Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Isaac Indiana's splits the difference between indie-pop and indie rock

July 9, 2012

Spring’s major releases didn’t impress me much, but today blew my socks off: all-time fave The Mountain Goats, up-and-coming fave The Very Best and long-time love Frightened Rabbit all came across my radar with new album announcements. I’m especially excited for the last one, because Isaac Indiana‘s self-titled EP had me thinking, “Man, I’d like to see these guys play with Frightened Rabbit someday.”

The English indie-rock/indie-pop band calls up Hutchison and Co’s swooning bombast on its more emotive tracks, while presenting a more rollicking pop front when they get happy. Opener “Everything’s Fine” turns the verse’s wiry guitar riff into a huge pop chorus complete with synths, group harmonies and thrashing cymbals. “Speak Up” is an equally fun tune, powered by a jaunty piano line and augmented with perky horns.

Some may find the baritone vocals don’t jive with their idea of a playful indie-pop band, but I like it. Those who are used to low vocals carrying import will find themselves more in tune with “Make Me Laugh,” where the band keeps the pace but turns it in a more serious direction. The piano again plays a big role, providing counterpoint to the vocals. But the highlight is closer “You and I,” where the two approaches come together. There’s an underlying energy to the tune, but the horns and keys keep the tension instead of announcing their arrivals with riffs. The tune has the mood and the melody down, showing the best that Isaac Indiana has to offer.

Isaac Indiana’s self-titled debut shows a band exploring their sound. There’s a lot of room for them to grow inside what they’ve already established, as well as the boundary-pushing that all bands can and should do. I’m looking forward to see what they come up with next.

Happy 7th Birthday to us, pt 1: We are living in charmed times

May 15, 2010

We are living in the best musical times the world has ever known. This point was driven home to me by a band called, incredibly appropriately, The Very Best.

Yesterday at work, I was having a hard time getting going. It was rainy, it was Friday, there was not much work to do. But I had some work to do, so I needed a pick-me-up. I remembered a Facebook (1) post talking about Stereomood (2). The site features static playlists attuned to mood, instead Pandora’s (3) revolving playlists based on musical attributes. I pulled up the “energetic” playlist, which treated me to tunes by bands as disparate as Etta James, Nirvana, Broken Social Scene and House of Pain (“Jump Around” is nothing if not energetic). Third track on the list was the enigmatic “Mfamu” by The Very Best. The indie/techno beats combined with African language and vocal style gripped me. I needed more.

I jumped over to their Myspace (4) and let it roll. The tunes were tight, and I noticed that they were all remixes (5). Because remixes are almost entirely free to download and handle, I jumped over to my favorite rare/unreleased music site.  Hype Machine (6) aggregates hundreds of blogs (7) and puts their downloads and posts in one location. I searched around a bit and found a digital mixtape (8) that they had made at Gorilla Vs. Bear. I listened to a track off the mixtape and was seriously stoked.

I jumped over to Amazon (9) to see if their album was available stateside. The members are from Malawi, Sweden and France, all meeting up in London.  Music knows no international bounds any longer (10). I found out that it had, indeed been released across the pond. I found that I’d also missed the boat by about six months, as The Warm Heart of Africa came out last fall, but that’s alright by me. So, by this time I’d gotten through all my work for the morning (thank you, the Very Best!) and took lunch.

Since my local record store (11) is literally down the street from my workplace, I went down to Guestroom Records and had the clerk order the album for me. It will be there for me Tuesday or Wednesday. Score!

Later I found an interview with the members of the Very Best, and I found out that they self-recorded the album (12). They’re also not on a major label (13), according to their Myspace. Best of all, they seem incredibly down to earth and devoid of any rock star excess (14), seeing as the front man (still? maybe?) runs a second-hand store in London. I also found out that their title track features Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, which is awesome because collabs rock (15) and it’s a guy who wants to be African singing on a track with someone who actually is African.

So, as the guys and gals here at Independent Clauses celebrate our seventh birthday, we’d like to give a shout-out to people with unrelated day jobs who keep it real (16), people with related day jobs that keep it real (17) and people who don’t have jobs and keep it real (18). Major props to the unsigned musicians (19) who keep this place running; without music, we’d be ships without a sea.

With those nineteen reasons anchoring us, we celebrate all the reasons (listed and unlisted) that we’re living in charmed musical times. May you never take it for granted. And if you ever feel inclined to, let me remind you that…

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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