Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Nov Video Drop 2

November 29, 2013

I absolutely love this style of dancing, and the gorgeous setting makes the actio in Flume & Chet Faker’s “Drop The Game” video even more beautiful.

Post-Echo releases records, but they also do way cool collaborative projects. PASSAGE is a movie/music collab that they’ve released in installations. The fifth part drops Dec. 3, but the trailer for the whole work is here:

Speaking of Post-Echo, it appears that going to a show by optimistic post-rockers Pan is about as much fun as I’d expect; which is to say, lots and lots. Props to the violinist for wearing proper ear protection: you’ll appreciate that in 20 years.

Quick Hits: Pan / RCRDS / Gifts or Creatures

October 28, 2013

panmeta

My three favorite types of music are absurdly happy (Anamanaguchi), extremely sad (Damien Jurado), and cerebral (The Mountain Goats). Pan combines absurdly happy and cerebral in their post-rock, and it’s just a wonder to behold. Their new EP Meta Major! is exactly as optimistic as that title would suggest, and that’s excellent.

The five-piece instrumental band (the usual suspects and a violin) recorded this 15-minute EP live, so the four tracks feel more like movements of the same song than individual songs on their own. That’s also excellent; the live recording lends a pounding energy to the tracks, and the individual movements ensure that they didn’t go nuts trying to record a 15-minute tune in one flawless take. As it stands, the recording is pretty impressive: the guitars soar majestically, the rhythm section provides strong counterpoint, and the violin caps it all off as the link between melody and rhythm. It’s overall a very impressive achievement: fans of Fang Island, And So I Watch You From Afar, should start at the beginning and listen all the way through (with special attention paid to “Miracle Mile”).

rcrds

RCRDSSummer Aches EP is also a 15-minute experience that flows together as one track. Where Pan goes for the exuberant, RCRDS goes for the cerebral: their mash-up of indie-rock, trip-hop, and a dark form of chillwave ends up being akin to artsy, instrumental hip-hop. The songs are composed primarily of live bass, washed-out vocals, effects-heavy guitars, and non-intrusive beats that work together to give the recording a distinct feel. It’s not obviously sad (like singer/songwriter fare can be), but it carries a sense of the forlorn in it. It’s a gripping moment when “Release” strips down to thrumming bass line, staccato beat, and pitchshifted vocals at the end of the song; that striking bass work continues throughout the release. As I mentioned, the whole album feels like one cohesive work, which is a strong quality to have in work like this. Recommended for those into Clams Casino, Balam Acab, et al.

yesteryear

Smash cut to the next scene: Gifts or Creatures plays thoughtful alt-country that draws heavily on traditions that emphasize songwriting over virtuoso performances. It’s not a bad comparison to say that Yesteryear Western Darkness sounds like a Wilco-ized version of The Civil Wars, although that’s selling their talents short in the service of quick reference.

“Relicts & Ghosts” and “Gospel of Glaciers” spin two sides of the same tapestry: the former sets the core motion of the dual vocals and thoughtful lyrics in a walking-pace alt-country idiom, while the latter slows things down with a Wurlitzer and weeping pedal steel. The Low Anthem blows out the ends of their sound way more, but the impulse to cover a wide range of sounds without leaving alt-country altogether is similar in the two bands. Highlight “Blind Pigs” features memorable melodies, a dreamy mood, and protest lyrics; “American Pockets” couches similar discomfort with the state of things in a comfortable alt-country tune. Gifts or Creatures aren’t into riffs or attitude-filled ragers, but they sure know how to write a song that cuts to the bone. Fans of bands as disparate as Over the Rhine, Wilco, Damien Jurado, and The Lesser Birds of Paradise would do well to check out Gifts or Creatures’ Yesteryear Western Darkness.

more moving pictures

September 4, 2013

Cameron Blake, who recently released an album, got inspired by Edward Snowden and wrote an artistic defense of privacy on the Internet called “The Ballad of Edward Snowden.” It’s not just protest; it’s also a really beautiful song.

MonaLisa Twins have studied the art of ’60s pop, and boy do they have it down. Throw in a crowd-sourced video, and you’ve got a cheery 2:28 to get you through those days.

Cheery post-rock acrobats Pan are releasing a new EP. Here’s a trailer for it. I’m stoked.

I can’t figure out if Sleigh Bells are destroying pop music or remaking it in their own image or both. Still, “Bitter Rivals” is pretty catchy! On the other hand, I don’t even know what I think about the video. Negative points for the Tyrann Mathieu jersey though.

July Video Jam pt. 3: Beautiful Sounds

July 23, 2013

I try to post videos that are interesting to watch, because that’s the point of a video. But some clips just have such beautiful songs that I have to post them, even if their visuals are less than mindblowing. Here are four.

“Song for Zula,” Phosphorescent‘s candidate for Song of the Year, just got better: here’s a gorgeous acoustic guitar version performed at the behest of Line of Best Fit.

Safe Haven‘s studio vid for “Leave Me Where I Want to Be” has a lot of sepia going on.

I will post pretty much anything that Page CXVI sends me, because it’s always just stunningly beautiful. Here’s “O Sacred Head.”

Here’s a reminder: post-rockers Pan are a ton of fun. Here’s “John from New York.”

Interstitial Summer Mix

May 17, 2013

So I went running this morning, and it was actually hot. Summer is creeping in, y’all!

Interstitial Summer mix

1. “Confidence” – The Dodos. Here’s a jaw-dropping fusion of intricate guitarwork, indie-rock bombast, and pop sensibility. Thrilled to hear this album.
2. “Southern Belle” – The Radio Reds. Pop-punk is where I’m from, and it’s where I go in summer. This bass-heavy tune reminds me of Titus Andronicus due to the atypical vocal rhythms of the vocalist. Great stuff.
3. “Baton” – Pan. My favorite gleeful post-rockers are back, emphasis on the rock … and the violin.
4. “Back to Bellevue” – Challenger. Summer mixes can always use more ’80s-inspired electro-pop, especially when it’s as bouncy and charming as Challenger’s.
5. “If It Speaks” – Hospital Ships. Hospital Ships plays indie-rock that I immediately recognize but can’t place. Their tunes come from a deep understanding of how indie-rock works, circa 2013. Mighty.
6. “Make It Home” – Hoodie Allen feat. Kina Grannis. Hoodie drops the studio version of the track he and Kina Grannis wrote for Fuze. It starts out with voice and acoustic guitar, but it’s a block party by the halfway point (complete with huge horn sample). The Mets still get a shout-out. It’s still awesome.
7. “You’re Turning From” – Fiery Crash. No summer mix is complete without a lazy, hazy poolside jam.
8. “The Hypnotist” – Owls of the Swamp. And no self-respecting summer mix wouldn’t include a midnight makeout track either, and this Australian indie-folk gem fits the bill perfectly. Swirling, mysterious, and beautiful.

Top 11 Songs of the Year

December 28, 2012

The album isn’t dead, as you’ll see when my top albums of the year list rolls around tomorrow. But these songs stuck out over and above the albums that encompassed them–or not, as #4’s album has yet to be released. Viva la album, viva la single.

11. “Advice From People Who Shouldn’t Give It (Don’t Take It)” – Superstar Runner. There’s beatboxing and group vocals in this acoustic tune. Yeah, it’s awesome.

10. “Brother Don’t Wait” – Emily and the Complexes. The raw emotion tugs at my heartstrings.

9. “Kneebone” – The Miami. This call and response tune is profoundly fractured and odd, but I dare you to keep it out of your head.

8. “Virtues, Spices and Liquors” – 4H Royalty. The best lyrical outing of the whole year, backed up with strong melodies and great instrumentation.

7. “Rockingham Cindy” – Jonas Friddle. I could fill this slot with at least a dozen Friddle tunes, but this tune of longing is especially memorable.

6. “See the Conqueror” – Jenny and Tyler. Beauty and power wrapped up into one hymn-esque charge.

5. “Still Analog” – The March Divide. It’s a pop song about pop songs, and it involves clapping and snapping. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!

4. “All Creatures” – ElisaRay. Poignant and pounding in turns, this arrangement choked me up the first time I heard it.

3. “All I Have” – Young Readers. This is one of the most romantic tunes I’ve heard in a long time; it’s right up there with “Above All Men” by J. Tillman.

2. “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart” – Annalise Emerick. A gorgeous, evocative folk tune that perfectly captures the sadness that hope brings and the hope that sadness brings.

1. “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” – John K. Samson. There is no song I spun more this year. You could often find me dancing and singing along with manic glee to this power-pop jewel.

Top 36 songs of the year

December 27, 2012

I usually like to get this post to a nice round number, but I didn’t get it there this year. Here’s what my year sounded like, y’all! This post isn’t ranked; instead, it’s a playlist of sorts. My ranked post will come tomorrow.

1. “Canvas Shoes” – The Brixton Riot
2. “Never Heard of Dylan” – The Finest Hour
3. “Heard It All Before” – The Switch
4. “How Do I Know” – Here We Go Magic
5. “Lady Percy” – King Charles
6. “You Left Your Sweater…” – Cobalt and the Hired Guns
7. “Monster Fiction” – Oh Look Out!
8. “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” – John K. Samson
9. “Lightshow” – Plants and Animals
10. “Believer” – Ponychase
11. “Day is Gone” – Phoebe Jean and the Air Force (My runner-up favorite music video!)
12. “Still Analog” – The March Divide
13. “Hap Hej” – Dva
14. “Love Changes Everything” – Amy Correia
15. “The Road” – Nicollette Good
16. “Kneebone” – The Miami
17. “I Rose Up At the Dawn of the Day” – Martha Redbone
18. “Virtues, Spices and Liquors” – 4H Royalty
19. “I’m Happy All the Time (Sad Hawaii Version)” – Decent Lovers
20. “When I Hit My Stride” – Jonas Friddle
21. “Mom and Me Versus You and Dad” – Pan
22. “Walrus Meat” – The Parmesans
23. “See the Conqueror” – Jenny and Tyler
24. “Advice From People Who Shouldn’t Give It (Don’t Take It)” – Superstar Runner
25. “All Creatures” – ElisaRay
26. “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart” – Annalise Emerick
27. “The Secret Songs” – Come On Pilgrim!
28. “All My People Go” – Kris Orlowski and Andrew Joslyn
29. “Tuck the Darkness In” – Bowerbirds (My favorite video of the year!)
30. “Brother Don’t Wait” – Emily and the Complexes
31. “Survivor Blues” – Cory Branan
32. “A-Okay” – Summer of Sam
33. “Farewell Old Friends” – Jacob Furr
34. “If I Were A Surfer” – Elephant Micah
35. “All I Have” – Young Readers
36. “Shenandoah” – Goldmund

Pan wants you to remember the wonder of being alive

October 19, 2012

Pan‘s These Are the Things I Love and I Want to Share Them With You is a perfectly-titled record. It’s an exuberantly happy record, full of soaring guitar melodies, ethereal builds, group vocals and fast tempos. The band doesn’t like calling itself post-rock, but it does have tendencies in that direction; it also has tendencies toward Fang Island-style rock tunes. They even throw in the acoustic track “Mom and Me vs. You and Dad,” but (true to form) the guitarist strums frantically while the band sings wordless melodies loudly. Even though the title sounds antagonistic, the song is so giddy that it must be about board games.

The usual knocks against the post-rock genre apply here: the constraints of the genre can sometimes make the tunes seem similar, it’s harder to connect with some of the wordless pieces, the songs take a long time to get where they’re going. But Pan is not nearly as indulgent as some; These Are the Things crams 12 songs into 40 minutes, for an average of just over three minutes. “Leave Your Body” is six minutes long, but “Mom and Me” is sadly only 1:25. I could have used more of “John from New York,” which has intriguing rhythms, solid melodies and a great vibe.

I’ve been spinning this album for several weeks, and it has staying power. If I’m trying to get some work done, this is perfect power music: energetic, upbeat, but still not so intricate as to be too complicated to process in the background of my mind. If I want to relax, it’s great for that too: “The Things They Can’t Take Away” is a calming piece, while closer “Arkansas” opens with a relaxing piano before building to a massive conclusion.

Pan’s name is supposed to invoke associations with Peter Pan, and their website is YouAreThePan.com. They are sharing things they love with you. Look at the joy in the album art. The title of their debut EP was Post Rock Is Not Dead. How can you resist a band that just wants you to remember the wonder of being alive?

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

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