Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music


December 10, 2012

Three releases on my slate all include the word “giants,” so I thought I’d put them together in a post.

I relish the folk-punk/acoustic-punk releases that come my way (e.g., Attica! Attica!, The Wild, Destroy Nate Allen!), so the great folk/punk of Among GiantsTruth Hurts caused great excitement when it crossed my proverbial desk. Singer/songwriter Greg Hughes’ rapidfire vocal delivery is the predominant characteristic here, as what Hughes lacks in traditional vocal tone he makes up for in melodic and lyrical enthusiasm. Standout tracks “A Letter,” “Cross Your Heart” and “Get Your Shit Straight” all rely on fast tempos, sing-along melodies and distinctive chop strumming for their power. Most of the tunes are upbeat musically, but the lyrics contrast the optimistic sound.

Truth Hurts reads like a series of journal entries looking back at a self-destructive time in the narrator’s life. (“Living in a drug isn’t as fun as it seems,” Hughes memorably notes.) Other tracks plead with friends to get their shit together, acknowledge that the narrator will fail miserably in the future, and ruminate on loneliness and insomnia. Even through all of this, there’s a consistently hopeful outlook running through the album that makes Truth Hurts a raw but not dreary listen. I’ve fallen in love with Among Giants, and fans of acoustic punk should as well.

Ivy Mike‘s Giants does have some acoustic-based tracks on it, but it’s predominantly a riff-heavy rock affair. Any album that opens with a squall of dissonant distortion before dropping into a Queens of the Stone Age-esque guitar riff is not messing around. Just to make sure you know what this band is about, this power trio (!) put a picture of a Godzilla-esque monster on the album cover. They’re here to rock, and rock, and rock some more.

They live up to the billing, as they can build thunderous walls of sound while still retaining melody. “Some Kind of Way” has a Strokes-ian attitude, while the strutting guitar riff of “Monster” has all kinds of swagger. Still, they’re not a one trick pony: the middle of the album gives way to a surprisingly tense and nuanced section. The tense “Lowly Eyes” and “Light Years” show some tasteful restraint, while “Sweet Lipped Woman” is an remorseful acoustic tune at the heart of the album. They swing back to the rock in the final act with the stomping tunes “Smoke and Mirrors” and “Just Like Daughter,” before closing out the album with a gorgeous acoustic tune “Oh, Desire.”

For an album that starts off in total rock mode, Ivy Mike’s Giants offers surprising diversity in mood and incredibly strong songwriting throughout. Highly recommended for fans of rock.

It’s not just acoustic punk I love. I also have a space in my heart for good ‘ol pop-punk. Ma Jolie‘s …Compared to Giants is a great big slice of blue-collar pop-punk, shying away from nasally vocals in favor of gruff melodies and yelling (a la IC faves The Menzingers). Ma Jolie’s frantic tunes don’t make quite as big a point to make the lyrics clearly heard as the Menzingers do, but their breakneck tempos and thrilling melodies more than make up for that. The best tunes are in major keys, as the minor key tunes (“Size 10, Nikes,” “Era and the Metric System”) don’t feel as fun or engaging as happier standouts “88 MPH,” “How Far is 5k,” and “Charades.” If you’re down for some shout-it-out pop-punk that’s a bit more mature in delivery and song structure, go for …Compared to Giants.

The Wild's folk/punk hits on all cylinders

December 19, 2011

The Wild‘s A Collection espouses a consistent lifestyle to go along with their well-developed aesthetic. The band’s poignant, well-written lyrics are almost exclusively about community, friendships, relationships, social change, anti-materialism, anti-authoritarianism and self-determination. It’s more American than America right now, if we’re being honest; it’s also a profound declaration of solidarity with historical and modern populist mentality. The lyrical clarity is one of the most attractive elements of the album.

The dual vocalists deliver in clear, unaffected timbre: both Witt (tenor) and Dianna (alto) sing in comfortable ranges that add yet another easily accessible element to the sound. They sing over folk/punk that splits evenly over the folk and punk influences: there’s the charge and rattle of pop-punk, as well as the vocal-centric arrangements and melody focus of folk. This creates an infectious blend that incorporates the best of both worlds. “Let Me Sing You a Song” and “Mudlines” will stick in your head and loosen your feet. Thrashing your voice by yelling along at the top of your lungs is totally bonus.

The release, a collection of EPs and some live tracks, is incredibly consistent. The high points are high, and the low points are, well, high. There’s not a song that goes clunk, and that’s exciting. If you’re into folk/punk, you’ll love A Collection; if you’re not, this might be the band that gives you an exception to the rule (or even converts you). Here’s to The Wild.

Split: The Wild / Run, Forever

October 11, 2011

Bright Eyes is not a punk band and never will be. However, if Conor Oberst had made his name playing punk, he may have sounded like either Run, Forever or The Wild. The two bands got together on a split 7″, and it’s a two-punch knockout.

The Wild’s contribution is a harmonica-laced, rattling punk tune complete with Oberst-esque raging vocals. You know, when he gets really amped up, like on that killer moment in “Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)” — you know the one. “Street Names” is that kind of moment, the whole way through.

Run, Forever’s “Silver Screens” sounds like what would have happened if “Another Traveling Song” were way louder and faster. Instead of the desperate Oberst vocals, these are the sung/spoke, didactic version. The vocal rhythms and songwriting moves are very similar to both Bright Eyes and Titus Andronicus, so that’s good for everyone involved.

Both these songs are incredibly entertaining. If you’re interested in vaguely country-esque punk, this one is worth your time. And you’ll be able to decide how much it means to you, as If You Make It is hosting the release as a pay-what-you-want download. Awesome!

*Postscript 8/15/2012: As was pointed out in the comments, I forgot that Conor Oberst was/is in rock/punk band Desaparecidos. And it does sound kind of like these two bands!

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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