one has horns and organ to keep the good vibes flowing.

4. “Fire Up the Bilateral Brain and Draw” – Word to Flesh. Here’s a quirky tune that employs the keys-focused sound structures of formal pop, but has no real formal structure: the only phrase in the two minute tune is the titular mantra, surrounded by guitar noodling. It’s remarkably engaging, and then it’s over–sort of like a less manic They Might Be Giants.

5. “Rainer” – Lull. A hammering rock intro flips on its head and unveils a delicate, early ’00s emo sound. They get back to the rock, but they take their sweet time getting there and make it worth your while when they do.

6. “A Moment to Return” – Why We Run. Moody bass/drums meets The National vocals with some U2 ambient/anthemic guitars on top. The results are a surprisingly uplifting post-punk tune–post-punk generally doesn’t make me want to dance or smile, and there’s some of both to be had here.

7. “When We’re Clouds” – Slow Runner. So indie-rock used to be shorthand for “rock songs that are definitely rock but kinda don’t play by the same rules.” Slow Runner’s tune is a song of (government?) scientific experimentation on human subjects (I think?). The music itself is slightly off-kilter rock, like a louder Grandaddy, a chillaxed Flaming Lips, or something altogether different. Here’s to Slow Runner.

8. “Dance Baby” – Luxley. That rare electro-rock song which doesn’t hammer listeners over the head with massive synth blasts–instead, there’s a bit of Cobra Starship restraint in the vocal-heavy arrangement. There is a bit of punk-pop attitude in the vocals (Good Charlotte came to mind), giving this a bit of a unique flair.

9. “Maria, Mine” – Don Tigra. Former folkie Stephen Gordon has slickly and impressively reinvented himself as an indie-rocker with post-punk vibes, coming off as a cross between Interpol, Cold War Kids, and Leagues. (Full disclosure: I’ve given some professional advice to Gordon over the years.)

10. “Psychopaths and Sycophants” – Keith Morris & the Crooked Numbers. Bluesy, swampy roots rock with whiskey-sodden, raspy vocals and all sorts of swagger. The great backup vocal arrangement and performances put the song over the top.

11. “Polaris” – Shiners. Minimalist electro-pop usually doesn’t have enough structure and melody to keep me interested, but Shiners do a great job of creating a cohesive, immersive whole out of small parts.

MP3 Mix: Till You’ve Got Nothin’ Left

February 10, 2015

Till You’ve Got Nothin’ Left: Indie Rock

1. “Just Like Moonlight” – Inner Outlaws. Mad respect for any band that puts the bassist at the forefront of the tune. Michael Cacciatore’s lumbering low-end powers this wide-open indie-rock soundtrack to the city at night, which is a deft mix between sparse environments and blown-out arrangements.

2. “The Devil” – Michael Feuerstack. There’s a certain amount of guts it takes to tell the bassist to play straight eighth notes for an entire song, as it naturally turns the song into a highway jam. Feuerstack’s road anthem is perhaps a demolition derby jam–an indie-rock song amped way up, reminiscent of the roiling, raging loudest moments of the Mountain Goats.

3. “A Little Ditty” – Sleaford Mods. There’s nothing quite like UK blue-collar rage taken out in spoken-word fury over a chugging post-punk backbeat. It feels timeless and fresh at the same time.

4. “Stationary Life” – Blis. Twinkly emo, yelpy vocals, references to parents’ house, underlying good-natured energy/aggression: Deep Elm would have been all over Blis. a decade ago.

5. “Dead or Alone” – Lull. “How loud can we play something and still make it sound sad?” “I don’t know, man. Let’s start from the noisiest and get quieter till we’re there.” In other words, shoegaze, indie-rock and emo revival all smashed together into mopey, angsty goodness.

6. “Heavenstay” – Shana Falana. Reverb-drenched, guitar-sculpted dream-pop reminiscent of School of Seven Bells, Ponychase, or other artists who try to engulf people in the sound of dreams.

7. “Open Water” – Lade. Trip-hop and The Verve-style Brit-pop collide in a twilight mix.

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

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