Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quick Hits: The Finest Hour / Michael Glazer / The Knitted Cap Club

October 18, 2012

Should you put your best song first on an album? The Finest Hour falls on the affirmative side of the argument, as “Never Heard of Dylan” opens up These Are the Good Old Days on the highest of notes. “Never Heard of Dylan” bears more than a passing resemblance to the energetic rock of The Vaccines, as the scruffy British quartet offers up infectious melodies and great guitar/bass interactions. They make the most of what they’ve got, which shows in later tunes like the slightly calmer “Reasons to Complain” and the fist-pumping “See for Miles,” which has serious Green Day vibes. They do incorporate some fun ska elements, but they work best when they’re sticking to four-on-the-floor rock/pop. And although “Never Heard of Dylan” is tops, it only barely edges the 14-minute (!) finale “Indigo Night,” which includes a shout-it-out use of the album title in its excellent songwriting. If you’re looking for a fun album, you should be all over The Finest Hour’s These Are the Good Old Days–cause they are.

Michael Glader‘s When On High is a fascinating amalgam, mixing ’60s psychedelic pop, rock, modern pop, and folk without succumbing to the excesses of any genre. This creates a uniquely idiosyncratic stew that keeps its own counsel. Opener “Strawberry Eyes” is a distortion-drenched, bass-driven stoner groove that features Glader modifying his keening tenor voice. Highlight “Big Spoon Little Spoon” is a solo guitar love song with the energy of a pop song, the fingerpicking of a folk tune, and the groove of a blues song. “Chasing Footsteps in the Sand” is a rhythm-and-bass-heavy pop tune. “Is This My Afterlife?” has a distant, eerie New Orleans vibe to its doo-wop. In short, this album goes all over the place, but none of Glader’s moves feel significantly out of his control. Each tune retains a dreamy, hazy sort of mood, and that keeps the album together. I’m a big fan of his quieter stuff (“Big Spoon Little Spoon,” “That’s It”), but there’s plenty for anyone to love in When On High.

The Weeping Tree by The Knitted Cap Club is a very stately record. The acoustic songwriting is very structured, and the emotion delivered by the female vocalist is quite measured. I don’t mean this as a criticism; fans of Portishead treasure those same characteristics. But this does go against the grain of modern singer-songwriter/folk, establishing a very formal entry in a world of passionate confessionals. The tone of the album has much in common with slowcore artists like Songs:Ohia, Elephant Micah, and Red House Painters, but with fewer self-pitying vocal performances.

Instead, the sparse but effective arrangements, which often include other voices, carry the mood of the tunes. Standout opener “Crown of Roses” features a whole verse accompanied only by ghostly multitracked voices, while “Eight-Thirteen” incorporates distant recorded voices for a similar effect. Even though the vocal performances don’t telegraph hurt, the lyrics of the album often do (“Heart Exchange,” “The Weeping Tree”), which enhances the ghostly, somber feel of the album. If you’re looking for something different in your singer/songwriter listening habits, try out this one.

Protest movements

August 1, 2012

It is disappointing to me that we live in a time rife with protests, yet produce a distressingly low level of protest songs per capita. (If there were sabermetrics for music…) Thankfully, Michael Glader’s “Corporate Corruption” is very definitely a protest tune. But old-school Dylan fans are in for a surprise: This here rabble-rouser is a slinky, trippy contraption with whirring organ and rattling percussion. Take that, helplessness blues.


School of Roccupy
is doing its very best to add protest songs to the world, however. The group’s motto is “Uniting Artists, Community, and the Occupy Movement,” and it accomplishes that by hooking up students with artists (Kate Nash and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. so far) to write and record a song in a single day. It started in Britain, and the founders are using crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to raise money to bring the project to NYC, LA and Denver this month. If you want to read more or contribute, do so here.

While “Our Bellies Might Explode” is not an explicit protest song, songwriter Neil Campau notes that the project consists of “Electro folksongs about social war and relationships.” The description is thoroughly apt, as “Bellies” is a folky number about a relationship featuring some light distortion on the guitar and anguished vocals. If you’re into songwriters who wring amazing sounds (conventional or otherwise) out of a voice, Electrician’s in your corner.

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

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