Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

MP3s: Rock Out / Quirk Out

July 13, 2014

The first half of this list is marked by songs that rock out really hard. The second half is marked by songs that are outside your normal arrangements.

Rock Out / Quirk Out

1. “Station Wagon Apocalypse” – The Outfit. I’d just like to point out that this incredibly-named garage-rock tune is not even the best name on the two-song EP. (That would be “Tyrannosaurus Surfboard,” YOU’RE WELCOME.) As to the tune itself: Big drums, big guitars, big vocals, big fun.

2. “Be Cool” – Cancers. Cancers is the missing link that makes me think Sleigh Bells might not have been robots from the future and instead were just really, really hyped up ’90s kids.

3. “Last Forever” – Fenech-Soler. As a bassist myself, I appreciate it when a song is so thoroughly dominated by bass that the guitar and keys just kind of follow along. When those songs are also jubilant dance tracks with irresistible shout-it-out vocals, well. Well, well.

4. “Metronome” – The Yuseddit Brothers. There was a brand of ’90s grunge/slacker-rock that took pride in sounding like it was kind of underwater. This low-slung groove has that fuzzy-edged production value to match the not-so-ambitious tempo and tone. Chillax, y’all.

5. “Bright Eyes, Black Soul” – The Lovers Key. Sometimes I hear a song outside of genres I usually cover and think, “WHOA WHY DON’T I LISTEN TO THAT GENRE MORE.” Probably because I’m hearing an elite artist, but I don’t know. Anyway, The Lovers Key has me interested in aggressive Blue Eyed Soul with some serious motown horns stacked up on it. This makes me think of a James Bond movie. Can’t really explain that either.

6. “All in a Day’s Work” – Horizontal Hold. As a mid-point between rocking out and quirking out, I submit Horizontal Hold, which is out-Pixie-ing the Pixies at the moment.

7. “You Are My Summer (feat. Coleman Hell and Jayme)” – La+ch. This is a perfect electro-pop tune. In musical world that I ran, this would be the big hit of the summer. It’s got Icona Pop infectiousness and Cobra Starship restraint. What’s not to love?

8. “Old K.B.” – The Solars. Speaking of motown influences, here’s a piano-pop tune fronted by a guy who sounds like Jack White that features organ and horns. This thing grooves way more than piano-pop fans are probably comfortable with. THAT’S OK!

9. “Unrevenged” – Floating Action. Rubbery bass, ethereal background vocals, driving percussion? Clearly indie-pop, but not any like you’ve imagined recently. Has me all stoked for the album.

10. “I’m To Blame” – Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon. After sending us a folky tune for the first single, the second one is a incredible mash-up of jazz trumpet, Radiohead vocals, Muse craziness, and a totally rad guitar solo. It is, in a word, different.

11. “It Doesn’t Even Matter” – Onward Chariots! If the Kings of Convenience had more quirky pop arrangements, it might end up something like this.

12. “Rockingham” – Kasey Keller Brass Band. 58 seconds of found sound, gentle synths, and meandering acoustic guitar paint a sonic picture extremely well. Very cool stuff here.

13. “Shadow’s Song” – Foxes in Fiction. Chillwave + Owen Pallett? TOTALLY THERE, MY FRIENDS.

Terra Naomi's strong pop songwriting oozes confidence

September 1, 2011

I connect with highly idiosyncratic singer/songwriters: Regina Spektor, Brandi Carlile, Owen Pallett, The Mountain Goats. If she’s gunning for entry the Great American Songbook, she must be immediately distinguishable or as suave as Paul Simon.

Terra Naomi trends more toward the latter in To Know I’m OK. She projects a superb confidence throughout this collection of pop songs, even when she gets vulnerable. That attribute alone is enough to carry this album of piano and acoustic guitar-led tunes. Whether appropriating Ingrid Michaelson/Regina Spektor perkiness (“You For Me”), Brandi Carlile emotional bravura (“Someday Soon,” “To Know I’m OK”) or Kelly Clarkson drama (“Not Sorry”), Naomi sells the tunes assuredly. She owns these tunes, no matter who produced them, what sound they resemble or who covers them. All four of those songs are hits waiting to happen.

Naomi leans heavily on songcraft because no element of her sound has massive takeaway value. Her voice, instrumentation, arrangement and production are all solid, but each part is in place to serve the melody and lyric.

Paul Simon crafted unassuming, brilliant tunes through subtle hooks and devastating emotional turns, and Naomi does the same when she’s at her best. Nuance is lost on “If I Could Stay” and “Everybody Knows,” but fans of straightforward women’s singer/songwriter fare will love them (bonus: Rachel Yamagata contributes guest vocals on both tracks).

To Know I’m OK is a heartfelt, magnetic album of pop songs that shows off Naomi’s skills. You won’t be disappointed when you check out “You For Me” and the title track.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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