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Month: August 2022

August Singles 1

1. “Part 1” – Passepartout Duo. This reverent, enfolding ambient/drone piece is built on a homemade instrument called the Chromaplane: “With a pickup coil in each hand, we trace shapes above the instrument’s flat surface to unveil its hidden landscape of oscillators buzzing in the electromagnetic field.” I can’t see it happening, but the sonic presence of an unusual and beautiful instrument can be felt in the subtle ways it works: swooping sounds feel like distinctive, intentional approaches. Words struggle to describe it. Highly recommended.

2. “Before we can be together (ft. Synne Sanden)” – Wow Sailor. I’ve been getting heavily into atmospheric ambient sounds recently, and Wow Sailor ticks those boxes for me.

3. “Lemon Day” – Nils Frahm. An 18-minute ambient piece in the vein of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. It’s a lovely, breathy, gently swooping piece.

4. “Early” – Henning Schmiedt. An elegant, weighty, carefully developed piano piece that controls several different moods admirably.

5. “I’d Sell Out” – Thea Evans. A spartan yet sturdy singer/songwriter rumination with intensely immediate vocals.

6. “Monsters” – Driftwood Scarecrow. Low-key electronic indie-pop that sounds like a mashup of The Postal Service’s beats, Dashboard Confessional’s lyrics, and Sufjan Stevens’ emotional timbre. I loved it the first time I heard it.

7. “Animate” – Lore City. A ruminative, exploratory track that combines vocals so processed as to almost be abstracted over an Indian-inflected collection of percussion, staccato piano, and drone. Is “ominously meditative” a compliment? I hope so.

8. “Against Numbers ft. Katie Von Schleicher” – Wilder Maker. The pantheon of indie-rock songs about sports is not a large collection (although it does include the transcendent “All Kinds of Time” by Fountains of Wayne). Wilder Maker’s song about a basketball shot appeals to me via its topical concerns (I am a huge NBA fan) and its sonic excellence: this arrangement is spot-on, the fuzzed-out guitars land perfectly, and the tone is urgent in all the ways that a last second shot in a game is. It’s so good.

9. “Truce” – Vela Vada. I’d never stopped to ponder what a combination of Pogo’s chirpy burbles, ODESZA’s maximalist electronica, and a New Orleans Jazz combo might sound like, but now I know it would sound like this. A truly unique and interesting combo here. Highly recommended.

10. “Sunburn” – Sylvan Esso. Sylvan Esso’s latest electro clip is both weirder and more straightforward that their early work: the lyrics are peculiar but attractive, the structure of the song is fairly stream-of-consciousness, and the vocal melodies are delightfully off-kilter. At the same time, the beats and synths feel immediately accessible and enjoyable. Sylvan Esso never disappoints.

Independent Clauses 2022 Playlist 2

Well, it’s a touch late, but it’s still here: Independent Clauses Spotify Playlist 2 for 2022. Lisa’s additions to the summer soundtrack include music from artists gracing the blog’s pages and music I discovered at some recent festivals rescheduled as a result of the pandemic. I was overwhelmed by the women I heard onstage, including Samantha FishLindsay Lou, and ORGONE. Mixed with these great voices and performances was an incredible mix of soul, blues rock, and roots, sliding towards the hip hop and jazz-infused brilliance of New Orleans trumpeter Shamarr Allen. In the end, this playlist is all about the vibrancy of life unfolding, as Shakey Graves reminds us.

Stephen’s additions include mellow sounds from Alister Fawnwoda, Cool Maritime, Lunar Lemur, and Airport People. Peppier inclusions from Gold Panda, Fantastic Cat, and CLIFFWALKER round out the collection. —Lisa Whealy & Stephen Carradini


José Medeles with Marisa Anderson, M. Ward, and Chris Funk

Railroad Cadences & Melancholic Anthems by José Medeles with Marisa Anderson, M. Ward, and Chris Funk is a unique release. Medeles gets top billing as the convener of the occasion, a drummer who wanted to make a tribute to John Fahey not by covering the legendary guitarist’s work but by creating songs in his style. To do this, Medeles had to recruit guitarists who could play in Fahey’s style, landing on the trio above. Each of the 11 guitar-and-percussion pieces features Medeles and a single guitarist: five for Anderson, four for Chris Funk, and two for M. Ward.

This unusual process makes the album a bit of a collection rather than a statement. Each of the guitarists contribute at least one “Railroad Cadence” and one “Melancholic Anthem,” but it’s Marisa Anderson’s upbeat, melodic opener “Please Send to J.F.” that exemplifies the Railroad Cadence and Chris Funk’s exploratory, ruminative closer “Voice Of The Turtle” that exemplifies the melancholic anthems. (“Voice of the Turtle” also includes a long recording of Fahey talking about the guitar and performing, which is very melancholic indeed.)

Between these poles, the guitarists each have high points: M. Ward’s walking-pace “Something Else” evokes “Chinese Translation”-era charm while still delivering on an instrumental guitar instead of voice. The ominous, bluesy “The Paper Snake” is a high point from Anderson, while Funk’s work on the shapeshifting “Golden” stands out.

Throughout it all, Medeles holds the record together. Medeles’ drumming is tasteful, restrained, and spot-on. Rattling snares, booming toms, and low cymbals slide fluidly in the melancholy pieces. The same concepts keep the earthy, traditional country-folk energy going during the upbeat work. These songs are supposed to sound iconic, and they for the most part do: if that comes at the sacrifice of some of the pieces’ individuality, that’s a price a tribute will pay. The vibes never stop on this one; it’s a good tribute to a legendary part of the scene in feel and sound. Fans of Fahey will appreciate it, and fans of folk music in general would do well to give it a listen (especially those looking to see another side of M. Ward). 

Grandpa Jack throws down creepy rock with style

Those who love gritty rock and roll, thank the airwaves for generations of musicians that grew up on old classic southern rock, and look for that “Aerosmith meets Alice in Chains” grind can count on bands like Grandpa Jack. The Brooklyn rockers land with Grits to throw down in style.

The power trio of Matt C. White, Jared Schapkerf, and John Strom deliver a nine-track, self-produced trip with the help of Stephen Mason & Kyle McEvoy (recording), Matt Labozza (mixing/engineering), and Brad Boatright (mastering). The result is a cohesive mind trip reminiscent of early Roger Waters. White leads the way, but the vibe is only achieved with these three musicians joining forces into one distinct sonic feel.

Opener “Once Bitten” tosses rockers off into a carefully crafted, downbeat-driven world. Heavy, deliberate, drawn-out production generates a drift and drive. Standout “Hate the Heartbeat” has echoes of Richie Blackmore, as emotion seethes out of each vocal. White’s voice is perfectly balanced with the guitar and stripped instrumentation. 

Personally, I listen to albums. Grits is for me and other album lovers, because the artistry of “Moths” would be lost to someone just jumping in on that song as a standalone piece of music. Though brilliant, it is the connective tissue that audiences need to get to “Evil Eye.” Its lyricism drops into the instrumental stunner “Mosquitos,” subtle and biting. 

“Consumption Crawl” seems a decadent, drifting bit of genius that embraces an essence of haunting backwoods darkness. Clueing in their audience with the fact that “Consumption II Parasite” creeps the theme on, the plodding production quality lends itself to a sonic palette of haunting grit and analog beauty. They sharply drop into the album’s ending with “Consumption II Cannibal” reminiscent of the greatest moments of Dave Peverett’s (Foghat) guitar style. 

Closing out an album like this requires an artistry not many rockers possess. “Consumption Crawl Reprise” is an homage to the true musicality of this nine-song release. Nuanced, pulsing, it breathes as it slowly eases to its final beat. Grandpa Jack ‘s Grits creeps out into the summer, as some of the best music so far this year.–Lisa Whealy

Andrew Adkins’ celebratory blues rock is a unique gift

Great songwriters are wordsmiths who color the world lush, binding us into a shared moment in time with one note, melody, refrain, and chorus at a time. It’s an undeniable gift few artists really possess, like Jason Isbell, Oliver Wood, and Andrew Adkins. Adkins’ Rattlesnake Motions is an immersive, classic blues rock experience that can’t be missed.

The grit and grind struts in via opener “Satellite Mind,” with its laid back, whistling-in-the-dark kind of vibe. It drifts right into the first single “Broken Fangs,” which seems to reinforce the shared horror story we have all lived through since B.C. (before COVID). To me, the video seemed weird and disjointed, yet it may be bringing to light the horror that many people of color live with all of the time. Who is the real villain, anyway? I would guess that Adkins suspects it is our perception of each other.

“Divided Lines” might be what the fearless would lead the parade of change with. A feel-good rag, somehow still calling out the truth. The grittier “Mysterious Engines” fleshes out with trippy synthesizers and driving bass. 

Sequencing becomes another piece of artistry in albums like Rattlesnake Motions. We are on a trip here, in the tradition of a cohesive piece of storytelling. Halfway through, “Beautiful and Free” rests easily on the soul, a contrast to the imagery that blasts in with “Death Rattles” and its funky spoken word throwdown. Does everyone have the same chance to experience life in the United States, or is it really about the color of your skin, where you come from, or what you believe? Brilliant! 

“Quebrado” punctuates with a multitude of instrumentation in its message of excess. Audiophiles should relish plugging this trip into headphones for a sonic escape. The horns, guitar, and group vocals of “Into Dust” embrace the soul. Jarred back to some other reality, “Whites Creek Rose” rolls on with a frighteningly familiar country twang that feels a bit like a Stephen King short story. Go figure. 

Heading out, “The Explosions In My Head” celebrates the shared trip we have all been on, so full of celebratory horns. “Random Cloud Patterns” might be one of my favorite songs of the year, like a warm hug from Mr. Rogers. Adkins’ real, authentic rich vocal tone reinforces what the lyrics of his album say: be yourself. —Lisa Whealy