Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Kings and an Untruth

March 21, 2009

It took me a little longer than usual to write this review. I downloaded the Lie To Me EP by Kingsbury, unzipped it, and added the album to my music library. Once it started playing, I threw it on repeat. I do this because first, I want to listen to an album as much as I can before passing judgment, and second, I like to take notes while I’m listening.  Hearing each song multiple times lets me be pretty thorough in that regard. After that, well, suddenly it was three hours later. I’d totally gotten lost in the music, and managed to listen to the album seven times straight through without writing a single word.

There’s a pretty good reason for this. Kingsbury is dark indie rock. It’s somber and chock-full of emotion. The instrumentals are simple, mostly relying on piano and guitar, along with some synth and percussion. Vocals are soft and melancholy, with appropriate lyrics to back that up. Any one song won’t blow your mind, but as a whole, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Lie To Me opens with “Ocarina Mountaintop,” a post-rock, instrumental piece that sets the mood quite nicely. It grows somewhat over the course of the song, taking on a sound that’s something like This Will Destroy You, but without ever really hitting a loud or defining moment. The album then flows seamlessly into “Back in the Orange Grove,” building on the previous number with vocals that intone, “I’ll never go / back in the orange grove.” I love frontman Bruce Reed’s voice; he conveys quite a bit without using a ton of range or volume. Kingsbury defines itself with slow, rolling music that has body and depth to it.

The album continues with “As I See It” and “Lie To Me,” both of which hold their value in their lyrics. Stuff like “Everything has got to be just like I want it / Everything has got to be as I see it /  Everybody in the world has to care” from the former and, “The deeper we go, the higher we are / No one can say if you take this too far” from the latter are priceless, if only because the real meaning of each song lies in what goes unsaid. The music itself just serves to emphasize and reinforce the emotional impact of the words. “Lie To Me” feels like the darkest song on the album, though it does so quietly, instead of getting all death and destruction and mayhem on you.

All the parts here work well together and contribute to the overall tone. The songs are long, but it works for them. This is one of those albums that’s a continuous experience; each song seems to melt into the next. I want to describe the sound as haunting, but that’s cliché, and I use it too much to describe music. Maybe regretful or remorseful is better.

This album is strong, but it’s because of Kingsbury’s restraint, not because of loud guitar riffs or bombastic lyrics. The moderately repetitive instrumental and vocal parts are what bring home the emotional impact of the EP. For this I say well done, Kingsbury. They created an album that I’ve really enjoyed, and they’ve earned my respect as artists. If you want to hear the Lie To Me EP, it’s available online as a free download at http://www.kingsburymusic.net/audio/released_mp3s/lie_to_me.zip

Get Your Head around Muttonhead

March 15, 2009

muttonheadMuttonhead by Constant Velocity is a little difficult to describe, mostly because their style varies from song to song. Part post-rock, part lo-fi, with bits of punk and general alt-rock thrown in, these guys have created a sound that is immediately likeable, yet hard to put your finger on. It’s like The Mountain Goats decided to make babies with mewithoutYou, then asked Massive Attack to be the godfather for the offspring. Anyway, Muttonhead grabs you as soon as you start listening, and doesn’t let go. I’m currently on my fifth straight-through playback of the album, and it’s still interesting and fresh.

I feel as though I can’t even go into discussing individual songs without talking about their sound a bit more. The recordings of the songs on the album aren’t perfect – far from it, in fact. Every so often, you hear something that sounds like it might have been a small mistake, the vocalist’s voice wavers a bit, or something along those lines. That’s part of the charm of this album – it isn’t a glossy, airbrushed album full of studio-adjusted separate tracking for each instrument and extra little effects that can only be done with computer software. This stuff is as real as it gets, and I’m guessing Constant Velocity sounds almost exactly like this in concert, which is pretty wicked considering how good it already is.

Muttonhead opens with “From the McLean Co. Lockup,” a gorgeous bit of rock that evoked my comparison to The Mountain Goats. The song is simplistic in its composition, yet manages to come off as epic in scope as something from Explosions In The Sky or This Will Destroy You. The lyrics are great, with stuff like, “Allow me to pontificate / Whilst I inebriate my liver and kidneys and brain” being the rule and not the exception. This song alternates from soft and thoughtful to loud and bombastic, then back again.

“Kelly” presents an entirely different flavor. It opens with something of a western twang, a musical irony when compared with the lyrics “Kelly don’t like country / Kelly like the city / Kelly I’d like to show her / I’d like to show her I’m not a failure / Kelly, come back to my trailer / Please.” It’s hilarious, frankly. You just don’t see lyrics like that very often. When combined with a raucous, rolling tempo and borderline-country music flavor, the song becomes absolutely irresistible.

Later on in the album, the band delivers a little punk with the song “Truculent.” It’s heavier on the bass, with a really fun sound, a little like Primus blended with the afore-mentioned mewithoutYou. The lyrics open with “Nice truck, asshole.” It’s literary genius, if you ask me. Instead of singing the stuff, the vocalist delivers his message rapid-fire in a style that’s borderline spoken word. This stuff rocks, really. “Truculent” is witty and relentless, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Constant Velocity’s other songs continued to throw me for a loop, each one a little different from the rest, yet with an overarching sound that is undeniably their own. “Time” is pulsating and reminiscent of Massive Attack (they perform the intro song on House, if that helps). “Lucky Double Nines” reminded me of Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia.” Perhaps appropriately after so much great music, “In Memoriam” closes out the album with the lyrics, “And you’ve earned it old man / So why don’t you rest.”

This album is long enough to make me love Constant Velocity’s sound, and short enough to leave me drooling for more. Fingers crossed that they crank out more, ASAP.

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

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