Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Your Friendly Neighborhood: Overflow

September 28, 2017

The indie-rock of Your Friendly Neighborhood‘s Overflow is a ship in a bottle: each tune is wild, rambling, and yet still carefully developed; lush, expansive, yet carefully defined. If you’ve ever been fascinated by the romance of a ship in a bottle and then contrasted that to the painstaking ways in which they are made, you know what I mean.

The first way I heard of Overflow was via IC fave Zach Winters repping it on social media. There are tons of sonic connections between Winters’ work and YFN’s: both use chill electric and acoustic guitar as the starting point (but not the centerpiece) of their songs, employ dense arrangements to create hazy/cloudy/expansive soundscapes, and often draw the song’s focus from lead vocals to the arrangements (“Backroads,” “Fall in Line”). Sonic touchstones beyond Winters’ work are non-Emma Bon Iver (“Hello Mire”), a more organic James Blake (the title track), the vocal stylings of Coldplay (“Doubt”), and rainy day musicians like The Maravines (pretty much all the tracks).

The album isn’t just one long chillfest, though–YFN carefully ordered the album so that it builds in emotional and sonic intensity to the towering roar of penultimate track “II.” If you listen to “II” on its own, you could be forgiven if you thought you were listening to Sigur Ros or Explosions in the Sky–it is very much awash in distortion and cymbal bashing. But in the context of the record, it is the conclusion of a long crescendo that started at the very beginning of the record. It is satisfying. This sort of careful development of an individual song and the whole track order are examples of the meticulous care with which this album was created.

As if to refute a bit of its own (well-earned) grandeur, closer “Birth Mark” strips out most of the complex arrangements except for some vocal processing and lets Caleb Killian’s skill with a guitar and vocal melody shine. Listening to this track unlocks a different angle on the record; instead of being a hazy indie-rock experience, it can also be read as a indie-folk record gone huge. (It’s all in what you prioritize as you listen.)

If that last assessment sounds a bit abstract, it’s because this record inspires that sort of thinking in me–I have puzzled and pondered over this record as I’ve listened to it repeatedly, and I still feel like I’m just getting to know it. It has depth. I haven’t even begun to parse the lyrics, because there’s so much going on in the sonics. Overflow has the free-flowing soul of a poet filtered through the meticulous approach of a careful editor. In short, it’s as beautiful and mesmerizing as a ship in a bottle, and just as expertly crafted.

Check out a Kickstarter for the record here.

Best EPs of 2015

January 4, 2016

EPs are becoming more popular than ever, and I love the trend: there’s no room for filler on an EP. As a result, a lot of artists brought their A game to the smaller format this year. Here’s to them:

1. Thanks for All Your Patience – Brother Moses. (Review) I spun this one the most often because the easygoing, almost effortless indie-rock vibe gave rise to some seamless, indelible melodies. Clean, tight, clever, and earnest, I gravitated to this one early and often in 2015.

2. On Separation – David Wimbish. (Review) Wimbish, frontman of The Collection, stripped out some of the intricate arrangements of his day job for a more intimate set of portraits that focused in on the lyrics. Elegant, haunting, and beautiful.

3. Loca EP – Valley Shine. (Review) Folk-pop can be a formula these days, but Valley Shine is all about exploding the formula with raw enthusiasm, brash melodies, and surprising pathos.

4. Magic Giant – Magic Giant. (Review) Rave-folk is a thing now (thanks, Avicii!), and Magic Giant are the next big thing on that front.

5. Linton // Oslo EP – Austin Basham. (Review) I rarely heard singer/songwriter work this assured, pristine, and strong during 2015. Top-shelf.

6. Regards – We are the West. (Review) A wisp of an EP that barely has time to meet you before it’s gone, but oh does it deliver: this Low Anthem-style Americana sounds like a warm blanket around my ears.

7. Joe Kaplow EP – Joe Kaplow. (Review) One of my favorite debuts of the year, as Kaplow showed off his versatility in several different acoustic-based styles. Looking forward to more from Kaplow.

8. Away, Away – B. Snipes. (Review) Another excellent debut that introduces Snipes’ low-slung troubadour singer/songwriter voice to the world, taking the lyrics of Rocky Votolato in a more Americana direction.  

9. Elegant Freefall – Ira Lawrences Haunted Mandolin. (Review) Lawrence turns one mandolin into an enormous array of sounds, turning out some wildly inventive pop songs along the way.

10. River Whyless – River Whyless. (Review) Gentle, quiet, and worthy of your time.

11. Your Friendly Neighborhood Demo – Your Friendly Neighborhood. (Review) Takes R&B, blue-eyed-soul, ambient, and indie-rock into something greater than the sum of its parts.

12. The Best of Times – Cable Street Collective. (Review) Do you want to dance? Because the Vampire Weekend meets the Caribbean meets UK rap sounds here are built for that. —Stephen Carradini

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

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