Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Trio: Midnight Pilot / Marc with a C / Trevor Green

March 31, 2016

midnightpilotgoodlife

Midnight Pilot has spent a lot of time since their last release listening to new music. Their latest EP The Good Life expands on their previous alt-country-meets-Paul-Simon palette in all directions, throwing in sunshiny indie-pop melodies, Dawes-ian roots rock, and even some Muse-esque high drama rock. Listeners are in for some sharp lefts and unexpected detours, but they’ll end up with a smile nonetheless.

The opening cut makes their new approach obvious from the getgo, as “Offer Up My Love” has a “woo-woo-ooo” chorus that will put you in a breezy Southern California mood. It’s dropped right into their roots-rock verses, which isn’t as jarring as it would seem from writing that out. The rock has an American tinge, like Ivan and Alyosha’s. The title track is even more wide-open rock’n’roll, a major-key romp that declares: “I’m living the good life / nothing comes easy / I’m living the good life / for free / yeah-yeah / yeah-yeah.”

Things get a bit darker on “Follow Where You Lead,” which has disco vibes in the bass rhythms and stabbing string style, but has some Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois approaches to background vocals in the intro. The chorus is a bit sunnier than the minor key verses, but still the song has “drama” written over it. This is most spectacularly evident in the deconstructed bridge section, which drops to almost nothing before ramping up to an almost Muse-esque wall of noise. Closer “You’re My Friend” splits the difference between major and minor keys with some ’80s influences and Beach Boy ba-da-da-das. It’s eclectic, but it all hangs together.

The Good Life is an EP that shows a band experimenting and maturing rapidly. To hold together as many influences as they’ve included in this EP while still maintaining a recognizable core sound is no easy feat for any band. That all of the four songs are enjoyable is even more impressive; these aren’t just technical feats, they’re enjoyable ones. If you’re into good ‘ol American music, check out Midnight Pilot’s latest.

marcwithacunicorns

Marc with a C is a pop culture-addicted goofball with an insightful eye on culture at large. He’s the sort of guy who can and will critique the unspoken presumptions of our culture (“Ethics in Gaming”–a Gamergate reference, but the song isn’t about Gamergate), dedicate a whole song to an elaborate dick joke (“The Ballad of Dick Steel”), incisively analyze interpersonal relationships (“Epic Fail”), ask the hard questions that we all wonder about under the guise of joking statements (“Where’s My Giant Robot”) and suckerpunch listeners with a beautiful love song that includes one of the best twists I’ve heard in a long time (“Make You Better”) in one album. All that right there is enough to commend Unicorns Get More Bacon to you.

The music is solid too.  The bulk of the tunes on Unicorns Get More Bacon are stripped down power-pop tunes played on electric or acoustic guitar, although towards the end Marc invests in some larger arrangements to go with some of his longer songs. The tunes have hummable melodies and instruments that don’t get in the way of the lyrics or the melodies, which is important–this album is pretty squarely about the lyrics.

This is also a bit of a “solo” record; you want to hear this one on your own to get to know it and love it. Or, you can get to know it with friends who will learn the lyrics and sing along with you very loudly. That would work too. But it’s not a record that works as background music–Marc with a C wants to talk with you on Unicorns Get More Bacon, and if you’re interested in Marc’s fourth-wall-breaking, here-there-and-everywhere lyrical style, you’ll have a great time in that conversation.

W139

Trevor Green‘s Voice of the Wind is somewhat like an Indigenous Australian Graceland; the Californian Green, who already included didgeridoo in his music, actually traveled to Australia to learn more about the music of that country before making this album. The songs are a mix of laidback folk, Australian music, and modern indie-rock touches.

The main difference from Graceland is that Paul Simon wanted to make a pop record that celebrated South African sounds with his own, very American lyrics on top–Green’s songs draw heavily not only from the sounds of the land, but the lyrics and religious themes of the land. The second difference is in seriousness: Voice sounds more like The Shepherd’s Dog-era Iron & Wine than a pop record, as the folk and Australian sounds mesh in ways that evoke Sam Beam’s attempts at expanding his intimate sound to include more instruments.

This means that the album is by turns incredibly intense and then very solemn; tunes like “Red Road” are a breath of fresh air next to tunes which sound like Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac. But throughout the whole record, there’s a very clear sense of being outside the normal bounds of what acoustic music is generally like. If you’re adventurous, Trevor Green’s Voice of the Wind is a trip worth taking.

March MP3s: Pop

March 6, 2016

Pop

1. “Pigtails” – Sean Magee. This is the sort of throw-your-hands-in-the-air pop that makes 13-year-olds think of Bastille and 30-somethings think of the Ben Folds Five. This is just too fun. The video is also incredibly fun.

2. “I Really Love You” – Gibbz. Humongously catchy chorus, almost-equally-catchy verses, perky drum machines, crunchy guitars for emphasis, and the ability to sing curse words at the top of your lungs. HELLOOOOO SUMMER

3. “Can’t Stop Moving” – Sans Parents. An escapee from the mid-’00s moment where ’60s garage, dance-rock, and indie-rock all converged and became stuff like The Caesars. The chorus is just rad.

4. “Sport’s Drinking Again” – The Sharp Things. Next up in the “things I didn’t ever think I’d sing out loud” category: “I’m drinking again / alleluia.” Add in jubilant choir, triumphant trumpets, chamber orchestra, and full rock band, and you’ve got this enormous three-minute wonder.

5. “Nonnie” – Flaural. I don’t get out to many rock shows these days, but Flaural’s psych-rock has enough whimsical, Alice in Wonderland indie-pop sensibility in its guitar melodies that it hooked me.

6. “Ethics in Gaming” – Marc with a C. Marc is always able to wring meaningful lyrics out of goofy, sometimes-esoteric pop culture in his well-developed fourth-wall-breaking style. Then he marries those lyrics to ridiculously catchy power-pop. Everyone wins.

7. “Dream Catching” – Fell Runner. Like a deconstructed Vampire Weekend, Fell Runner slo-mos their way through effervescent pop. It is uniquely ear-catching.

8. “Burn Baby Burn” – Stevie Cliff. Prince would be proud of this sly, funky, sexy jam.

9. “High” – Breaking Heights. Sometimes you need a walking-speed, head-bobbing Brit-pop-inspired tune. Stay tuned for the surprise halfway through.

10. “Staying Awake” – Why We Love. Yelpy, chirpy, jumpy, hectic, super-fun indie-pop.

February 2016: Pop!

February 3, 2016

1. “Hero” – Starlight Girls. If you mashed up Tusk-era Fleetwood Mac with modern indie-pop sensibilities, you’d have this powerhouse of a pop song. This is the most infectious, irresistible groove of 2016 so far.

2. “Hang On To Yourself (David Bowie Cover)” – Ancient Cities.  Bowie didn’t play much of a role in my personal musical development (I was introduced to him in my 20s), but his shadow looms large over many musicians. Ancient Cities drops a worthy tribute to Ziggy here.

3. “Boys That Sing” – Viola Beach. Sometimes the melody, the lyrics, and the vibe just come together for a great pop tune. Puts a smile on my face.

4. “Crazy Eyes” – Brother Moses. BroMo returns with a breezy, peppy tune that builds on their slacker-rock foundation with some scrambling drums, driving bass and twirling guitars. The compelling vocal tone and delivery are as powerful as ever.

5. “Youth Dies Young” – Til We Have Faces. Well here’s something interesting: A major key indie-rock song that thinks it’s an arpeggiator-heavy electro-jam which builds at the speed of a post-rock tune. By the end it’s almost a Here We Go Magic tune. Totally rad.

6. “Fundamental Ground” – TW Walsh. I don’t use the term “floating” that often, but this indie-pop tune has a lot of the elements that you might associate with floating: lazy rhythms, slightly washed-out vibe, hazy elements chilling out in the background of the tune, a vocal line that seems distant-yet-close. It’s beautiful, in a weird way.

7. “Sometimes (One Night)” – The Golden Peppers. Here’s a tight soul arrangement, blanketed with horns and infused with indie-pop vocal melodic flair. Just can’t get enough Nathaniel Rateliff?

8. “Lucky One” – Why We Love. It seems that the major-key, jangly pop-rock tune is not only immortal, but thriving. Everything about this is fun.

9. “Unicorns Get More Bacon” – Marc with a C. The giddy, funny, absurd, fourth-wall-destroying power-pop of Marc with a C is in fine, fine form in this 3-and-a-half minute jam.

10. “Glad to Be Alive” – Memoir. Draws from funk, reggae, and ’90s pop without camping in any of them, this grounded-yet-bouncy tune is led by neat vocal syncopation and and a mood that just brightens a room.

11. “Touch” – Guard. A hypnotic keys melody and a head-bobbing beat make this into the chillest of remix-ready club tunes. Ibiza beaches for this version, Ibiza clubs for the inevitable reworks.

12. “Still Life” – I.W.A. Blissful chillwave, the likes of which I don’t get to hear very often. Just gorgeous stuff here.

13. “Don’t Complain/Don’t Explain” – Bare Mattress.  Like a more existential version of The Postal Service, this unassuming indie-pop-electro track sneaks its way into ears and heart.

14. “Glass” – Howard. This is like the indie-electro/post-dub version of a dystopian movie in which everything looks kind of right but is slowly revealed to actually be dystopian. In other words, the slow burn works great.

15. “I Don’t Want to Know Her Name” – Amber Quintero. Lilting, easygoing, spacious bedroom pop that finely balances lyrical intimacy and wide-open pad synth landscapes.

Happy 7th Birthday to us, pt 2: FREE MP3s!

May 18, 2010

…we have the tunes that keep you movin’.

We here at Independent Clauses have covered music for years, but we’ve never put any music into the world. This is a problem that we are fixing right now. We are releasing for your ears’ delight, Independent Clauses, vol. 1: Our Friends are All Freaking Awesome. Seeing as this is our first time releasing music, we’ve got a few kinks to work out and a few curves to learn. But, below is the zip file.

Independent Clauses, vol. 1: Our Friends Are All Freaking Awesome

1.  “Brian, Jenny, and the Mayan Calendar” by Marc with a C
2. “I Won’t Back Down” by Chris Hickey (Tom Petty Cover)
3. “I Melt With You” by Fairmont (Modern English Cover)
4. “Another Stripe – Carradini Mix” by Dishwater Psychics

Super props to all four bands that contributed; this is a dream of mine, and I’m so grateful to them for making it happen. Props to all the bands that we’ve worked with over the years who have motivated us to want to release music in the first place. Super thanks to my friends Katy and Albert, who allowed me to use their computer to make this post happen (my internet is jacked, which is why there wasn’t a post yesterday).

The art, metadata, and more are on the way. I just really wanted to get this out, because I’m excited about it. I once was concerned about everything being perfect on the first try; seven years later, I’m convinced that everything is a work in progress.

So, enjoy the songs! Three of them are unreleased, with the Fairmont cover being a rare b-side. I’m really excited about all of the tunes, as evidenced by the title, and I hope you are as well.

The Hotel Chronicles' unique industrial/rock vision now includes hip-hop and electronica

March 20, 2010

One of the joys of being around for almost a full seven years (secret: keep your eyes peeled for a 7-year birthday present soon!) is that I can follow artists through their careers. We’ve covered every single Felix Culpa release except for their debut three-way-split EP. We’ve covered half a dozen Fairmont releases. We’ve covered just about as many Marc with a C albums. Green Song is the fourth release that’s associated with musician E Deubner that we’ve covered – two solo albums and an album by his band Futants preceded this latest solo effort. This is his first under moniker The Hotel Chronicles.

One of the reasons it’s so fun to cover artists over the long range is that artists grow and change. It’s neat to see where an artist was, where an artist is, and where an artist is (maybe?) going. That’s what makes Green Song especially interesting to me. When I reviewed The Wasted Creator in 2006, Deubner was cranking out heavy, industrial-influenced rock tracks that had almost zero pop influence. Over the years, Deubner’s aesthetic has refined and changed, although never losing the core of dark, distorted, truly alternative rock.

Green Song is the strongest effort that Deubner has put out yet, because like Grant Valdes, Deubner has put his focus squarely on composing and not on becoming a rock star. I’m not sure what the green song that he’s singing about is, but it’s referenced at the beginning, middle and end of the album. The decision to tie the album together thematically also causes Deubner to tie the album together musically, making one of his most ambitious but most cohesive collections of songs yet. Deubner stretches his musical boundaries by including burbling ’80s-style electronica (“Intermission”), Beck-style hip-hop (“My Baby’s Coming Home”), and modern beat-making production (“Love Me, Leave Me”) in his dark, vaguely apocalyptic rock this time around.

Green Song isn’t for the unadventurous. Deubner’s aesthetic, while honed on this album, is still not within the realms recognized as modern rock. If you approach this thinking it’s a Nine Inch Nails sound-a-like, there’s a good chance you will be disappointed. You might not; there is definitely industrial influence that an open-minded NIN fan could enjoy. Songs like “Just for Fun Fun Baby, Run Run Run” and “Green Song Part II” rock out in a way that calls to mind his work with Futants, and those are two tracks that could be enjoyed by many.

But for every accessible riff (like the great opener of “A Minute to Love”), there’s two or three things that would never see the light of radio (like the simultaneous weird falsettos, quaalude guitar tempo, and old-school hip-hop beat of “Love Me, Leave Me”). For every accessible tune like “A Minute to Love,” there’s the late-night basement experimentation of title track “Green Song” and “The Final Push.” This is the way E Deubner wants it, and while not every one of his ideas succeeds (“Reborn” has an awful vocal performance that dooms it instantaneously), he is hitting with a higher level of success than on previous releases.

E Deubner’s Green Song is a solid statement from an artistic with a unique aesthetic. The rock/industrial/other presented here is the work of an artist continually refining his sound. This is a big step forward, but not his final destination. There are a lot of new elements introduced to his sound on this album that will need to see refining in future albums, just as his guitar riffs have. I can’t wait to see where he goes next. Recommended for fans of industrial, experimental rock or experimental music in general.

Marc with a C releases a massively entertaining double album of lo-fi pop

February 16, 2010

I think every music scene has a local hero. Here in Norman, Okla., it’s Hosty. Hosty has a standing Sunday night gig at the coolest bar/venue in town until “the end of time,” according to the management. If you live in Norman and you haven’t been to a Hosty show, it’s because you’re underage or ignorant. And I have known young’uns to stand outside the venue just to hear it. So really, it’s only the ignorant that don’t love Hosty, because to see him is to love him. He (because he and his music are almost inseparable at this point) is that awesome.

I have a feeling that Marc with a C is that guy in Orlando. Continue readingMarc with a C releases a massively entertaining double album of lo-fi pop…

For the Love of Pop

April 24, 2009

Marc Sirdoreus, aka Marc with a C, is a giving person. The entirety of his newest album, Losing Salt, is available for download on his website. In fact, he has done this with all of his albums, and there are nine of them. If your first reaction to this is “say whaaat?” then don’t worry – you weren’t the only one.

It seems that the reason for this is simple – Marc loves making records, and he loves getting them out there, no strings attached. Marc describes himself as a “prolific artist by nature,” a statement that can’t be denied when you look at his recent releases. There’s also the option of donating to Marc for his musical generosity.

Losing Salt is definitely another Marc with a C staple – a DIY manifesto full of acoustic, witty pop songs, most of which tell a story. It opens with the hilarious “I Will Repossess Your Heart,” in which the narrator threatens to take a girl’s heart by physical force if necessary. Its bubbly delivery combined with lines like “they will crack open your ribcage and take it away surgically” should crack up any listener. “Chicken Pox & Star Wars Guys” is one of my favorites on Losing Salt for several reasons: it’s undeniably cute, it’s super catchy, and it name-drops Boba Fett. The song is from the perspective of a little kid stuck inside because he’s got chicken pox, and all he wants to do is play with his “Star Wars guys outside.” Combine this concept with a heavy dose of pop fun, and that’s gotta be a recipe for success.

“You’ve Got This Curse” has a great chorus, even if it doesn’t quite match the tone of the rest of the song. The verses feel a bit unsettling, but the chorus is upbeat. It’s a little incongruent, but the overall song is still fun. “He Left You for a Punk Rock Girl” is another narrative song with funny lyrics, but Marc with a C can’t fail in this category, so I say, keep ‘em coming. This one’s got falsetto background vocals that add to the humor.

Marc’s voice sounds nasally at times, but it actually works with his type of songs. His vocals sound really good in the ballad “You Do Not Exist,” which I’m pretty sure is about an obsessive guy with an imaginary girlfriend. I’m not really feeling the spacey “Magazines” because it doesn’t fit in with the rest of Losing Salt, and it’s too long. But despite this, the album closes with on a strong note with “If These Walls Could Talk,” where Marc harmonizes quite nicely with himself. Its snarky, sometimes frantic, delivery matches the lyrics: “if these walls could talk they probably would have nothing much to say,” and later, “my neck hurts from all the ways I slouch.” I can’t believe that this song is autobiographical though – Marc just seems too darned motivated and driven. Check out his latest release on his website, and give Marc with a C some love for giving out his music so readily.

Linda Lovelace for President, and Marc with a C as speech writer!

January 31, 2009

Marc with a C writes some amazing lyrics. All of the songs on this CD, with the exception of three written by Chris Zabriskie, were penned by the well-versed Marc Sirdoreus. Although the music left me feeling flat, the lyrics excited me. I would hungrily sit down to read any ranting by Sirdoreus or any book of poetry he may decide to write.

My problem with the music is it is so cliché. I’ve heard these chords before, on every grassy expanse of land on every college campus in the United States of America. The first thing I noticed was perhaps a David Bowie/Beatles/Bob Dylan/Something more recent influence in the music. It is your average acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied by a little percussion here and there, but not often. The songs are poppy and light; however, they are enjoyable, no doubt. But something is just not there in the music and in his voice. It’s been done. There are slight variations from song to song, but not enough to make me gasp and say “WOW!” In order to really draw a listener in with this type of acoustic guitar, Sirdoreus’ voice needs more girth or something that would make it unique to balance out the averageness of each song.

But keep in mind that not all is lost with this album. “All My Drug Use Is Accidental” pleased me. It really drove home my feeling that this album is worth listening to purely for the lyrical value. “Born Vintage” was notable too, for its music as well as lyrics. A sampling of why I love the lyrics on this album: “You’re not right and we’re not wrong,” as well as “What’s the point of being punk if punk means I belong?” The song “Jessica, I Heard You Like The Who” forced me to fall in love with it. The lyrics are appealing because they touch on familiar subjects, and even thoughts I have had, which I thought no one would ever dare to think.

As is the case with almost every song on Linda Lovelace for President, the album itself starts out strong, and then seems to lose passion and inspiration by the end, musically. The harmonies present in a lot of the tracks are the same in every song; nice, but repetitive. The music is one-dimensional, but the feeling I get from listening to his words, the sense of his wit and the humor that comes across in the lyrics really stand out.

You know what, Marc with a C? Regardless of how I feel about the college campus guitar, I’m putting you on my iPod. Because I enjoyed what you have to say just enough to play Linda Lovelace for President next time I am road tripping to wherever.

Marc With a C-What the Hell is Wrong with Marc with a C?

September 1, 2007

Band Name: Marc With a C

Album Name: What the Hell is Wrong with Marc with a C?

Best Element: Hilariously witty lyrics, smart, memorable lines.

Genre: Acoustic pop / emo

Website: http://marcwithac.com

Label Name: Neighborhood Nuclear Superiority

Marc with a C needs a hug, and What the Hell is Wrong with Marc with a C?, Marc Sirdoreus’ latest full-length, is his petition for said embrace. Sometimes, you stumble upon a CD that just tells it like it is. And no matter how far out in left-field, how full of insecurities, how laced with suburban drug experimentation, how straight-up, downright, undeniably emo the songs are, you can’t help but bop your head and laugh. Marc Sirdoreus gleaned twenty of his most catchy tunes from as far back as 2002, repackaged them on a new CD and effectively chronicled his musical Live Journal on disc. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a nasal yet endearing voice, an uncanny ability to rhyme and a razor wit, Marc Sirdoreus whines and self-effaces his way through these cute and memorable songs.

I enjoyed the honesty and willingness to spill his guts that punctuated What the Hell is Wrong with Marc with a C?. From lines like “Did you ever wake up with the prospect that nobody of the opposite sex is going to call you when you get home from work? / And did you ever spend a day off by yourself because nobody of the opposite sex cared if you were free that night or not?” to “Maybe it’s the fact that I’m slightly overweight or all the girls that want me are underage,” (both lines are from “Why Don’t Girls Like Me?”), Sirdoreus paints a picture of your average guy with big dreams. Everyone wants that fairytale life, no matter whether they have immaculate teeth and salon hair or if they’re less-than-blessed with a made-for-radio face, and Sirdoreus’ commiseration is—if borderline maudlin at times—heartwarming.

I absolutely loved the song “Nerdy Girls.” With its stand-up comedian introduction, infectious wit (“a nerdy girl can straighten up the wheels on my mental shopping-cart”) and stripped-down acoustic presentation, this song simply begs second, third and fourth listens. I can’t help but break into laughter at the opening verse: “I raise my eye just to inspect her as she adjusts her pocket-protector / there’s nothing wrong with a nerdy girl / she’s the kind of chick that I’d like to meet but she’s busy thinking about Anime.”

This album is intensely personal, yet it refuses to exclude. I feel that every guy has a bit of Marc with a C in him, even if we aren’t willing to admit it. From scenesters to hipsters to hoodlums to class presidents and computer-programmers, it’s hard not to agree with Sirdoreus’ humorous, yet poignant, observations. Sirdoreus also shares his love for lo-fidelity recordings—as chronicled on “RetroLowFi” and “Broken Record Player”—and his nostalgic self-doubt: “I’m so sad, I’m fifteen, life’s so hard, life’s so hard” (the chorus from “Life’s so Hard.”). It’s his utter normal-guy observations through a witty string of lyrics that make Marc’s songs enjoyable.

Doubters will listen and complain about… well… Sirdoreus’ incessant complaining. Yeah… he does that, but he does it well. It’s not just whining; it’s thoughtful, funny, and catchy whining; it’s whining with class, and that’s what separates this CD from the countless acoustic emo acts that beg for attention. What the Hell is Wrong with Marc with a C? earns the right to our attention.

—Timothy C. Avery

the_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

Marc With A C-Life’s So Hard

September 1, 2006

marcwithacBand: Marc With A C
Album: Life’s So Hard
Best Element: Quirky, interesting lyrics.
Genre: Lo-fi pop
Website: www.marcwithac.com
Label: Self-released
Contact: marc@marcwithac.com

Anyone who listens to a fair amount of lo-fi music should know that a single band can fall into several categories: the single musician who strums an acoustic and sings sad lyrics, the band that plays electric and has quite a few ingenious guitar solos (Built to Spill of course), and miscellaneous. I am afraid that Marc with a C falls in the latter of those categories. Marc must have been thinking the same thoughts as Eric Elbogen because, simply stated, Marc with a C feels like Say Hi to Your Mom’s little brother. While it might not feel as polished or as subtle, the quirky lyrics are paramount to both. Life’s So Hard is an acquired taste, or something that you might think is amusing after the first ten listens. The lyrical content may surprise or even mildly offend some listeners. For example, during “What the Hell Were You On”, he bashes his hypothetical baby-boomer parents by describing their poor parenting skills. This, of course, is all in good fun and a part of the album’s style.

The majority of songs on the album are entertaining. In “We’re All Going to Die,” he ad-libs and says “cheer up emo kids, you think life’s hard now,” “it’s only going to get worse,” “wait until you have to do your own taxes and laundry.” “Counting Down” is Marc with a C’s most unnecessary track on the album, no matter how funny it may be hearing him say that “we’ll have a sleepover/we’ll watch Homestar Runner.” However, I do give kudos to Marc for adding some good allusions to pop culture, as it gives his lyrics character. The following track, “Diane Works for Ozzy,” which is about a girl with superpowers, lyrically feels like it should have been on The Flaming Lips’ Clouds Taste Metallic. Wayne Coyne should do a cover.

This is one album that I will always save for a day that I am feeling particularly sarcastic- and when you hear it in full you will understand. It is the little things included in Life’s so Hard that give the album its lyrical character. The album will probably not win a prized spot in your collection based upon musical merit, but that is beside the point. This album’s lyrics are original, inventive, and pleasantly surprising for the most part.

-Mark Pranger

markysparky07@yahoo.com

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

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