Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Bells and Hunters / Time Travels

May 3, 2013

bellsandhunters

Bells and Hunters wastes no time announcing that they are something different. By 1:25 into the opener (which is also the title track) of Weddings and Funerals, the band has given listeners a spacey intro; a garagey, overdriven guitar riff; rapid-fire ’90s-style female speak-sing; a trumpet line; some accentuated guitar arpeggiation; and a pop-punk- inflected breakdown. This is not what you normally listen to, unless there are some No Doubt B-sides that sound like this in your catalog. This weird-but-cool garage-rock takes an even weirder turn in the next track: “73” is a slow-paced alt-country tune whose only connection to the previous tune is the particular style of guitar picking. (They even bring in a male vocalist halfway through, mixing it up more.) Bells and Hunters are not afraid to experiment.

Those two tunes show good extremes of Bells and Hunters’ sound, as the rest of the album sees the band combining those two sounds liberally. (They do hit the distortion pedal at the end of “73,” but it still sounds like Old 97s-style alt-country instead of garage-rock.) “Bird” starts off with dainty sounds and jaunty rhythms–like an Andrew Bird piece–but incorporates some majorly Weezer-esque guitar stomp by the end of the tune. Highlight track “Mercury” starts off with some ominous guitar picking and tom beating before bringing in a spaghetti western trumpet line, fusing the intensity that they bring with their garage-rock to a quieter arrangement. (Never fear, though: they let the drums go nuts on the cymbals, dirtying up the sound almost as much as the fuzzbox would.) “Planes” is basically a finger-picked folk song blown out by a garage-rock band. It sounds awesome, if a bit foreign to ears unaccustomed to it.

Bells and Hunters’ sound is an exciting and interesting one, exploring spaces between genres. I’ve mentioned Steven Hyden’s dictum about the future of music before (“a future where all music sounds like everything at once“), and it seems that Bells and Hunters are ready for that bold future. This is a creative, inventive, interesting take on two different genres. If you’re up for something unusual, check out Weddings and Funerals.

timetravels

The Old 97s are a touchstone for Time Travels‘ sound as well. Where Bells and Hunters reminded me of Rhett Miller and Co.’s louder bits, Time Travels reminds me of the band’s softer side. Secret EP puts the emotive side of alt-country on display, with opener “It is.” leaning heavily on a remorseful, emotive vocal performance. Frank McGinnis has the soaring tenor pipes for the adult alternative genre, and the sweeping crescendoes of “It is.” do swing toward the Matt Nathanson/Goo Goo Dolls/Ben Rector style. But instead of getting mushy and cloying in their more upbeat stuff (like Matt Nathanson has a tendency to do), Time Travels takes after Ben Rector by sticking to a more upbeat, staccato, rock-influenced style in the title track.

The rest of the five-song EP leans closer to the emotive power-pop of the opener, with admirable vocal turns in “The Eye” and “Wraith” (check that falsetto!). “Wraith” also has some nice bass work, which I particularly like. Time Travels have two very different directions they can head from the Secret EP, so it will be interesting to see if they veer off on a path or keeping splitting the distance. Until further information is available, I’ll enjoy the upbeat “Secret” and lullaby-esque “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?”

Alt Your Country Are Belong to Us

February 25, 2013

February-April is Spring release season, and there’s always more than I can cover as a single man. However, I can mitigate this partially through mixtapes! Today I’ve got a folk/country one; tomorrow I have an indie-pop-rock one.

Alt Your Country Are Belong to Us

1. “You Don’t Know Better Than Me” – Luke Winslow-King. Easy-going folk/country vibe hits some New Orleans swing with gorgeous results.
2. “Beneath the Willow Tree” – The Lonesome Outfit. This yearning, gospel-inflected country tune features great vocals.
3. “Grandstanders” – Sunjacket. Carl Hauck is in a band? Of course it’s wonderful. Fans of Animal Collective and My Morning Jacket will enjoy this moody, rumbling, intricate tune.
4. “Ramona” – Night Beds. Everyone’s all up in Night Beds. They are totally right.
5. “Fall With You” – Mikaela Kahn. Snare shuffle, a beautiful voice and a strong mood: yup, you’ve sold me.
6. “Griping” – Dear Blanca. The horns and vocals in this song are absolutely excellent.
7. “Secret” – Time Travels. If there is clapping and singing in your song, I will cheer. This jaunty, indie-pop by way of alt-country tune makes me cheer.
8. “Junior Year” – Case Closed. A little bit country, a little bit pop-punk, a little bit The Format.

SubFamily Alliance's first folk/garage rock compilation is a success

September 14, 2012

Most bands find Independent Clauses through word of mouth: a musician talks about a review I ran, and that musician’s friends send in their stuff to me. This is, I assume, how SubFamily Alliance‘s first compilation features at least three bands that have submitted work to Independent Clauses.

The 10-track S/F/A Summer Sampler is heavy on garage rock and folk, with a few other things scattered in. I’m currently high on folk and low on garage rock, so I was big on Elijah and the Moon’s “Map and Compass” and The Miami’s “Kneebone.” Elijah and the Moon’s contribution had a Josh Ritter-esque arrangement and aura, but the lead vocals were far more brazen and raw than Ritter usually uses. It’s a passionate, beautiful song that will resonate with fans of Mumford and Sons. The Miami’s “Kneebone” is an atypical folk song, starting off with a martial intro that breaks off suddenly and reveals a mumbling, feverish lead vocalist leading a call and response. The group responds “Oh, oh, Kneebone man,” to all of the lead vocalist’s entreaties, creating an entrancing tune that’s the standout of the group. Hiding Behind Sound’s “Winter 2011″ is a folky sort of post-rock that calls up Devotchka, Balmorhea and Seryn, but it doesn’t belabor the point. It clocks in just under 2:00.

On the rock side, Battle Ave. contributes “Whose Hands Are These?” from their excellent album art-rock album War Paint. The Coasts and Regular Fucked Up People contribute garage rock that doesn’t stray too far from the tenets of the genre. The New Diet plays some sludgy, heavy rock, while Time Travels contributes its pop-rock inverse in sound and mood.

I’m excited to see what SubFamily Alliance puts out in the future; their diverse membership is going in some quite interesting directions. I’d be sure to check out Elijah and the Moon, Battle Ave., and The Miami.

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

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