Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

All of Dignan impresses at The Opolis

November 18, 2009

South Texas band Dignan may have arrived on the stage quietly, and there was no pomp and circumstance as the five members of Dignan unpretentiously and unassumingly began their set. But that certainly didn’t last long, as the band launched into their thumping, pounding live show at the Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma. Their strong, big sound and masterly cohesive performance seemed all the more impressive given their humble attitudes.

Each band member had something special to offer to the show. Lead singer and guitarist Andy Pena sounded like he was putting his whole heart and soul into his vocals. Between the powerful and often dark songs, Pena would utter a soft, “Thank you. Thanks for listening,” before again giving it all he had.

Balancing harmonies were provided by keyboardist Heidi Plueger and David Palomo, who played accordion, glockenspiel, trumpet, or other instruments as needed. Plueger’s melodies on the keyboard fit perfectly with the group’s sound by softening the timbre a bit (but not too much), and Palomo’s diverse array of instrumentation always added a slight kick, punch, or accent that shook things up. At one point when the glockenspiel threatened to escape from its stand, nearly tipping over, Palomo didn’t miss a beat and continued to provide harmonies. (Luckily someone in the front helped him out.)

Bassist Devin Garcia was responsible for a lot of what made the songs sound so full, driving, and forceful. While Dignan’s drummer was unable to be present at this show, his substitute Bryan Yeager seemed very natural in the role. Yeager proved that you don’t need a big, fancy drum set to do big and fancy things. Even with his sparse setup, Brian showed himself to be a creative and innovative musician. He was quite able to do more with less.

Also impressive about many of the songs performed was their organic and logical progression to a climax. The Opolis crowd appreciated it every time. Dignan played many songs from their recent release Cheaters & Thieves, but one particular highlight was definitely the energetic “Two Steps.” Check out this song and others on their myspace, where the album is also now available. Dignan will continue their current tour with several shows in Texas, concluding in a show with Cursive in their hometown McAllen, Texas.

Fresh-thinking South Texas band to play in Norman

November 10, 2009

Dignan brings a different meaning to the “indie” tag. Being an independent band means a lot more when you’re coming from the very deep south of Texas. Four of the five members of Dignan hail from just barely north of the border, in McAllen, Texas.

“A lot of times people are surprised that anything is coming from South Texas,” said bass player Devin Garcia.

But despite the immediate idea that this would hinder a group’s success, Garcia believes coming from such an isolated and removed area has had a positive effect. Continue readingFresh-thinking South Texas band to play in Norman…

Citizen 5's Circles: Super Globalized Yet Super Indie

April 26, 2009

Citizen 5, out of Norman, OK, is a band of many roots, musically and geographically. Musically, they range from pop country of the lead singer Jimmilea Manley to the Latin influences of keyboardist Ricardo Sasaki to the heavy rock of guitarist Scott Sunderman to the indie influences of bassist Jason Long.

They come from many places, from Bolivia to Mexico to just local homegrown Oklahomans. Citizen 5 is unique in that they are a globalized band, which ties into their name, connected with the fact that they are five citizens of the world. This is where they are talented, and even the title of the album plays on the interconnection of everyone.

Definitely Citizen 5’s melding of genres and styles helps make them unique an indie market where being unique is a prerequisite for success. The intro and outro, for example, are Latin-influenced,with a talented trumpeter from the premier mariachi band in Oklahoma playing a Latin dirge. New wave influences can be heard in much of the music, notably in “Make it Real,” where singer Jimmilea Manley’s strong and soaring vocals add a womanly, southern twang, strangely complimenting the indie and psychedelic influences already at play. Add to that their retro eighties-like chord progressions, you’d think these guys would be going overboard. But the band manages to make solid pop songs that tie all these influences together without really jumping off the experimental cliff.

I had the chance to sit down keyboardist and producer Ricardo Sasaki, who said Citizen 5 has been influenced by acts ranging from Led Zeppelin to David Bowie to Oklahoma’s greatest recent psychedelic success story, the Flaming Lips. Produced by very indie label Ares Recording (which has only been in business for about three weeks), right next door to a Starlight Mints-owned Opolis, a live act club, Citizen 5 definitely has the indie cred to make a footprint on the music world outside the local scene.

But more important than the connections that Sasaki has from his eighteen years of producing and world tromping is just the talent I heard when listening to Circles. Sometimes its buried, but I can still hear it – this is a band that has yet to realize its potential. Things I was impressed with include the way the band manages to craft very familiar lyrics and chord progressions without sounding cliché. Perhaps the influence of all the aforementioned backgrounds of the members of Citizen 5 keep things fresh, like a mango from South America or a homegrown tomato from an Oklahoma backyard.

Sasaki himself said that their next LP, currently untitled and due for release in a few months, is better than the first. I am eagerly awaiting that release, hoping that in it that the band’s voice rings stronger than the first. If I had to guess, I would say the band’s voice can be found from the melding of their different backgrounds, musical and geographical. I think that if they just somehow amplified all these influences and dared to experiment a little more, they could be scary good.

But for what it’s worth, I recommend Citizen 5 and Circles heartily. It’s a fun indie/retro listen.

The Boxing Lesson takes rock to space

February 19, 2009

The Boxing Lesson claims to be from Austin, Texas (and I guess I believe them), but they sound like they’re from outer space. The group’s latest album, Wild Streaks & Windy Days, establishes a psychedelic, dreamy sound that remains consistent throughout.

The opening track of the album is titled “Dark Side of the Moog” – a funny name for an otherwise serious song. Paul Waclawsky’s guitar riff is head-bangable, and Jaylinn Davidson’s moog playing gives the song its otherworldly feel. The driving beat (provided by Jake Mitchell) adds a heavier rock flavor that makes this song a strong opener. Surely, there must be aliens somewhere out there, doing drugs or dancing (or both) to “Dark Side of the Moog.”

“Hopscotch & Sodapop” has the biggest pop influence on Wild Streaks & Windy Days, which is unsurprising when taking the song title into account, and therefore stands out compared to the rest of the album. It doesn’t differ too much, however, because the guitar and synthesizers keep the mood psychedelic. There is also a breakdown moment in the middle, where the fast tempo slows down a bit; this sounds more like the rest of Wild Steaks & Windy Days.

“Hanging with the Wrong Crowd” and “Dance with Meow” both have an electronica/dance feel, but, again, they still fit nicely with the other songs on the album. Probably the strongest aspect of this release from The Boxing Lesson is their ability to blend several different styles with their own predominant genre of space-rock. As a result, the album has enough diversity to be interesting, but is also very cohesive.

Waclawsky’s vocals really shine in “Wild Streaks & Windy Days,” the last track. Its slow tempo gives him a chance to show off his clear, high voice, and it also makes this song sound a little like Sigur Rós. Overall, this album is recommended for Pink Floyd fans, or for astronaut-wannabes. The Boxing Lesson is currently on tour, and is coming at The Opolis next week, for all you Normanites.

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

Recent Posts

Categories

Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Archives