Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

2016 Singles: Pop

January 20, 2016


1. “Russian Roulette” – Sons of London. Well, damn. Right when I thought Deep Elm was out of the game for post-Blink-182 emo-punk-pop, they go and drop this on us. This is one of the most memorable, can’t-stop-listening pop-punk tunes I’ve heard in a long, long time.

2. “Solitude” – Alpenglow. The good people of Alpenglow seem like the sort of good-natured, thoughtful, interesting people who I’d like to get a beer with and talk about water rights politics. I think they’d most likely have an interesting stance, tell me an anecdote or two, and leave me feeling better off in my intellectual life. I think I mean that this song is smart and fun in equal parts, but that’s reductive and makes it look like I didn’t try (although I think Alpenglow would probably be cool with either description, because when you know yourself, you care less about what others are thinking about it.)

3. “Roll It” – Nap Eyes. Nap Eyes has my vote for breakout band of the year–their loping, engaging indie-rock tips its hat to all the coolest references without feeling derivative. “Roll It” just sounds so immediate and fresh that it’s hard to imagine people won’t jump on this train.

4. “Walking In My  Sleep” – Kris Orlowski. Orlowski takes another step farther from his folk roots and closer to an indie-rock home with the debut single from his upcoming record Often in the Pause. Crunchy guitar noise, headbobbing rhythms, and his unchanged ability to write/deliver a compelling vocal melody power this tune that seems always ready to burst but never quite explodes, giving a nice tension.

5. “The Uninvited Guest” – Gladiola. If there’s a Weakerthans-sized hole in your heart, Gladiola is here to fill it with tight power-pop melodies, tight lyrics and an overall sense of weary-yet-determined urban knowledge.

6. “In This Lifetime” – Scary Little Friends. Big, punchy power-pop with a bit of glam creeping in around the edges of the vocals.

7. “Lava” – Pleasant Grove. The distillation of an expansive divorce record that took a decade to complete, “Lava” combines the tough guitar exterior and gentle melodic interior that comprise the tensions of The Heart Contortionists’ early -to-mid ’00s indie-rock. Death Cab for Cutie and Grandaddy fans will find much to love here.  

8. “Butterflies” – Wyland. Do you miss The Joshua Tree? Fear no more: Wyland’s got your back with this arena-filling, stadium-rocking anthem.

9. “Come Down” – Water District. Remember that weird, brief moment where Silversun Pickups made grunge into a cool indie-rock thing? Water District remembers, creating their own pensive, emotive brand of grunge-inspired indie-alt-rock.

10. “From Far Away” – SayReal. This infectious, smile-inducing tune will thrill those who like good pop songs and those wished that Michael Franti and Spearhead sounded more like their one unusual pop hit all the time.

11. “Start Right Here” – Jennifer O’Connor. O’Connor takes the basic elements of modern indie-pop songwriting (jangly guitars, plain vocal style, catchy melodies, full-but-not-noisy drums) and turns out gold. I don’t know how that works, but it does.

12. “Guns” – Andy Metz. Punchy, rhythmic piano-pop verses open up into a smooth, memorable chorus, complete with timely political commentary on gun control.

February Video Drop! (pt 2)

February 26, 2014

Scary Little Friends go the literal route on “City at Night,” showing a person wandering around a city … at night. They wring a lot of mileage out of that simple concept, making a low-key, fun, pretty video.

Virgins Family Band take their pop-folk into the club, getting electro artist t0w3rs to collaborate on “Crème Brûlée.” It’s like if Skrillex had Lord Huron and The Head and the Heart as parents. Okay, maybe not quite like that, but … close.

Kye Alfred Hillig is one of my new favorite songwriters. This episode of the Fastback Sessions gives him a chance to talk about the work of songwriting and showcase a new song. As a person who loves solo acoustic songwriting, this is just way cool.

There’s no single aspect that’s particularly amazing about the video for Etches’ “The Charm Offensive”; it just comes together really nicely with the song.

Private Life decided to go an entirely different direction in their clip for “Otherside”: they made a flash game similar to Robot Unicorn Attack. It is pretty awesome.


January 15, 2014

My last MP3 drop was pretty chill. Here’s some decidedly energetic MP3s to get you through the middle of the week.


1. “The Scope of All This Rebuilding” – The Hotelier. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the incredible title of the album this comes from: Home, like Noplace Is There. Then appreciate the frantic, emotionally charged, complex arrangements of this mile-a-minute pop-punk rager. It’s a workout, y’all.

2. “On Your Own” – Germany Germany. Clubby house with some neat synths and a great nighttime vibe? SECRET TECHNO FAN EMERGES!

3. “Tear Your Hate Apart” – Monks of Mellonwah. I cover hardly any modern rock, but man–these guys know what’s up. Interpol-esque moods, great falsetto, and strong control of atmosphere call up Muse comparions, but without the proggy bloat.

4. “Here We Go Again” – King Champion Sounds. The line between punk and post-punk is muddied here by horns that aspire to stay out of ska territory by being textural and integral to the sound.

5. “Evergreen (Feat. I AM DIVE)” – Brunetto. Moody electro incorporating fractured breakbeats, muscly tones, and some chill vocals (for contrast).

6. “Pulsing (Feat. Nina K)” – Tomas Barfod. You’re driving on an empty highway through a major metropolitan area at 4 a.m. This perfectly titled electro track is playing on the stereo.

7. “How Do You Know” – Scary Little Friends. Neil Young guitars, skyscraping vocals, and a ragtag alt-country feel propel this tune to great heights.

8. “Head for the Hills” – Night Beds. Night Beds can do no wrong so far, as the folky troubadour gives us a few triumphant indie-rock moments here. Give your ears a rest and enjoy this one.

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

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