Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The soundtrack to a pretty, terrifying angel

December 2, 2011

Angelus means “Angel” in Latin, but indie-rockers The Angelus apply more to the terrifying, battle-ready archangel idea than the calming, peaceful messenger motif that is common in our culture. I’m not often scared by music, but the pervasive sense of dread and woe that runs through On a Dark & Barren Land creates some profoundly disorienting and distressing moments.

Emil Rapstine, the songwriter behind The Angelus, is a master of mood: using nothing more than harmonized voices, he can conjure up a profound sense of discomfort (“Let Me Be Gone,” “All Is Well,” where nothing sounds well at all). Add in a tasteful restraint on the arrangements of these dark, gritty dirges, and you’ve got an album that will stick with the listener long after the run time. “Turned To Stone” segues a plodding intro into an indie-rock tune anchored by organ, choir bells, and massively overdriven guitar. Just imagining that should bring up thoughts of The Misfits or Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and it is assuredly more of the latter. “Gone Country” sounds like a doom-thousand The National, while the frantic bass work on “Crimson Shadow” lends an urgency to the tune that jars against the slowed-down guitarwork.

I made the mistake of listening to this last night in the dark by myself, and a sense of dread creeped over me as I read my book. If the goal of all music is emotional connection, The Angelus has succeeded mightily. (Even the album art is darkly fascinating, entering into my best of the year list.) Fans of The Black Heart Processional, darkly atmospheric post-rock, or genuinely creepy music would do well to catch up with On a Dark & Barren Land.

Single: Osaka Popstar's "Where's the Cap'n?"

January 30, 2011

“Punk lifer” is an increasingly common phrase, as musicians from the first (’70s), second (’80s) and third waves (’90s) of punk keep putting out the music that they love in bands new and old. Osaka Popstar is composed of lifers Marky Ramone (The Ramones), Jerry Only (The Misfits), Dez Cadena (Black Flag) and relative young’un John Cafiero. Straight-ahead pop-punk, like a more sophisticated Ramones or a less self-absorbed early Green Day, is their bag, and they do it up right. Fans of Cadena’s Black Flag work may be confused, but fans of the other two previous bands will get the sound of on “Where’s the Cap’n?”, which is an ode to Captain Crunch cereal. Punk hasn’t meant anti-capitalist anarchism in a long time, I suppose. Grab the tune, and here’s the vid.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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