Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Body Rampant lays the framework for success

April 14, 2010

It’s really weird that I discovered two bands with the word “Rampant” in their name within a month of each other. It’s not a very common word. The first one I discovered was rock band The Body Rampant, whose Anberlin-esque modern rock shows a lot of promise.

The Body Rampant’s Framework EP contains three songs, and all of them are solid. As before stated, the rock borrows heavily from Anberlin’s ideas on structure and mood. None of these songs evolve (or devolve) into full-out ragers; on the other hand, none of the three drag at all. They keep the tempo fast but not too fast; they keep the emotion high but not over the top.

The persuasive vocals go a long way to selling the rock. There’s yet again more Anberlin comparisons, as the high-pitched (but, again, not too high-pitched) vocals call Stephen Christian’s to mind. There’s a little bit less bite to the vocal work in the three tunes here, but it’s nothing that can’t be matured into. The guitarwork is to be noted; the heaviness contrasted with the melodic quality of the guitars worked very well, especially in “Artax Please!”

I had the feeling throughout that The Body Rampant was almost there. There were the beginnings of good ideas, solid execution, and good melodies. The project needs to mature more, and it will be something great.

If you’re a fan of modern rock with a pop edge, The Body Rampant should be on your list to check out.

Stellar Vector's debut full length exudes a high quality, post-modern vibe

April 11, 2010

The five-piece, self-proclaimed “post-modern rock band” Stellar Vector are set to release their debut full-length album, A Flock of Cowards, in April and it would be well worth your time check it out.  While the Minneapolis-based group claims to be creatively influenced by the likes of David Bowie and Peter Gabriel, I can’t help but feel that fans of  more recent bands like Of Montreal, Muse and the Cold War Kids will all find something they like in the sound of A Flock of Cowards.  The album has a playfulness similar to Of Montreal but also a raw vibe similar to Death Cab’s “Meet Me at the Equinox.”

The synthesizer-infused, 12-track album starts out blasting “Buffalo Jump” with clean, ear-tingling guitar riffs that channel classic rock yet combine strong, edgy vocals that add a modern tweak.  The second track,”Lacking Self-Control,” is a fantastic example of a musical narrative.  One moment you are tapping your foot to a near reggae beat; then the chorus hits, picking up the pace and lending to a more commercially-appealing alternative rock sound.  In a sense, the instrumental work really allows you to “feel” the story behind the sound as the song progresses.

The band is very upfront about their narrative-driven, lyrical styling.  I could almost hear a hint of Ben Folds in their upfront and at times sarcastic lyrics. There is an especially strong lyrical resemblance on “E.D.” with lines like, “No I don’t wanna be your friend/but I know that I can’t pretend/I’m a pretty damn good actor baby.”

A favorite surprise on the record was the incorporation of a few keyboard-driven melodies on songs such as “Titanic Work Ethic” and the fun little album-ending tune, “The Not So Hidden Song.”  Clearly the song titles alone should be enough to get the potential listener a little intrigued as to what this group is really about.

As you listen to the record, you can’t help but feel your ears smoothly move in and out of the different decades of rock.  They have mastered the art of taking the best from the past while looking to the future. They embody a post modern success.

Overall, Stellar Vector has succeeded in achieving a truly high-quality independent album.  A clean and polished recording is already putting them miles ahead.  They have the kind of sound that could really get a film music supervisor excited, as great soundtrack music.  Keep an eye out for these guys. I have a feeling they won’t be staying in the Midwest for long.

An Easter Playlist, IC style

April 4, 2010

In Internet terms, today I am celebrating the BEST. DAY. EVER. For my Savior did not stay dead; he rose to give the world life. I live because he wanted to give me life through his sacrifice.

As such, it’s time for an Easter playlist, IC-style.

1. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Sufjan Stevens. I know it’s a rule in baseball and mixtapes to not put your home-run hitter as your lead-off man. But this song so perfectly sums up everything I believe about Jesus Christ that it has to be played first. Musically gorgeous, lyrically foundational; this track is amazing. Thank you, Sufjan.

2. Good News! (For Everyone.) – Aaron Hale. Technically a Christmas song, but Easter is good news for everyone.

3. Really Something – Aaron Sprinkle. “Sometimes I actually forget that this is really something.” And I do. And it’s a tragedy.

4. Heaven – Brett Dennen. I don’t agree with his theology, but he asks the right questions. “Is there a home for the homeless? Is there hope for the hopeless?” Yes, yes there is.

5. Oh Christmas Tree! or Happy Birthday by Elijah Wyman. In the midst of intense pain and grief, there is mercy and grace. It is hard to find sometimes, but Wyman captures that spirit and puts it to song.

6. Never Enuff – Mansions.  The narrator of this song is trying to break up with God. God does not break up with us. That’s pretty much the Easter story.

7. More than Ever – Holy Fiction. “I need you more than ever.”

8. Against Pollution – The Mountain Goats. One of the most misunderstood songs I’ve ever tried to give people on mixtapes. This song, although it does include a store clerk killing a would-be robber by shooting him “in the face, and I would do it again,” is not an endorsement of violence. It is a passionate endorsement that life is so important to the narrator that if he has to kill to stay alive he will do it. While I don’t fully agree with the degree to which the narrator goes, I deeply understand the sentiment. I want life, and to quote the Postal Service, I want life “in every word, to the extent that it’s absurd.” I don’t want to go down now. I want to keep kicking. And Jesus Christ offers that in spades.  Even then, the chorus: “When the last days come/we shall see visions/more vivid than sunsets/brighter than stars. We will recognize each other/and see ourselves for the first time/the way we really are.” Please. Amen.

9. Revelation – Hands. “Hear, oh Earth; the Lord our God is one.” Probably the only time the time-honored Jewish prayer has been sung by a man-choir in a epic nine-minute hardcore song. God is a big God.

1o. We’re Nothing Without You – The Juliana Theory. Self-explanatory.

11. Sufficient/Knocked Out – Bleach. Half the song proclaims how God is all-sufficient; the other half pleas for God to be all-sufficient in the midst of deep, deep struggle and pain. This is the Christian fight in ten minutes.

12. Fishing the Sky – Appleseed Cast. This is not even a remotely religious song. But when I hear it, it’s the closest thing to heaven I’ve ever heard.

13. Always – Switchfoot. “And I am always, always/I am always yours.”

14. Hope to Carry On – Caedmon’s Call. Don’t be scared off by the name; it’s Derek Webb singing. The title is self-explanatory. The track is glorious, upbeat, yearning acoustic folk.

15. That Where I Am That You May Also Be – Rich Mullins. One of my heroes, musically and in the way he lived his life, this was one of his final songs before he went to where He was. It is about as optimistic as a song gets while still grounded in non-sappiness.

16. Jesus – Page France. “Jesus came up through the ground so dirty, with worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy, we call him his magic, he calls us worthy, Jesus came up through the ground so dirty.” The gospel in indie terms.

May God find you where you are, comforting those that need comfort and shaking those who need shaking. Amen.

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Posting our quarterly earnings

April 3, 2010

So, I took a week off from Independent Clauses. I was having a monster of a week, so I just mailed it in for a couple days. Compared to the eight-month hiatus that one time, this was nothin’.

But, it nicely coincided with the end of the quarter, so I thought I’d put a little list up of my top releases from the first three months (since I listened to more music in this quarter than I think I have at any other time in Independent Clauses’ existence). It’s been an awesome year for music so far, and I’m stoked that there are three more quarters yet.

1. Sever Your Roots – The Felix Culpa. This post-hardcore masterpiece has not yet ceased to amaze me. Every song reveals new gems with each listen, whether it be a buried guitar line, a line of lyrics I hadn’t yet caught, or something else. “Escape to the Mountain” is one of my favorite tracks of the year.

2. Hours From It – Holy Fiction. Jumped up my list in the last week or so, as “More than Ever,” “Song 10” and “Two Small Bodies” inserted themselves in my life and would not let go. Passionate, melodic, lush indie-rock that doesn’t brook any cliches, resulting in occasionally challenging listening. But it’s worth it to hear the vocalist holler out “I neeeeeed you moooore than everrrr…”

3. Mt. Chimaera – Brasstronaut. Any band that’s got the guts to eschew choruses for an entire album, send down trumpet solos like it’s nobody’s business, and write the equivalent of an indie-rock symphony deserves all the props they can get. The fact that clarinet-led klezmer also happens in there makes it jump my list.

4. Of the Blue Color of the Sky – OK GO. I heard that their new video has several million hits and their album has sold just over 25,000 copies. This is a freakin’ shame. It’s their best work yet, mature in ways that “Here it Goes Again”-era OK GO can’t understand, much less imitate. If you pardon the horrible autotune experiment, the whole thing is solid, with “Needing/Getting” being the fist-pumping, shout-it-out anthem.

5. We’ve Built Up to NOTHING – 500 Miles to Memphis. This is country-punk at its finest, displaying both its country and punk roots, while extending out into places I’d never thought they’d go (full orchestras? really?). Standout track “Everybody Needs an Enemy” is outlandishly good in its nearly-ten-minutes-long-ness.

Honorable mention: They Can’t Hurt You If You Don’t Believe in Them – Post Harbor. Fell off a bit on me, as the staying power isn’t as strong as I expected it would be. But it’s still an incredible post-rock album.

So, here’s to the second quarter! More music! More!

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.

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