Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Final 2014 MP3 Drops – Acoustic Champ

January 6, 2015

Acoustic Champ

1. “Glass Heart” – Magic Giant. The rhythmic knowledge of a dance floor anthem powers this folk-pop jam. The inevitable whoa-ohs and jubilant trumpet line send this over the edge into “world-conquering pop song” mode. Seriously, this is like the best parts of the Lumineers and Mumford without the negatives.

2. “One More Song” – Tyler Hilton. Hilton imbues a lot of romantic intensity into his voice, layered neatly over an adult alternative tune that splits the difference between Taylor Swift and Matt Nathanson.

3. “Local News” – Heath McNeese. A simple acoustic fingerpicking pattern, a gentle voice, an endearing story, and a memorable melody: what else do you need? Beautiful singer/songwriter work here.

4. “All Along” – Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival Band. Snare-shuffle country with evocative vocals, a soaring chorus, and a great vibe. Do I have to throw “alt” in front of country, or can I trust you to listen anyway?

5. “Alegria” – DBG. British folk singer/songwriter DBG went to Spain and interviewed people, then wrote a bunch of songs about those interviews–in Spanish. This one showcases his gentle fingerpicking along with the Spanish-language lyrics.

6. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – Todd Kessler and the New Folk. The reverb on the solo guitar here puts me in a very dreamy, warm mood that fits the lyrics neatly.

7. “Jingle Bells” – River Whyless. This elegant folk outfit transforms an oft-kitschy tune into a delicate wonder.

Quick Hit: Todd Kessler and the New Folk

March 5, 2013

toddkessler

Even though Todd Kessler‘s band is called The New Folk, the sound of Sea Fever is closer to the ornate acoustic pop of Andrew Belle and David Mead. Although some might balk at this, this is no qualm with me: I’m a fan of this style when it’s done well. And Kessler does it well, neatly balancing complex arrangements with a vocals-centric focus. At times this leads him into very precise, Andrew Bird-esque territory (“First Sip,” “Intangible”)–especially with the plucked violin that these tunes employ.

Tunes like “Zen Lunatics” and “Holes in the Floor” sit other end of the spectrum, employing crunchy distorted guitars and stomping rhythms. It’s not rock, per se–the theatrical “Holes in the Floor” employs careening, burlesque horns–but it’s certainly not delicate indie-pop either. The most memorable turns come when Kessler splits the difference, toning down some of the more intricate arrangements while also not going full-on pop blast. “Oh Brother” and single “Hallelujah” live in this space, and it’s a good one for him.

Kessler’s pop hooks and arrangements are both very strong, making Sea Fever a release that fans of thoughtful pop music definitely should invest time in. I look forward to seeing what Kessler comes up with next.

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

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