Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Top 20 albums of the year: 20-11

December 31, 2012

Independent Clauses is somewhat of an alternate universe when it comes to music reviewing. I rarely cover the hip bands, often love things no one else does, and generally attempt to be true to what I hear. If there’s a radar to be on or under, we’re hanging out on a different screen altogether. This is more by happenstance than choice: I never set out to be contrarian. And I don’t feel like a curmudgeonly naysayer of popular music, as you’ll see tomorrow. I just have a different lens than many people. Here’s the view from that lens.

20. Summer of Sam – A-Okay. Lo-fi acoustic goodness that rings honest and true.

19. Ithica – St. Anselm’s Choir. I’m consistently amazed at this band’s ability to wring heartbreaking beauty out of what is basically industrial music.

18. Chris North – Lovedream. Angelic reverie comes via a bunch of guitar pedals, acoustic guitars and arresting vocals.

17. Andrea Caccese’s collected output: Songs for the Sleepwalkers’ Our Rehearsed Spontaneous Reactions and I Used to Be a Sparrow’s Luke. One man’s vision, applied to an ambient project and a indie-rock project that countered the ambience with an anthemic, U2-esque bent.

16. Elijah Wyman/Jason Rozen’s collective output: Tiny Mtns/The Seer Group/Decent Lovers. What started out as the artsy electro-pop project Tiny Mtns split into a heavily artsy electro project (The Seer Group) and a heavily artsy pop project (Decent Lovers), with the two splitting the tracks between them. Except when both kept a track and reworked it to their likings. Did I mention that this one time, one of these guys gave the other a kidney? Now you see why they get one mention.

15. Superstar Runner – Heritage/Lineage/Hand-Me Downs/Scars (Your Birthmarks Do Not Bother Me). Songwriters that forge their own path get remembered by someone. The size of that group determines their popularity, and I hope that this incredibly titled record has gotten Superstar Runner remembered by a lot more people for his unusual arrangements and song structures.

14. 4H Royalty – Where UFOs Go To Die. Hands down, the best lyrics of the year are here in this country/rock album.

13. Autumn Owls – Between Buildings, Toward the Sea. Radiohead? Is that you? No? Hey, whoa, I meant it as a compliment! But seriously, this band is thoughtful in composition and lyric, for a head-spinning, enveloping release.

12. The Parmesans – Uncle Dad’s Cabin EP. One of my favorite new bands of the year, this bluegrass outfit has serious chops to go along with its goofy demeanor.

11. Young Readers – Family Trees EP. I haven’t been floored as hard by an opening track all year as I was by “All I Have.” Beautiful whisper-folk in the vein of old-school Iron and Wine.

The Parmesans' porch-pickin' bluegrass transcends regionalism

August 26, 2012

I love complicated, in-depth, hugely orchestrated albums. (See here and here.) But I also love the simple purity of a bunch of guys in a room with instruments, singin’ and playin’. The ParmesansUncle Dad’s Cabin EP is the latter.

Since the Internet, regionalism is much less of a thing–which is why I’m comfortable telling you that The Parmesans are from San Francisco and play thoroughly credible bluegrass.The guitar/banjo/mandolin/bass/group vocals set-up is employed to great effect. They kick the short set off with “Blooming Rose,” which is pretty much a marker to establish their bluegrass bona fides. It’s got everything you need to know about their technical skill. Then it gets interesting, as highlights “The Riddle Song” and “Brahms Was a Satanist” (!) come next. The first has a jaunty mood, memorable melodies and harmonies, and a great feel. The second features the guitarist, and picks up the question of what, exactly, Johannes Brahms believed. Their, uh, unusual take on the idea is presented in a pretty hilarious way.

Two more solid tunes follow, and they cement the aesthetic and my enjoyment of it. If you’re into porch-pickin’ bluegrass, you should definitely check this out. Although I’m not sure how many porches exist in cramped San Francisco; whatever. The spirit stays the same: I mean, they have a song on their tumblr called “Heinous Pit of Death.” Yes.

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.

Recent Posts


Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!