Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Bellfuries / Kyle and the Pity Party

July 29, 2015

bellfuries

The BellfuriesWorkingman’s Bellfuries is a sonic upgrade on retro styles. The 11 tunes of this record apply hi-fi, modern production techniques to the sounds of Roy Orbison pop (“Beaumont Blues”) and early ’60s British Invasion rock–complete with a cover of a 1964 Beatles B-side (“She’s a Woman”). It avoids the retro-rock tribute trap through an assured grasp of the elements necessary in this type of songwriting, impressive arrangements, and immediately catchy melodies.

By the end of the first time that my wife and I heard “Why Do You Haunt Me,” we were both singing along almost unconsciously–the song’s structure is so natural, so deeply dedicated to the ’50s-rock palette that it passed the credibility threshold almost instantaneously. Joey Simeone’s wide singing range makes the vocals a central point in the sound: they’re passionate but still carefully controlled, dramatic without being sloppy. The fact that he can pull off the difficult vocal jumps iconic in this sound goes one more step toward showing why The Bellfuries are more than copycats or fetishists–these are musicians who’ve adopted a style and are pushing it forward. Their polished, structured, rewarding arrangements seal the deal. If you’re looking for some distinctly unique pop/rock, try out Workingman’s Bellfuries.

kyleandthepityparty

On the opposite side of the rock spectrum, Kyle & the Pity Party play early ’00s emo-rock on their EP Everything’s Bad. However, they’re just as dedicated as The Bellfuries to their genre proposition: they namecheck iconic emo band Brand New in “Young.” It’s an important reference, as a namecheck to Taking Back Sunday or Thursday would belie a different set of sonic principles. Kyle McDonough and co. play rock that has matured out of some punk brashness–while these minor key songs can get noisy, they have an atmospheric gravitas imported by the melodic commitment, the dense arrangements and the Doors-esque vocals.

McDonough’s vocals aren’t quite as low as Morrison’s, but the same sort of “brooding persona presiding over the rock proceedings” vibe prevails. His performances are attention-grabbing in the best sort of way. It’s a tribute to the vocal quality that he overshadows the instrumentals to a degree: the band’s careful attention to maintaining energy while sticking in a mid-tempo emo-rock style results in strong songwriting. From the piano that grounds opener “Spill It All” to the bass-heavy rock of “He Was / She Was” to the casio-led closer “He’ll Never Love You,” the band keeps things diverse but recognizably consistent on the six-song EP.

It’s their decision to keep melody central to their guitars and vocals (no screaming here) that sets them apart from their noisier brethren, but they haven’t gotten so quiet as to move into twinkly post-emo. Instead, they throw down their tunes in a melodic indie-rock sort of vein that probably wouldn’t get lumped in with the emo revival as a tag (although they could easily tour with bands like Football, Etc. or others). If you still listen to Deja Entendu, you should check out Kyle and the Pity Party.

Announcement: Mason Daring is awesome

January 29, 2010

For a man who hasn’t recorded an album in 30 years, Mason Daring’s self-titled release is remarkable. The album sounds as if he spent all that time honing his craft. I am extremely impressed with how well it is put together, and how Mason Daring (I just have to say his full name again; it’s such a cool name) manages to make his “oldies”-style-Americana music sound current. It might sound cheesy, but this album feels timeless. If I had to equate it to an object, Mason Daring would be a well-worn jean jacket picked up from a thrift store that fits exactly right, worn on brisk, sunny afternoons.

Throughout this album, Daring fuses many different music styles together in a way that’s not forced but natural and gentle. Most songs have elements of folk, pop, and country, but many sound like revamped jazz standards and others have lush instrumentation. Think Roy Orbison meeting Johnny Cash in New Orleans while listening to Beatles for Sale in the 1970s when The Eagles were really big. But even that loaded analogy doesn’t exactly do Daring justice.

I could easily write in depth about each song, but I’ll just pick out my favorites in the hopes of sparking more interest in this album. “Too Much” is one of the jazziest on Mason Daring, and with its own whimsical charm, I could see this song being played during a montage in a romantic comedy of a couple having a nice date. This actually makes sense, though, when you know that Daring has extensive film scoring experience. And the acoustic ballad “Lightship” is nothing short of beautiful, with gorgeous female harmonies and orchestra strings and brass. The liner notes allude to its special nature: “To be truthful, [‘Lightship’] is the reason I did the entire CD – I simply wanted this song to see the light of day.” And with good reason – it’s perfectly lovely.

“You Can’t Get To Heaven From Here” is a charismatic country-esque tune with a great organ part, a very catchy chorus, and a complementary horn section. Two other gems are “Only For You,” which sounds reminiscent of “When I’m 64” and “Martha My Dear,” and the twangy, uptempo, rollicking and rolling “People Are Talking.”

But I must reinforce that all of this album is truly great, and I can say from experience that it still sounds great when listened to on repeat over and over. I strongly recommend checking out Mason Daring.

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

Recent Posts

Categories

Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Archives