Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

SXSW Friday: Wild Cub / Leagues / Roadkill Ghost Choir

April 1, 2013

I thought I was going to a Wild Child show at Maggie Mae’s, but I ended up at a Wild Cub show instead. Instead of folky pop, Wild Cub purveys dance-friendly indie-pop; I’m down with that. The best moment came in their closer “Summer Fires,” where they toned down the perkiness and amped up the dance elements. By the time the song reached its whirling, enveloping conclusion, I felt like I was listening to an LCD Soundsystem song. That’s about the highest praise this guy can give to a dance band: when the parts come together to be more than their individual sum, and it seems like a song might not and shouldn’t ever end, you’ve reached the peak of dance-rock performance. Good work, Wild Cub.

I found Leagues through a compilation, where the stark, memorable guitar riff of “Magic” caught my attention instantly. The restrained, thoughtful pop-rock that Leagues purveys puts them in the same category as bands like Spoon and Elbow that take small elements of a tune and elevate them to monumental status. The set I caught at SXSW put the unique cohesiveness of their sound on full display.

The band plays largely off empty spaces, populating the songs with tensions that are resolved by the interplay between the guitar, bass, drums and Thad Cockrell’s voice. The fact that guitarist Tyler Burkum, drummer Jeremy Lutito and Cockrell all have long careers in music shows, as the tunes shine by being pared down to the bare essentials. You can always add more to a song, but taking away things and still making successful tunes is impressive. Their songs are just a blast to listen to, and although they don’t particularly inspire dancing, they made me smile.

I trekked over to The Palm Door for the Team Clermont showcase, and I was pleased to find that it was in a rental space instead of a “dirty rock club” (as the lead singer of Fol Chen would later announce). It’s funny that the venue was so squeaky-clean, because the low-slung, southern, rootsy rock of Roadkill Ghost Choir would be the perfect fit for some hole-in-the-wall joint. The six-piece band’s sound filled the venue with melodic, earnest tunes that dropped down to near-silence before roaring to life again. The vocals were a focal point, as Andrew Shepard’s voice displayed unbridled fury and creaky uncertain in equal turns. Listening to such an evocative voice work its magic is one of my favorite things in music; hearing a band back that up with equal passion and fervor is even more of a joy. Roadkill Ghost Choir is highly recommended for fans of Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket and the like.

SXSW Friday: Kail Baxley / Fol Chen

While at the Team Clermont showcase, I saw a few of KaiL Baxley‘s tunes in between conversations. Baxley has an slurry, engaging voice that he set over an acoustic guitar for a mysterious, haunting vibe. After the room-filling sound of Roadkill Ghost Choir, Baxley’s sound was a nice sonic change of pace.

The last set I caught was Fol Chen’s set of fractured, rhythmic dance-pop. I danced more at Fol Chen’s set than any other at SXSW, because their insistent, pulsing rhythms called for it. Their unique sound relies much more on rhythms than melodies to get their message across, although there are definitely still synth notes and vocal melodies sung across their percussive frameworks. The female vocalist tied together the synths and percussion, as well as making their live show; her movement around the stage was the only bit of action from the band, who was busy making the intricate sounds. Several other people got in the dancing action, and it was a blast of a set. It definitely sent me home from SXSW on a high note.

Movies!

July 14, 2012

If you’ve got 90 minutes, love new music and have a thing for music videos, Serious Feather’s “Manchester: Beyond Oasis” is calling you. The documentary covers a wide swath of Manchester’s thriving music scene (rap, electronic, rock, pop, folk, blues, reggae, unclassifiable stuff) in 40ish clips of music videos and interviews put together into a statement about the city. It’s fun, and I have almost a dozen new bands I want to check out. It’s the second of a series, and the first full-length one; I hope the company can make some cash and keep putting these out. Awesome job.

Roadkill Ghost Choir takes their banjo-powered, mournful Southern rock into a swamp and proceeds to play the heck out of “Beggars Guild.” This one blew me away.

Isaac Indiana, the British indie-pop/indie-rock band I covered recently, can go acoustic as well. Check this very pretty rendition of highlight track “You and I.” (There’s another acoustic tune and two music videos on their YouTube channel as well.)

Bill Fay’s “Be at Peace With Yourself” comes close to matching the title with its calming, lush visuals. The delicate, Lennon-esque tune matches the title as well.

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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