Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Community Records' huge pop-punk-based comp thrills

March 2, 2012

I have waxed rhapsodic over the joys of the compilation album before, but here’s a reminder: I love the idea of twenty or more bands all chilling on the same disc. SXSW is kind of like one giant compilation, if you conflate seeing music live and hearing it recorded.

But what’s even better than a great comp is a great comp from a high-quality label. If that label is a homegrown, upstart indie, all the better! And Community Records (no, really, that’s the awesome name) has released just such a disc with their Compilation Volume 3: Old Dog, New Tricks. The album showcases 26 (!) bands associated with the New Orleans-based label; a footnote states, “Download free music from all of these bands on our web-site.” (That’s prolific!)

Some well-known bands like A Billion Ernies, Marathon and Swear Jar are present here, alongside a slew of up-and-comers. The music falls into five general genres: pop-punk, ska, hardcore/post-hardcore, acoustic and reggae-ish stuff.

The pop-punk is the lion’s share of the material. Caddywhompus’ “The Weight” won my heart by incorporating prog-based rhythms and melodies into its pop-punk, giving the song a very Fang Island-esque feel. Safety’s “Alone Together” throws down great melodies and energy in an early-2000s pop-punk style; the action-packed 91 seconds of The Rooks’ “The Benefit of Fish Tacos” throws all sorts of things into an unconventional song structure. The off-kilter “I’m Not Done Yet” by All People is oddly catchy as well.

The highlights of the ska offerings are the wildly varied tune by A Billion Ernies, the rhythms-not-horns ska of “They Can’t Fix Me” by Matt Wixson’s Flying Circus, and the gruff ska-punk of Brunt of It’s “Bad Sign.”

I wasn’t too into the loud stuff or the reggae, but the acoustic offerings are worth note: my favorite tune on the whole comp is See You in Mexico’s “Human Race.” It starts off as a pensive, moody tune in the Deja Entendu vein, then kicks into acoustic-punk high gear for the satisfying conclusion. The vocal melodies and harmonies are especially notable. Closer “Live On” by Matt Wixson (minus the Flying Circus) is a charming, lo-fi acoustic pop song that could be sung around campfires forever. “Summer’s Slumber” by Dominique LeJeune is a poignant, female-fronted acoustic love song that made me swoon a bit.

There’s all sorts of things inbetween, from woozy, New Orleans-style jazz bombast (Stuck Lucky’s “Finland”) to the indie-rock haze of Sun Hotel’s “Talks.” I mean, with 27 tracks, there’s almost something for everyone who even remotely likes the idea of modern punk. That should be a strong motivator for you to check out Community Records’ Old Dog, New Tricks.

Attica! Attica!'s energizing folk punk encourages listeners to stay thoughtful

June 27, 2011

My first musical love, as I’ve professed before, was pop-punk. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a passion for acoustic music. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that, in my book, acoustic punk is one of the best ideas ever. Violent Femmes ftw. Also Andrew Jackson Jihad.

Attica! Attica! knows acoustic punk/folk punk. This makes sense once you know that the only member is punk lifer Aaron Scott, who (amongst other credentials) sang for De La Hoya and Marathon, runs a blog about house shows and other DIY life, wrote this great piece about sexism in punk and is the type of guy who posts his correctly-punctuated lyrics prominently on his website. It’s safe to say that Scott’s spent a lot of time writing songs and thinking about stuff. It’s not surprising that Napalm & Nitrogen is awesome.

If AJJ has the hyperactive “We Didn’t Come Here to Rock” as its shout-it-out winner, this album has “Hobo Chili.” It’s unsurprisingly about lovely house shows and celebrating local culture. (Proposed alternate title: “Keep Everywhere Weird.”) The lyrics are incredibly literate, eschewing a repeated chorus slogan and instead using the same meter and melody with new lyrics each time. Don’t worry, there’s a huge “whoa-oh” section so you can sing along, even if it’s the first time you’ve heard the tune. It won’t take you long to remember the fascinating lyrics, but Scott is the type of guy who knows his strengths are also limitations and throws noobs a bone. I appreciated it.

Oh, and it’s hyperactive as anything.

As with the best punk (and this is some of the very best), the album is immediately lovable for its energy, melodies, attitude and random slogans you catch on the first listen (“THERE’S A WAREHOUSE SHOW! OUT IN NEW MEXICOOOO!”), but it’s even more enjoyable once you catch all the lyrics and think about what he’s saying. Lots of bands have the first half, but not many get to the second part.

That’s why you should purchase Napalm & Nitrogen instead of something else: “I Knew I Shoulda Taken That Left Turn at Albuquerque” is brave enough to acknowledge the truth that sometimes life on the road (which is rightly celebrated elsewhere) just sucks. “The Children of the Broken Glass” is the honest-but-yet-hopeful story of the Millenials; lots of people want to be the voice of a generation, but they haven’t written “The Children,” have they? “The End of Art” is too brilliant for me to try to fit it into a sentence. It also is a great vehicle for more whoa-ohs (I’ll never get enough) and Scott’s intense, impassioned voice. His distinct pipes are yet another reason this album is great.

I could keep listing great things about this incredible album for a long time: DIY attitude, mellow piano tunes, an accordion in “The Good Ones Go First” … but if you aren’t sold by now, you won’t be. That’s your loss.

This release was originally put out in 2009, and recently received the vinyl treatment from Black Numbers. You can also get it as a pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp.

Quick Hits: G-Eazy

January 15, 2011

I’ve been enjoying the new school of rappers throwing down lyrics on top of indie-rock tunes. From Chiddy Bang to Drake to Hoodie Allen (and, ok, the WTF Childish Gambino), they’re popping up everywhere. I love it.

G-Eazy is a rapper in that style. He has two singles kickin’ about the interwebz: The Tennis-sampling “Waspy” and  “Good for Great Remix” of Matt and Kim’s track off Sidewalks, which I raved over a couple weeks ago.

“Waspy” is more of a production job than “Good for Great,” as G-Eazy (who produces his own beats) chops up “Marathon” by Tennis and puts a heavy beat behind it. It’s still recognizable as “Marathon,” which is cool, but the production leaves enough space for the rapping without the song seeming cluttered. The lyrics present a romance between a “punk kid” and a rich “WASPy girl.” The breezy Tennis track evokes an air of Ivy League privilege, making it a perfect fit for the lyrics.

G-Eazy’s rhymes are solid, and his flow is just ragged enough to be interesting. It’s not too erratic, but it keeps attention.

“Good for Great Remix” scrubs most of the vocals from the track and drops G-Eazy’s lyrics in. There is some extra rhythmic production, but it mostly beefs up what was already there. I love Matt and Kim, so I like the remix, even though the lyrics aren’t my favorite. It’s your standard “fuck school, go live life” set, which isn’t my favorite rhetoric (woo grad school!).

G-Eazy has some solid production skills, but I could stand to see his lyrics move above the standard rap motifs. Right now his production talent far surpasses his lyric choices (but not his rapping ability; the boy can rap).

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

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