Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Abrazo Lift

September 9, 2004

Song: The Abrazo Lift
Band: The Cinderleaf
Genre: Emo
Bottom line: Excellently done. Get it now.

“The Abrazo Lift” bursts out of the starting gate with gruff yet palatable vocals. This is about the only time that the vocals are most important, because the production on this song is such that the focus is off vocals and on other instruments –especially drums and guitars. Due to this style, the band creates a groove very efficiently- even when it’s just drums and bass, the song feels intense and urgent. The two guitars work together very well in the verses, and especially well during the bridge, where they have an unexpected call-and-response dialogue. That dialogue leads into the climactic last chorus: two great guitar lines, double-tracked vocals, and flailing drums. Red Animal War would be proud to call this song their own.

Song: Three Dollar Keyboard
Band: Good With Guns
Genre: Indie Pop
Album: Winter EP
Label: Suckapunch Records
Bottom line: Strange, yet worth it.

Vocals can do strange things to music. “Three Dollar Keyboard” starts out like a sweet indie pop song, with a nice acoustic line augmented by a chirpy little synth line. Without warning –ok, maybe a little warning- dirty vocals reminiscent of abrasive punk bands Alkaline Trio and Calibretto take the song in a whole new direction. The song bounces along well, but it shines most in the chorus, where the backing harmony offsets the grating vocals to create a somewhat pleasant sound. The music itself doesn’t lose any points- the acoustic-led pop song is instantly endearing- it’s just that the vocals take some getting used to. In the end, I ended up thinking “Well…it was creative…”

Song: On Your Way (To Unhappiness)
Band: Jim Gaven
Genre: Acoustic Emo
Album: N/a
Label: N/a
Bottom line: If you like mellow emo, check it out.

Acoustic singer/songwriters can exist without being emo- see Joseph Arthur or Guilford- but most just don’t try to break out of the mold. Jim Gaven is a resoundingly ‘emo’ singer/songwriter. Now, that’s not to bash his songwriting- from beginning to end, “On Your Way (To Unhappiness) is a pleasant, pleasing listen. The vocals stand out a bit from the rest of the slow moving song with their roughness, but not so much that the two clash with each other. A great songwriting touch is the addition of female backup vocals, as their small contribution sounds very natural. The three-part vocals at the 3:30 point are excellent- although they stick around for much to short a period. All in all, there’s nothing to bash here- it’s a solid song. It won’t break any land-speed records, but it’s a pretty good mellow emo song.

Song: The Grass Isn’t Getting Greener
Band: Never Forever
Genre: Indie Rock
Album: Demo
Label: N/a
Bottom line: Pass this time, but file them under the “come back to it next album” tab.

Pure indie rock is tough to find- usually it’s tainted with other genres. Never Forever is no exception- they have a lot of hardcore influences, but never enough to call it hardcore. The guitar style is wrong and the vocals don’t scream hard enough or loud enough. Even though the vocals don’t scream very much, they are very effective. They aren’t the greatest vocals ever sung, but they fit with the hollow, gap-filled sound that the instruments create for this song. The guitars are right, but the drums here are overpowering and incorrect, creating an imbalance that sets the listener into a confused state. The vocals are the only thing that keep this song together, and they barely hang on in the chorus. The best part of the song is definitely the instrumental outro. Overall, there is much promise for this band, but they need to learn to mesh better.

Song: Like an Enemy
Band: Reason One
Genre: Metal
Album: S/t
Label: N/a
Bottom line: Metal done like I expect metal to be done: Aggressive and loud.

This type of metal is the kind that I’m happy to listen to in my home, but not live. In my home, I can turn it down till my ears are at a safe distance. This is, in a word, aggressive. The guitars crunch, the bass thumps, and the vocals bark at an impressive volume. The only part about this that ISN’T aggressive is the drums- they just sound tinny and fake in this recording. Otherwise, pretty much everything here is pretty aggressive. Now granted, this isn’t death metal, but it’s still pretty loud and aggressive. The chorus isn’t very impressive- it’s just bland. They do a good job of letting us hear the lyrics, unfortunately- we don’t want to hear them. They’re not that great. At all. It’s a pretty awesome metal song- except for the chorus.

Song: Don’t Mind Waitin’
Band: The Zoo!
Genre: Indie Pop
Album: Gorilla
Label: N/a
Website: N/a
Bottom line: Fun, catchy, and talented.

Indie Pop is one of my favorite genres; when it’s done well, it’s more fun than a punk band, catchier than any acoustic songwriter, and as talented as any genre out there. The Zoo is a pretty good example of that. The acoustic-based vibe of this song intrigued me- the guitar/bass/drums combo was really tight and clean. The extra guitar on “Don’t Mind Waitin” had a really cool solo- and I usually hate solos. The vocals have an odd timbre, and it gives the song a very unique vibe. It’s not a bad voice at all, as it even more quirkiness and fun to the band- and it makes the chorus catchy as all get-out. Thus, The ZOO! lives up to all the attributes of good indie-pop: fun, catchy, and talented.

Song: Grand Central Goodbye
Band: The Inheritance
Genre: Indie Pop
Album: The Inheritance Demo
Label: N/a
Bottom line: One of the most innovative bands I’ve heard in a long time.

“Grand Central Goodbyes” reminds me of a band I once loved. Courage Riley was their name, and they played Indie Pop that stole your heart, wrung it out, and put it back. They broke up, and it made me very sad- but The Inheritance may be the ones to bring back the “Epic Indie Pop” genre. I absolutely adore the section of the song that features distorted guitar over a piano melody, and then wailing vocals on top of that. The innovative sax solo is a little long and repetitive, but it’s very cool to try new stuff. The piano/harp breakdown (I bet that’s the only time that’s ever been said) didn’t really fit the song, but it’s the only flaw- the climactic ending to “Grand Central Goodbye” is just stunning. Everyone who likes mellow music should check out The Inheritance.

Tomorrow We Surrender

Matthew MacCarthy

Out of Focus

Ten seconds to go

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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