Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Fall/Winter MP3 Mix

February 19, 2014

Bunches of MP3s have come my way recently, and I’m happy to share some with you. Come back on Friday for the Spring/Summer mix!


1. “Reno” – Shareef Ali. Anti-folk, acoustic-punk, and country converge on this memorable, attitude-filled breakup tune. (Ali’s CD release show is tonight, if you happen to find yourself in San Francisco.)

2. “Blankets” – Matthew Fowler. Fowler has a smooth, soothing voice that sounds far more mature than his 19 years. Fans of Josh Garrels and Ray LaMontagne should take notice.

3. “The Lampolier” – Grover Anderson. As fall moves toward winter, let’s move from pretty singer/songwriters to the haunting, backwoods Appalachian murder ballad tradition. The production here is particularly notable.

4. “Down to My Soul (The Music)” – Kate Vargas. When a woman says she’s influenced by Tom Waits, that gets my attention. Vargas delivers on that promise with raspy, soulful, inspired folk full of banjo and danger.

5. “Strugglin’” – I Am the Albatross. This one also starts out as a Tom Waits-ian folk ramble, but it transforms into a Gogol Bordello folk/punk/polka blaster complete with vengeful religious imagery. All aboard!

6. “All Walks of Life” – Mike Dillon. I’m used to Mike Dillon’s unclassifiable madness played at 3 zillion BPMs. This unclassifiable madness includes a significantly chiller body before a naturally madcap coda but is no less weird: it still includes vibraphone, trombone, drums, and Dillon’s crazy vocals.

7. “Alta / Waterfall” – Fear of Men. Jangly indie-rock urgency married to the rich, dusky landscapes of Bowerbirds and the like.

8. “Blight ft. FatRat Da Czar” – We Roll Like Madmen. Very smooth, dark, crisp electro here. FatRat Da Czar raps some really nice flow over it, really making this track.

9. “Ruin” – Vedas. The PR for this one calls it a “hollow depletion of hope,” which makes me want to try and cheer them up. Their James Blake-ian electro-pop/R&B/indie/whatever stuff is definitely attractive, though. All is not lost, yo!

10. “Reset” – Maggie McClure. Here’s a cathartic, female-fronted, piano-based pop tune for those who never stopped secretly loving The Fray and The Goo Goo Dolls.

11. “RaVe (feat. Kris English)” – Cloud Seeding. Is it folk? Is it electro? The lines keep getting fuzzier. Either way, this one is a lithe, easy-moving track.

12. “There Was a Time” – Corea Blue. Lo-fi can always get grittier, y’all. Props to this track for creating a zen-like mood and tone while using tape hiss as an instrument.

Video jam, pt 1

September 25, 2012

So I’m a sucker for a big-chorus pop song. Here’s Belmont Lights’ “Halfway,” which throws down piano, strings and whoa-ohs in the vein of The Fray, OneRepublic, et al. Yes, you know who you are. No shame.

“Undertow” is one of the most moving songs on Robert Deeble’s Heart Like Feathers, so I’m glad to see that it earned itself a video.

Hoodie Allen throws down a non-album single called “Feel the Love,” and it’s a throwback to his indie-rock flippin’, name-checkin’ first works. I love it.

Andy Davis successfully appeals to many listeners with piano

January 12, 2010

Andy DavisNew History EP falls neatly into the mature pop genre. Davis’ clear, soulful tenor fits neatly into the constraints of the genre, and his paino-led songwriting does similarly. It’s no knock to the quality of the EP; that’s just the way it is. If you like Mraz, the Fray, John Mayer, even Michael Buble, you’ll love Andy Davis.

Opener “That’s Where My Head Is” provides a twinge of country to the epic sweep of his piano and vocal melodies through harmonica and organ. The song shows that Davis knows how to write songs to best dramatic effect, and that he can make hits if he keeps writing long enough with the right breaks. “New History” is an upbeat version of the same theme, played on a keyboard instead of a true piano. The chorus breaks into an unusual mood, but it’s definitely enjoyable. “Hard to Believe” is a “Fix You”-esque ballad where Davis puts his full emotional scope on display. It’s easily the best overall track on the EP, and it will certainly find placement on future mixtapes.

The most intriguing track of the five-song EP, however, is “Passing Trains.” Davis abandons well-worn chords and sounds to produce a more free-flowing style, creating a distinct mood. The song sticks out on the EP, which is otherwise very standard songs that are easily palatable radio songs (again, not a dig; that’s what it is). The heavily atmospheric mood that’s created through percussion, reverb, unusual instruments and wordless vocals is incredibly interesting and merits repeated listens. I listened to it most out of all the tracks.

Andy Davis’ New History EP is a great collection of songs. For those who love “I’m Yours,” all songs but track two will pique your interest. If you like unusual and progressive songwriting, “Passing Trains” will give you pause. To appeal to such disparate audiences on the same short EP is impressive. If Davis finds a way to meld the two approaches, he will be on to something fantastic.

We Are The City Unleashes Exciting Indie-rock on the World

November 11, 2009

It’s hard to judge objectively something that you are intimately acquainted with. Vocalists have a tough time taking other vocalists seriously, and writers are notoriously hard on other writers. That’s why We Are the City‘s accomplishment with In a Quiet World is so astonishing. They’ve made the piano (something I play on a daily basis) incredibly exciting.

To clarify the staggering worth of this achievement, consider this: you can be the most talented pianist in the world and still not excite me with your work. I can realize it as incredibly talented and enjoyable (i.e. everything in Ben Folds’ canon), even learn to play it. But get truly excited? Rare as snow in San Francisco. Continue readingWe Are The City Unleashes Exciting Indie-rock on the World…

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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