The Gray Havens are back with a new Kickstarter project! The folk-pop duo is creating a new EP with Ben Shive, who has worked with Andrew Peterson, Ellie Holcomb, and IC faves Colony House and Son of Laughter. Shive seems to always turn out earthy, “real”-sounding recordings; paired with the Gray Havens’ dramatic, tension-filled songwriting, the results should be impressive. Check their video below.
Independent Clauses is a wide-ranging blog, but it still comes home at night to folk and indie-pop. So those genres are very well-represented in the Top 10.
10. “Song for Zula” – Phosphorescent. Yup, I’m thoroughly on board with all the love this is getting. Just beautiful.
9. “Home Sweet Home” – Russell Howard. The sound of loss and longing rarely sounds so sweet as in this singer/songwriter tune.
8. “The Mantis and the Moon” – Son of Laughter. Clever lyrics, sprightly arrangement, poignant performance: I hummed this a lot in 2013.
7. “Aaron” – JD Eicher and the Goodnights. Sweeping, widescreen folk-pop that leveled me with a great melody and this line: “I don’t write sad songs/they just seem to write me.”
6. “Judah’s Gone” – M. Lockwood Porter. It’s a tough thing to pack nostalgia, disillusion, and rage into one folky tune without any yelling, but Porter navigates the wildly varying emotions deftly.
5. “American Summer” – Jared Foldy. Gentle fingerpicking and reverb create a strong atmosphere, as Foldy offers the sound of beloved summers that sadly have to end.
4. “The Riddle Song” – The Parmesans. Poignant yet flirtatious, this bluegrassy love song is wonderful.
3. “For the Sky” – Wolfcryer. The opening riff of this folk tune, optimistic and yearning, sets the stage for an inescapable tune.
2. “Creeping Around Your Face” – Novi Split. The most tender, gentle love song I heard all year, steeped in the reality of hard times but the hope of good to come.
1. “Everything Is Yours” – Jonny Rodgers. Wine glasses cascade and swoop through the quiet indie-pop arrangement, giving Rodgers a fascinating canvas on which to paint lovely vocal melodies and descriptive lyrics. I couldn’t stop listening to this for weeks.
In recorded form, Lord Buffalo has been quiet since I highly recommended their 2012 self-titled EP. They’ve been spending time playing mighty live shows and recording a full album (to be released in 2014). A self-titled 7″ has appeared to whet the appetites of those invested in their spacious sound, and whoa does it ever deliver.
The only Stephen King novel I’ve finished was The Stand, and the post-epidemic landscape that King sets his characters upon could use these two tunes as a soundtrack. Helter-skelter vocal roaring reminiscent of Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse) ranges across the urgent, pounding “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin”; the heavily rhythmic arrangement hearkens towards stereotypical Native American chant, which only ups the tension. Evocative might be too soft a word for the visceral reaction I feel when hearing the recording; it helps that I saw this one performed live at SXSW 2013, and it was suitably earthshaking. B-side “Black Mesa” is a more expansive track, giving the band more room to breathe. It’s just as dramatic and fascinating, but in a different way. Lord Buffalo are making unique and thrilling music, and I can hardly wait for the full album in 2014. Highly recommended (again!).
At their best, Son of Laughter‘s singer/songwriter tunes blend Paul Simon’s precise fingerpicking and melodies with Josh Ritter’s thoughtful, storytelling lyrics. The result is the 5-song The Mantis and The Moon EP, which gives much to enjoy while pointing to a bright future for musician Chris Slaten.
Opener “Cricket in a Jar” and the title track jump off the page as the clear standouts. The former delivers the most poignant line of the EP (“This is a law of loveliness/we love what never lasts”), while the latter gives us the most memorable chorus of the bunch. Slaten’s voice is in fine form through the chorus and beyond, moving sprightly across the gentle arrangement while maintaining nuance in the pathos. The nice subtlety of the lyrics helps with Slaten’s vocal nuance, as well. It’s hard for me to hear “The Mantis” and resist pushing repeat; that’s high praise from over here. The other three tunes are a little less immediate in their charms, but they each show promising aspects to Slaten’s sound. I’m looking forward to how this project grows and develops, as Slaten’s talent seems like it has a lot of good songs in it that are just waiting to emerge.