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!)

June Acoustic Campfire

July 3, 2015

1. “Arizon” – La Cerca. Thoughtful, walking-speed Western music: gentle keys, reverbed clean electric guitars, thrumming bass, easygoing vocals. Sometimes the title (sic, by the way) is all you need to know.

2. “Jimmy & Bob & Jack” – Edward David Anderson. Some songs don’t need or deserve lyric videos, but this rollicking tale of three would-be criminals had me hanging on every word from Anderson’s mouth. The swampy, country instrumentation that floats the lyrics is pretty great too.

3. “Need a Break” – David Myles. I don’t get sent that many old-school, rapid-fire, talking-country tunes, but David Myles has delivered me a tune that I can’t stop tapping my foot to.

4. “Falling in Love” – Nathan Fox. Right what it says on the tin, with raspy/gritty vocals reminiscent of bluesy hollerers.

5. “Beacons” – Scott Bartenhagen. Structured, mature, serious acoustic music that made me think of Turin Brakes for the first time in a long time. Regardless of what happened to the “Quiet is the New Loud” movement, I’ll still be a fan of intense, focused acoustic singer/songwriter work.

6. “Lazy Moon” – Brave the Night. If you’ve ever (secretly or unabashedly) enjoyed an ’80s Billy Joel ballad OR were enamored with Norah Jones OR don’t think “lounge” is a bad word, this tune will tickle your fancy. Sweet trumpet, too.

7. “One More Time” – Cape Snow. Bree Scanlon’s voice sounds so composed and mature in this tune that it’s tough to not start assigning positive moral qualities to it. She guides this gentle tune through its four minutes, sounding like the direct descendants of Mojave 3 the entire time.

8. “Easy on Me” – Runner of the Woods. The premiere of this song includes songwriter Nick Beaudoing coining the term countrygaze. As this mashes up country and shoegaze (and, by my own personal extension, chillwave), I am on board with this term. I want to believe.

9. “Origins” – Jesse Payne. Excellent widescreen, engaging indie-folk calling up The National comparisons as easily as of the obvious Fleet Foxes/Grizzly Bear woodsy bands.

10. “White Queen” – Benedikt and Friends. You’ve had a hard week. You need a song that gets that, as well as helping you slip into relaxation. This tune offers tons of pathos to empathize with, as well as crisp melodies and tight engineering of the nuanced, subtle arrangement. And it’s Norwegian.

11. “RMDN” – +Aziz. Linking ancient religious practice with social media and traditional acoustic guitar with gentle beats results in a song that realizes its lyrics in its sound and vice versa. It’s an intriguing song that never lets the concept take away from being a good tune.

Quick Hits: Elizaveta

April 13, 2012

I’ve got files and notepads and contacts and contracts all over the place right now. I keep thinking, “I feel like my head is about to explode.” I’ve been mitigating this through musical means: My “Get Stuff Done” playlist powers me through work, while Elizaveta‘s debut Beatrix Runs calms me down when I’ve done all I can do for a day.

Elizaveta is uniquely suited to this endeavor. Her malleable soprano can pull off dainty charm (the Norah-esque “Snow in Venice”), quirky concern (the Regina-esque “Beatrix Runs”) arch operatics (“Odi Et Amo”) and even R&B (“Onion”). But her bright moment is “Dreamer,” where Elizaveta combines all her vocal affectations into something uniquely her own: her bright vocal lines mesh perfectly with gently burbling synths, breathy background vocals, and piano to make an infectious, catchy tune. “Armies of Your Heart” performs a similar feat, showing that Elizaveta is on her way to a distinctive style.

Elizaveta’s personality is still a bit in flux on this album; she’s tempering her operatic tendencies against her indie-pop aspirations, and the mix hasn’t stabilized quite yet. Even so, there are many moments of beauty, and the album is an interesting listen throughout. Fans of quirky singer/songwriters (all the aforementioned, Ingrid Michaelson) will love this one.

Mel Flannery Trucking Co. unleashes jazz-pop with confident, beautiful vocals and a few misses

March 17, 2010

Mel Flannery Trucking Co.’s jazzy, keys-heavy As It Turns Out gives a little too much of a good thing.

Mel Flannery’s voice is a delight; it’s smooth, warm and crisp. The clarity and passion of the songs show that she has confidence in both her songwriting and vocal skills. Highlight “Gone” sees her nailing a difficult vocal line and leading a choir through an excellent pop song populated by gentle keys, pulsing bass and jazzy drums. You’ll hit repeat, almost assuredly. The song just oozes charisma.

Other songs feature the jazz elements of her sound more prominently. “You Know What to Do” sees her in come-hither lounge singer mode over a syncopated keys line. “I Need You Here With Me” shows a forlorn black-and-white movies nightclub singer side of her. These three elements of her personality shine, as she has very obviously polished these.

The problem comes in the songs that stray from her easygoing, seductive pop. “(You Are the Only One For Me)” is a giddy love song written on guitar, and it only serves to break up the album in an uncomfortable, annoying way. “Without You” barely keeps its head up under the weight of its narrator’s depression, although it does fare better than “Lift Me Up, Tie Me Down.” “Lift Me Up…” is a depressing, introspective tune, and it sounds confident musically but misplaced lyrically and mood-wise on this album of otherwise slinky and assured tunes. Even “Running,” a tune about physical spousal abuse, comes off with a assured swagger, as the song’s battered woman books it from the bad relationship with little more than a middle finger left behind.

Mel Flannery Trucking Co.’s As It Turns Out is a collection of tunes that suffer from trying to do too much. Flannery has the seductive song down pat, as well as the gentle, lilting pop song. The great success of her hits only make her misses that much more obvious. Still, the majority of the tunes here are thoroughly enjoyable and display chops musically, vocally and lyrically. Fans of gentle, jazzy pop, like Norah Jones, Michael Buble, Jason Mraz, or Regina Spektor and the like would find much to enjoy in Mel Flannery’s wonderful voice and great songwriting.

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

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