Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Sunjacket: Weighty, thoughtful, inventive, unique

December 1, 2016

sunjacket-mantra-cover-digital

For a person who came of age on OK Computer, it’s hard for me not to jump straight to Radiohead’s magnum opus when describing rock led by minor-key distorted guitars that is intended to be taken seriously by thoughtful people. Sunjacket‘s Mantra is that sort of weighty, thoughtful, inventive, unique music. Each song of Mantra packs its own punch, but the main elements of the sound remain the same: distorted guitars, electronic keys/synths, complex percussion, and Carl Hauck and Bryan Kveton’s confident voices.

Opener “Grandstanders” shows off these elements perfectly: lush synths open the track before being set to rhythm with a complex percussion line and heavily manipulated guitar sounds. The resulting landscape bears much in common with The Appleseed Cast’s excellent Peregrine. But instead of just barreling through this mood, the band plays with space and minimalism, progressively dropping everyone out all the way down to single snare hits after the chorus before pounding back in with the full band. It’s a head-turning move, the sort of thing that announces an album. And there is much to announce.

The skittering percussion and staccato synths of “Dissolve It” float a soulful vocal line from Hauck; the fusion is disorienting in the best way. “Not Enough” starts with clanging piano before being sandblasted by a wall of fuzzed-out synth. The song then pulls back into patterned, complex mid-tempo work like “Grandstanders.” “Alligator” feels something like a mix between Bon Iver’s current work, The National, and a heart-rate monitor (this is a compliment). The title track takes all the elements of this paragraph and somehow synthesizes them.

But my award for the most fascinating track goes to “Tongue,” which starts off like a lost MIA track full of digital sounds before being accosted by multitracked trumpet and thunderous bass synth. Right about the time it starts to really feel like a mid-’00s Radiohead track, a vocal line modulated down two or three octaves mourns its way through the landscape. It’s weird and fascinating and the perfect break between the icy, stomping electro of “Habit” and the punchy, catchy rock of “No One’s Around You.”

Mantra is the rare “smart” rock album that isn’t hard to get. It’s weird, it’s quirky, it’s got a unique point of view, but it’s not grueling or punishing. You can listen to it through and hear the guitars and synths and take it at face value. (And its face value is great.) But for those who want to spend more time with their albums, Sunjacket has created an album full of nooks and crannies for listeners to explore. Brilliant stuff here. Highly recommended.

Sunjacket is about to head out on tour–if you’re near them, definitely endeavor to go to a show of theirs.

Grab Bag 1: Wolfcryer / Kite Flying Robot / Speak, Memory

December 12, 2014

prospectofwin

Even though I love big, towering achievements of heavily orchestrated arrangement, in my heart I am most partial to singer/songwriters who sit down with one instrument (maybe two, harmonica counts) and sing their song. Wolfcryer, aka Matt Baumann, has been cranking out a stream of guitar/vocals or banjo/vocals EPs since 2013 that have been uniformly fantastic. His last offering in this set of intimate, The Prospect of Wind, is no different. Baumann’s husky baritone meshes with his full chord strums and occasional harmonica swoop to create humble, dignified, powerful tunes a la old school Joe Pug.

Each of the 8 tunes on the album have their own merits, so its nigh on impossible to single one out as the highlight. “Clay and Stone” shows off how he can keep a complex lyrical line going while strumming furiously; “Little People” shows off his troubadour storytelling. “The War” kicks off the album with a protest tune. But it truly is the title track that takes the cake: Baumann’s impassioned vocals, emotive banjo strumming (if you don’t know how that works, just listen), and memorable chorus keep this one on loop in my mind. If you want to catch WolfCryer before the train leaves the station, this is the last whistle. It’s on to bigger and better things from here. Highly recommended.

kiteflyingrobot

I just got married, so it’s profoundly dissonant listening to break-up songs. It’s even more odd when the breakup songs form an impressively heartrending album. Kite Flying Robot‘s Magic and Mystery starts out as a arpeggiator-heavy dance-pop album, but slowly unfolds into a narrative of how adults deal with (yet another) breakup. KFR’s synth-pop relies on staccato, separated synths instead of the huge swaths of noise that are en vogue in synthpop right now. This creates a sound that is inspired by the ’80s but also sounds other. References like Prince and ELO floated through my head as I listened; whether or not they’re accurate, the sound of this album isn’t business as usual.

Many songs here are fun and danceable (“Bad Girl,” “Criminal Supervixen,” “Belong to the Beautiful”), but the moments where KFR turns away from the club and gets introspective are surprisingly, almost uncomfortably raw in their musings. The title track and “So Goodbye” feature beautiful instances of songwriting, incisive turns of lyricism, and remarkably emotive vocal performances. Nikolas Thompson knows exactly how to control the phrasing of his lyrics and the delivery of those phrases throughout the album; when he uses those elements to pull heartstrings, the results are impressive. In that way, he’s not so different from Josh Ritter, and Magic and Mystery isn’t too far from The Beast in Its Tracks: an album of impressive songwriting trying to sort through the wreckage of a broken relationship in a dignified, mature, honest way. Kite Flying Robot has a lot going for it on Magic and Mystery; just, uh, keep your tissues handy.

speakmemory

Speak, Memory‘s Value to Survival is a 20-minute EP of punk rock-influenced post-rock; it’s the sort of work that Deep Elm Records would have been all about in the early 2000s. The tension of heavily rhythmic drums and melodic lead guitar lines will make fans of Mare Vitalis-era Appleseed Cast grin in recognition.

The trio doesn’t ever get abstractly mathy in its ambitions: where the work is technical, it is complex for a songwriting reason. The center of closer “Blue Jacarandas. Lavender Skies.” is a powerfully emotive piece of music as well as an intricate one; “Splenetic” is held together by solid bass guitar work and a warm, burbling guitar tone that keeps away from the cold brittleness of some math-rock runs. This may be anchored by guitar acrobatics, but they’re of the flowing and beautiful type–not the brute force, shock-and-awe style. It also helps that all but one of the six tracks falls under four minutes, and two fall under three. This trio knows how to hit a tune, work their magic, and then get out before it gets repetitive. If you’re more into snappy motions than slow-building crescendoes, the type of post-rock that Speak, Memory plays will excite you.

Get on up get on up get on up

November 2, 2014

1. “Cassius” – The Maytags. You want some fun, dance-around your kitchen vibes? The Maytags have perky horns, upbeat rhythm section, group vocals, and a totally infectious mood. My fiance likes it, and she likes good music. Jump on it, people.

2. “In a Desert of Plenty” – Sunmonks. Motown horns, distant vocals, funky vibes, and engimatic/intriguing rhythmic elements make this track a keeper.

3. “The Snowfalls” – Whyte Horses. Gentle psychedelia meets ’70s folk with some ’50s girl pop vibes in the vocals: it’s a really inviting overall effect.

4. “Center of the Universe” – Chris Staples. Remember that hyper-personal acoustic indie-pop movement from the early to mis ’00s? Some called it quiet is the new loud, but I called it deeply engaging, personal work with a priority on intimate recording styles. This Built to Spill cover nails all the right notes.

5. “i don’t need an advocate, i need an exorcist” – moyamoya. If Appleseed Cast’s wide-open, cinematographic motion from Mare Vitalis made into to the minor keys of Peregrine, we’d have this track. Tons of great guitar work throughout, beautiful production job.

6. “A Sunday Afternoon Epilepsy” – More than Skies. MTS continues their very intriguing campaign to mix lush, autumnal folk landscapes with angular, punk-inspired guitars and creaky vocals. I’m a fan.

7. “Ghostlight” – Alex Tiuniaev. Here’s a cinematic, pensive, romantic instrumental piece led by piano and strings.

8. “Opus No. 21” – The Greatest Hoax. Ambient classical? Dreamy no-guitars post-rock? Wistful dreamweave pop? Whatever this is, it’s pretty, moving, and sets a scene well.

Dat News: August 2014

August 5, 2014

Here’s some news of the world.


The Music Collaborative
is an extended group of friends centered around one woman (who also runs Sushi and Queso Designs). The idea is simple: e-mail all her friends and family each week for what they are listening to, then make a playlist out of it and put it on Spotify. You can access the playlists from Facebook or Spotify itself. The list is extremely diverse, with showtunes, rap, indie-rock, top 40, and classic rock all getting rep. Fun times! If you want to contribute to the mix, you can post on the Facebook wall. If you want to know what I’m listening to each week outside of stuff I cover, here’s a good way to find out. (Not a big secret, though: It’s mostly Mountain Goats songs.)

The Lightning Magazine proposes to be a quarterly counterculture magazine (printed on real paper, because who does that anymore?) that has a 20-album series associated with it. That’s a ton of music. Most notably for IC readers, old-school IC faves Pontiak are in on the thing. Here are some other people involved, listed as they styled the names:
SHINJI MASUKO (DMBQ/BOREDOMS) / CY DUNE / WOODEN WAND / PEOPLE OF THE NORTH / SAM AMIDON / CHRIS FORSYTH / WILLIAM TYLER / GREG SAUNIER (DEERHOOF) / AMERICAN CULTURE (and a bunch more). Finally, here’s a short video and description of it in their own words.

IC faves Soundsupply have teamed up with IC faves Deep Elm (as well as The Militia Group) to put out a drop that includes unsung emo heroes Brandtson’s full discography. Seriously, Brandtson and The Appleseed Cast pretty much were Deep Elm to me for a long time. You owe it to your emo-revival-loving self to check out Brandtson if you haven’t. 10 albums! 15 bucks! Totally!

Finally, I have been tapped to join the board of directors for North Carolina non-profit record label Croquet Records. This is really exciting to me, because who doesn’t want to be on a board of directors? Just kidding. I’m really pleased that I’ll be able to work with North Carolina-based singer/songwriters through this record label. (And I’ll make sure to publish any conflict of interest statements that are necessary.) The label will spring into action in 2015, so get ready for that.

Mid-year, pt 3

June 28, 2014

Mid-year pt 3: Post-rock, etc.

1. “Grey Lion” – Cleanup. Remember when The Appleseed Cast was putting out astonishing post-rock records like Mare Vitalis? Cleanup is the heir to that major-key, vocal-friendly, guitar-centric, totally mind-bending post-rock throne. Cleanup is going to go far, y’all.

2. “Blowhole of Sorrow, Lend Me Your Ears; Drink From These Eyes These Salt​-​Tasting Tears” – The Speed of Sound in Seawater. Math-rock doesn’t just have the best names for everything, they are currently lapping the last place contenders by making things that would sound terrible in others’ hands totally awesome. Also, this is some wicked great math-rock, y’all.

3. “Sable” – Blood Party. Intense bass riffage, pounding drum attack, creepy atmosphere. This is heavy, heady instrumental rock.

4. “Shifting Sand Land” – Kraj. Instrumental post-rock free association: It kind of reminds me of a time traveler going back to the past and finding it pretty chill in the Mesozoic era.

5. “Thunder” – Liminal Digs. Free association: You’re sneaking through a town at dusk, looking for something that has eluded your grasp for years. You know it’s there, so the tension is both building and falling: so near, yet so far.

In Honor of Deep Elm: A List.

March 21, 2014

Deep Elm Records, whose mail I have been getting since Independent Clauses first started in 2003, has done something entirely unprecedented with its 200+ releases: made them all pay-what-you-want. All of them. This is simply mind-boggling. 200 releases spanning almost 20 years? It’s a treasure trove of everything from raging hardcore to emo to post-rock to post-punk to dance-rock to garage-rock to indie-pop to folk-pop. If it has a guitar in it, Deep Elm has probably put it out. In honor of their 200th, as well as their generosity, here’s a list of my Top Ten Favorite Deep Elm Releases.

Good Job, Deep Elm

Honorable Mentions: She Bears’ I Found Myself Asleep, The Lions Rampant’s It’s Fun to Do Bad Things

10. So Close to Life – Moonlit Sailor. “Hope” is one of my favorite songs of all time, although not my favorite Deep Elm song (that one comes later). A great post-rock album.

9. This is Indie Rock, Vol. 2. The second compilation that I deeply loved from Deep Elm, and they do have a ton of them to keep up with. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Deep Elm–they go all out for their artists, and that makes them one of the best in the business.

8. Sunshine in a Shot Glass – 500 Miles to Memphis. This album literally does everything I want a country-punk album to do. It could be a blueprint.

7. Why Aren’t I Home? – Athletics. I used to run to this album at a really low point in my life. The dramatic tensions between beautiful and crushing, artsy and muscly, longing and being… This was a wonderful soundtrack to those days.

6. We’ve Been Here Forever – Merkabah. Churning, roiling emo-rock: a blast from their early ’00s past displaced into the early ’10s. This album will have your fists in the air and your throat hoarse.

5. If Arsenic Fails … Try Algebra – Pop Unknown. One of the first Deep Elm releases I bought, this emo-rock gem has some strikingly beautiful songs on it.

4. Nuet – Dorena. Deep Elm has gone on a serious post-rock bender as of late. Although Lights and Motion is deservedly soaking up tons of press, Dorena’s latest album just blows my mind.

3. There Should Be More Dancing – Free Diamonds. Way on the other end of the spectrum, this spazzy dance-rock masterpiece has some of the most impressively frantic (yet hooky!) bass lines I have ever heard.

2. Mare Vitalis – The Appleseed Cast. Not entirely because it contains the literally perfect song “Fishing the Sky,” but seriously. An art-rock epic capped off by what is, for my money, the best song Deep Elm has released.

1. Deep Elm: Too Young to Die – Various. The one that started it all for me; I’ve listened to this comp backwards and forwards more times than I can remember. Absolute gold.

Swan Songs by Lakefield: Canadian Shakers for Specific Ears

February 10, 2014

lakefield-swan-songs-advance

Independent Clauses (IC): Who are your major influences (musicians to your music and movie or TV stars to your look and painters to the way your apartment looks)?

Steven Luscher of Lakefield (SL): We think we’re pretty transparent with respect to our influences. Kate and I are big fans of Mates of State, and we place our guy/girl harmonies front and centre accordingly. Another guy/girl duo we love is Stars’ Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell; we love the way they weave stories in their back-and-forth way, atop epic cinematic arrangements. Lakefield’s visual aesthetic is mostly my doing. I’m a fan of capital-M: modernism, minimalism, and high-concept design, which should be evident when looking at things like the brand system on all of our albums, posters, and press materials, or our “Awkward Turtle” and “Camping With Bears” photoshoots. It’s less punk rawk and more Dwell magazine.

IC: Does Vancouver have a lot to do with your lyrics?

SL: For most of us, having moved to Vancouver counts as a pretty significant life-event. This city means so much to me; I’m sure that no matter what I write a song about, something about this place, or an experience that I had here will sneak its way in.

IC: Do past relationships have a lot to do with your lyrics?

SL: It seems that way, doesn’t it? You know, I’ve heard people refer to our debut album Sounds From The Treeline as a breakup album. I would tend to agree, though even I can’t tell you who’s being broken up with; those secrets will die with Kate.

IC (aside): Well, Blood on the Tracks….

IC: Who’s your go to for fiction/or creative writing? Authors, TV writers, loudmouths, comedians?

SL: I’m about to read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, a book about living in a modern surveillance state (so, you know, real life). Have you seen the bit where Russell Brand roasts MSNBC’s anchors for being an embarrassment to journalism? It’s poetic. And of course, all of us go nuts for Louis CK.

I’ve never seen anything Russell Brand has ever done. Louis CK is the bread, butter, plate, and table… yes.

IC: Does having a major influence (I saw this on Facebook and they happen to be one of my favorite bands ever) like Mineral leave you feeling a bit pigeonholed as maybe a leftover emo-era-sounding (this is not a critique or a criticism. This was very much so MY big coming of age genre: the late 90’s emo-indie bands) and expound, please. Or, have you never felt this way at all or heard this before?

SL: Recently, in conversation with a well-respected Vancouver area producer, I had a small epiphany. He warned me that I’ve been writing music for a very narrow audience of people like me: musicians. Most people who listen to music are, generally speaking, not musicians. They don’t hear music the way a musician does – thankfully, some might say. Where I might perceive a reference, a mistake, or a cliché, most might hear a summer’s day, a first kiss, or nothing at all. Puzzled though I am at the fact that bands like Mineral, Battles, Cornelius, The Appleseed Cast, and American Football aren’t massive commercial success stories, maybe it’s because they just don’t resonate with the masses like they do with me. I accept that as a criticism of Lakefield; though we’re undoubtedly more pop than emo, in some small way I’ve been writing music that my 19-year-old musician-self would love. And let me tell you, there aren’t enough of my 19-year-old self left to turn Lakefield into an international success story today.

IC: Also, I think the vocals in Lakefield sound akin to and maybe are written to sound very much in the JeJune and Rainer Maria vein. Again… just what I’m hearing (not necessarily even going to make it into my review).

SL: I flew from Vancouver to New York City to see Rainer Maria’s farewell show at the Bowery Ballroom. When I was 17 years old, my band opened for Rainer Maria at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto – Caithlin said that she loved my band. I saw Rainer Maria’s very first show in Vancouver. If you hear Rainer Maria in Lakefield, it’s because they’re in my blood.

I have some funny stories about running into Rainer Maria a bunch in my past, too. I’ll save them for another time, though.

IC: Are you all married or single or happily involved? If not, do you meet a lot of hotties because you make music… or because you’re at bars more than an average person (performing)… or after performing (after a sweaty rave-up or after an awkward stage to front two rows too-long eye contact)?

SL: The band elected Bryan to be the official Lakefield hottie. Whenever there were Hott™ duties to perform, we could count on Bryan to come through.

IC: Who’s the most famous musician you’ve ever met? Is there a story there?

SL: I’ve been backstage / around back with Sufjan Stevens, Sarah Slean, Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria), and Hayden. The entire Appleseed Cast stayed at my house once, on their way through Vancouver. I won’t name the musician, but once an industry friend of mine took me backstage to meet someone famous (well… Canada-famous anyway). The musician thought we had met before – I have this face that everyone thinks they’ve seen somewhere – and I replied, without hesitation: “not in real life.” My industry friend doesn’t talk to me anymore.

I bet it was Anne Murray. In fact, I KNOW it was.

IC: Why did you start writing songs? The catalyst?

SL: I remember watching Daniel Johns from Silverchair play on Saturday Night Live when I was a kid. My face was 3 centimeters from the screen, and I was soaking it up. Here was a young band, playing three-chord ditties to a massive audience, and I remember thinking: “I can do that.”

IC: I remember seeing Jawbox on 120 Minutes on MTV, and being like… what you just said, but more chords, and all jangly and shouty. I wanted to shout.

In my humble opinion, this conversation IS the review of Lakefield’s new album Swan Songs. Here are a few blurbable blurbs about it. The lead track, “Good Guy,” grabs the listener so tightly. You can’t touch Kate’s voice on this song. She’s “sorry for this heartache, but it’s all for you.” This reviewer’s favorite track is “Your Conviction Is So Sweet.”  “Don’t give up before the end of this song;” if one did, they’d miss a powerful denouement. The guitars light up, and the keys and drums kick like a corrected toddler…like the last few beats of a heart once in love. Lakefield is a really focused band with great songs and, most importantly, great vocals. They tug at one’s heartstrings a lot, so get ready for that. Hear their new album, Swan Songs, when it comes out. There’s a count-down clock on their website. Exciting!–Gary Lee Barrett

The Severely Departed / Shiloh / Zack Walther and the Awe Hells

October 11, 2013

severelydeparted

The Severely Departed is a post-rock duo that does a very good job of not sounding like a duo. This isn’t to say that they pack their tunes with instruments to hide the fact that it’s two guys; it’s that the elements they incorporate sound full and natural. The songs on Two build and fall in exciting and interesting ways, playing off tensions between the performers. Many duos can become the back line supporting the front line, but The Severely Departed encourages the drums to play an equal role in the tunes. Whether this is by setting a near-constant cymbal backdrop for “Moving On” or by supplying solid contrast to the guitar antics in “A Parting Glance,” Ben Crowley’s drum parts shine. In parts of “Relapse,” Crowley’s complex parts are the whole action, as Chris Grimm repeats a distant guitar riff and lets Crowley roll. It reminds me of the acrobatic, heavily rhythmic drumming of Josh Baruth on The Appleseed Cast’s Mare Vitalis.

Grimm has his own highlights, as the guitar and keys bounce back and forth between beautiful clean melodies (a la Moonlit Sailor) and heavier riffs. The tensions between these two styles are played up in “Relapse,” making it the most intriguing tune of the bunch. But each of the five tracks here have their own merits: the layered piano and guitars of “Beneath the Years” allow for one of the more complex arrangements of the bunch, while “Into the Open” displays great use of tension. Two is an impressive release for the Severely Departed, and I hope it gets them a lot more recognition in the post-rock world.

shiloh

Chicago’s Shiloh refers to itself as scum pop. It’s nowhere near as scuzzy as SanFran garage rock, but it does mash up indie-rock, indie-pop, and alt-country in a lyrically and musically irreverent way. There’s plenty of glee to be had throughout the 10-song Mrs.: the excellent a capella chorale of “Perfecting the Art” gets pummeled by one of the loudest rock sections on the album; opener “Midwestern Sigh” recalls Pavement and the like in their giddy disregard for vocal and songwriting conventions; “Winking Buick” is some sort of alt-country/indie/surf-rock instrumental jam sesh. The core of almost every tune is recognizably alt-country, but the tunes sprawl out over a wide spectrum from there. For instance, closer “Perfecting the Art” crams a mellow pop song, a saloon-style breakdown, and the aforementioned a capella/rock breakdown into 3:54 (all while still retaining an irresistible melody). If you’re into varied, genre-bending songwriting, Shiloh is a good bet to pique your interest.

zackwaltherandtheawehells

Zack Walther and the Awe Hells play a mash-up of rock, folk, and Southern rock that calls up comparisons to Needtobreathe pretty quickly. Walther has a resonant, powerful voice that plays on top of twangy banjo (“Heartstrings”), foot-stomping swamp rock that incorporates a manic gospel tint (“Mustang Wine”), and mid-tempo rock (“Stand Up”) with equal ease. His baritone provides a lot of the direction, but the band provides swagger to match. The bass work is especially notable, as the low-end contributes a great deal to the feel of tunes like “Stand Up” and “Here With You.” If you wish that Zac Brown Band was a bit more muscly, or that Needtobreathe get a little bit too Muse-y at times, then Zack Walther and the Awe Hells’ 15:51 EP will be in your corner.

Gray Young's maturity creates a gorgeous post-rock/folk album

September 8, 2011

The genres of folk and post-rock are bursting at the seams with new acts. It was only a matter of time before someone combined the two. Gray Young is the first band I’ve heard that treats both post-rock and folk with individual dignity, creating the incredible Staysail as a result.

The band doesn’t mash folk and post-rock together: this isn’t folktronica. Instead, they tie the disparate sounds together by a distinct mood that runs through each of the 11 tracks. Whether rocking out in a frantic manner (“Inside/Outside”), penning reflective post-rock (“The Dawning Low”) or strumming an acoustic guitar in a very Deja Entendu sort of way (“Unbound”), the band maintains a deeply affected atmosphere. The songs, while not expressly heavy in lyric or composition, maintain a mournful intensity in the background. You can tell they mean this.

That maturity sets Gray Young apart. They’re over post-rock as a statement, and they’re past folk for the earthiness of it. The band is creating art in the best way it knows how, and that requires banjo pluck on “Unbound” and Appleseed Cast-invoking riffs on the standout “Vermilion.” There are some tricks here and there: “Picture (Meridian)” is followed by “Meridian (Picture),” while “Seven:Fourteen” is a bit of a kitschy title. But for the most part, the band is not amazed at their own genre(s). They just write music.

The band does have a vocalist, but most of the time vocals are another instrument, much in the same way Appleseed Cast uses them. When his vocals become to close to the forefront they distract, but he fits in perfectly to tunes like “Cycles” and the first half of “Meridian (Picture).” Still, I could stand to hear less vocals due to their incredible instrumental talents.

Some may take offense that I put folk on par with post-rock in my description, even though just three songs here are led by acoustic guitar (and only two prominently feature banjo). Sure, this isn’t Mumford and Sons with a shoegaze guitarist. But the understanding of the melodic and structural requirements of folk underlie many songs on this album: the rhythm of the banjo on “Prescience” is slightly altered and transposed to electric guitar as the song turns into “Vermilion.” It’s an electrifying transition that shows Gray Young is in complete control of two genres, making them connect as the band decides is best. And, incredibly, the transition out to “Picture (Meridian)” is handled just as deftly.

I’ve heard several great post-rock albums this year, and Staysail is up there with the very best of them (Colin Stetson, Final Days Society). It’s an easy contender for the top ten list, because it’s just so expertly written. There’s not a moment here that gets away from the band. That complete control of mood and composition makes this the excellent album it is. Long live Gray Young.

Restorations gets it

August 18, 2011

I love the emotive power of music. I listen to music so I can be transported out of this time and space. I go to shows to hear someone else play my heart. If it doesn’t have life running in and out of it, I’m in and out of there.

That’s part of the reason I grew out of pop-punk; I lost my connection to its heart. I still find a punk band every now and then that gets it, and I love it. Restorations, however, is a totally different animal. These guys sound like they have the same story as me: loved that punk, grew out of the four-on-the-floor charge, and started relating differently to everything. Not less passionately, but differently. Lots of people quit music at this point in their lives. Restorations didn’t, and I’m super-excited that, instead, this is where their story starts.

The band can really crank it out – be assured of that. This is a rock band. But this is the type of rock band that builds to earns your trust. Opener “Nonlocality” doesn’t blow the hinges off the door: they ease in before kicking the door down with “West River.”

The rolling snare and harmonies of “Nonlocality” make it clear that these guys have the patience and maturity to realize that the shiver-inducing first vocal entry is worth the effort. When the bass-end-heavy guitar comes swooping in 3/4ths of the way through, I wanted it there. It was a cathartic moment.

The rest of the songs have similar traits. The gruff vocals and punk energy of “Neighborhood Song” fit because the band has earned my trust. I want to know why they feel like the charging guitars are necessary (and they do reveal it). “Broken Vacuum” has a latent energy about it that makes it a joy to drive to. I can’t even explain to you how powerful “When You’re Older” is. Just go hear it.

Restorations’ self-titled album has a mature power that leaves an impact. Their restraint makes a bigger bang than other “louder” bands, because they’ve set up the big moments better than straightforward ragers. It’s like if old-school Arcade Fire had a heavy guitarist, or if Appleseed Cast let things loose a bit. It’s an incredible album, and it just keeps growing on me.

This is the sort of band that sings people’s lives. There is life after age 23, and Restorations plays it.

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

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