Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

EP: Dan Horne

October 10, 2020

Dan Horne’s solo debut The Motorcycle Song EP is certainly reflective of the bassist’s regular gigs. Normally on stage with Circles Around the Sun, Grateful Shred, and Jonathan Wilson, these outfits helped Horne’s incredibly cool sonic mind trip explode into the universe.

Does the idea of freedom appeal to us all right now, given our present circumstances? As time keeps weirdly slipping through this year, the producer and troubadour’s contribution to the 2020 soundtrack is a musical flashback to our collective sanity. Balanced, compositionally complex yet effortless instrumental jams like “Blackjack” evoke the freedom and rebellion of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper’s 1969 classic Easy Rider

Horne takes on Canned Heat’s “Poor Moon” in a looped up frenzy of cool. The classic cut’s reincarnation into the love child of Jan and Dean on doo-wop feels right. This is a masterclass in creating mood and feeling through music. Plucking out the song’s almost maniacal lyricism and time-warping it from 1969 into today’s bizarro world seems perfect. 

Horne’s skill as a producer shines with each restrained mix. The instrumental “Rhythm 55” is a stunning sunset looking out over San Francisco Bay: rich, intricate, emotive, and flowing. The excellent slide guitar reaffirms music’s connection to the soul. With Horne’s cover of “The Motorcycle Song,” transcendence seems complete. Bass-driven with immaculate tonal separation, Arlo Guthrie’s folk classic seems baptized for our times in California’s dreamy Mamas and Papas holy water, saving our soul. And this new version simply rocks!

To say Dan Horne’s The Motorcycle song EP is no ordinary mind-expanding tune-fest seems understated. The quartet of original tracks and politically charged, culturally relevant performances were born in a Dan Horne fan’s paradise.–Lisa Whealy

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Video: Andrew Adkins’ “Save the Day”

October 9, 2020

Andrew Adkins seems prophetic with his latest single “Save The Day,” as we come into what could be some of this year’s darkest days. Stepping out as a solo artist is sometimes the most heroic move a songwriter can do–truly letting the ripcord go. As we hurl our way towards the election of the next leader of the free world, our hero has arrived (even though the song’s birth was in 2019).

Foreshadowing the self-produced folk-rock artist’s upcoming album The Echoist via Elephant Seed Records, Adkins shines as a multi-instrumentalist. Recorded in his East Nashville home studio with stripped-down production values, “Save the Day” comes alive as a throwback beauty, twisting with an analog rock vibe. Soaring guitar solos lead the charge, calling people to consider the current state of affairs, while digesting the horror of our culture at this moment in history. 

I recently asked Adkins about his home studio, and he shared how he engineered musical magic on “Save The Day.” Sprinkling his personal collection of vintage mics around the room (some of which run through replica vintage preamps and compressors via Golden Age Projects), he felt he captured a sense of tension in the music. The sound evokes the foundation of 1960s rock and roll protest, echoing the likes of Buffalo Springfield. The song struts forward in soundscapes that would make Marcus King fans smile, oozing empathetic soul through the Nashville songwriter’s vocal delivery and lyrics. 

The artist’s plaintive, gritty tone is the perfect foil to Abe Covveney’s music video. Striking images of racism, police brutality, and political chaos intertwine with images of protest and a march for change. Images of hope and light contrast against dark moments. This video is a story told by people on the ground, urging engaged participation in our democracy. 

We’ve been given an anthem in “Save The Day” from Andrew Adkins, pushing the fight for change while wrapping us sonically in song. The song helps me feel more connected during these disjointed, turbulent times.

Follow Andrew Adkins on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and his website. – Lisa Whealy. 

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Lore City explores light and dark in a unique way

October 8, 2020

Published in 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s groundbreaking novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus took a new look at life and death, with each character’s inner darkness or light shining. In subtle ways, Lore City’s third album Alchemical Task parallels elements of such ideas. Following up 2014’s Kill Your Dreams, the Portland, Oregon-based duo of Laura Mariposa Williams (vocals, keyboard, guitar) and Eric Angelo Bessel (percussion, keyboard, guitar) found art-rock vibes as a perfect place to begin their entry into the pandemic soundtrack. 

In six songs, Alchemical Task is a journey reminiscent of the sonic textures heard during the early days of Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics, yet more haunting. These songs are mostly lyrically or rhythmically driven, with the structure of this music relying on chant-like qualities. It’s hypnotic in essence. Opening with “Separateness,” listeners can tell there’s something different going on here. The track is rhythmic and soothing, with its harmonic synthesizer bass haunting the march onward. “It’s All Happening” seems like a sonic resignation to some truth. 

“Beacon of Light” shifts towards the light, yet reinforces the notion that we all are born of both dark and light moments. Stunningly beautiful in its brief moment, the song marks a transition for this record. To say Williams soars as a vocalist on “Into the Blue” is an understatement. Her style and substance bring to mind the GoGos’ Belinda Carlisle, with rich emotions bleeding through each note. Heading towards the end of this musical story, “Beyond Done” is perfection as an epitaph for the year 2020. Deeply beautiful, its tense restraint is a testament to the vision of the album. 

Lore City’s album Alchemical Task may not be music for the masses. However, fans looking for a breath of fresh air who gravitate toward atypical bands (like Charming Disaster, who I reviewed earlier this year) may find in this album that missing piece of musical creativity, understated and purposeful in each note.–Lisa Whealy

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Singles October 2020: 1

October 6, 2020

1. “The Battle Is Over (But The War Goes On)” – Oliver Wood. This iconic song first captivated Wood through via Levon Helm’s cover.  However, it was Brownie McGhee with Sonny Terry who redefined its meaning. McGhee and Terry’s grit resonated with Wood, inspiring Wood to further craft and shape the Americana anthem. As we march to the polls counting the days until our country counts the ballots cast, Wood’s musical throwback is available on Bandcamp. Proceeds from the protest song benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).–Lisa Whealy

2. “Already Am” – Will Samson & Message to Bears. Beautiful electro/acoustic composition, reminiscent of Balmorhea and the Album Leaf. Just peaceful and beautiful. Highly recommended.

3. “Libration” – DJ Mitsu the Beats. Low key instrumental hip-hop with some ambient pad synths, shuffling percussion, and subtle synth burbles for loungey atmosphere. Like Clams Casino meets space age bachelor pad.

4. “One Family” – The Brilliance. A delicate rumination on the title, including a ticking clock, a lovely piano, gentle pizzicato strings, whispered vocals, and a sense of awe. Pairs well with Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti.

5. “Woven Song” – Olafur Arnalds. The high-pitched, delicate, distant vocals pair beautifully with the flowing piano work and textural string work. This is deeply peaceful, soul-enlivening work.

6. “High Noon” – Jordan Reyes. A wobbly, woozy, weirdly elegant piece combining drone, chant, guitar, and lap-steel. It’s oddly meditative, despite the very unusual intro.

7. “Oag-ada” – Oaagaada. Pretty sure the title is a pronunciation explanation of their unusual-looking name. The track itself is a jazz effort anchored by strong percussion and bass interaction; it’s got a groove between those two players for almost a minute before legato, wheezy trumpet and come in to contrast the punchy backline. Things get wilder from there, as the trumpet and sax start blasting into the stratosphere. It’s a compelling, fascinating trip.

8. “On Top (Guitar and Flute)” – The Stance Brothers. Combines ’90s hip-hop vibes with ’70s flute-jazz vibes for a smooth, cool, headbobbing jazz track. I love it.

9. “You’re So Cool” – Grey Factor. This electro/krautrock jam was recorded in 1978 and does not for a second sound like it. The layers of analog synths and fractured vocal performances feel current and trusty–the ideas are bright and clear, and the overall product is impressive. Fans of Kraftwerk but also LCD Soundsystem will find much to love here.

10. “Book of Witches” – Jake Aaron. This incredibly spooky and very moody song title is attached to a pensive, warm acoustic guitar rumination. (Trick or treat, heavy on the trick!) Fans of Nick Drake should have their ears perk up pretty quick.

11. “Better” – WUDi. Recipe: Young the Giant’s vulnerable yelps, the bombastic pop force of Bastille, the messy relationships of Taylor Swift, and an Ed Sheeran-big chorus. Stir well. Serve warm. Ultimately, quite the pop song. Impressive.

12. “Smile at First Light” – Grey Goes Black. The cinematic scope of electronically sculpted landscapes (a la Ulrich Schnauss or Tycho) meets the intimate electro-pop of the gloomy side of The Postal Service in a compelling, engaging mix.

13. “Cum Sidera” – Andrée Burelli. Glossy, high-sheen synths cascade (occasionally uncomfortably!) in this ambient/other track. The textures are underpinned by a grumbling, even ominous bass line and completed by Burelli’s straightforward, careful vocals. This is ambient, but not the type that’s supposed to make you feel peaceful–a bit of an off-kilter vibe keeps the listener on her toes. 

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Video: Kenny Roby’s “Silver Moon (For Neal)”

October 5, 2020

Music connects us, binding meaning to shared experience, helping us make sense of the unexplainable. Kenny Roby’s “Silver Moon (for Neal)” serves as a sonic touchpoint for friends and fans of Neal Casal. 

The recollection of Roby’s friend and songwriting collaborator breathes an unearthly connection, transporting us to the night of the Neal Casal Memorial Tribute at the Capitol Theatre on September 25, 2019. This song shapes Roby’s album The Reservoir in many ways. Cut paper art animation by Angie Pickman of Rural Pearl Studio brings the song even more to life.

Roby’s rich vocal tone feels like a fire’s warm glow in the moonlight, wrapping through each lyric with an unsettling ache. It’s an expression of the purest form of spiritual love, a child’s heart singing with a man’s confusion, waiting for the universe to guide the way. 

In these strange days, if you’re struggling or know someone who is, here are some resources that may help, courtesy of Kenny Roby: 

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) 
  • SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727) 
  • MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. MusiCares’ services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies, and each case is treated with integrity and confidentiality. MusiCares also focuses on the music industry’s resources and attention on human service issues that directly influence the music community’s health and welfare. 
  • BACKLINE provides easy access to preventative care and crisis management services for music community professionals.  —Lisa Whealy

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Bendrix Littleton’s journey helps us through our own

October 2, 2020

We’ve all learned to sit still within ourselves in 2020–many would say against our will. Forces outside of ourselves seem like the starting place for the debut release of this project whose namesake is the protagonist in Graham Greene’s 1951 novel The End of the Affair. Bendrix Littleton’s Deep Dark South via NNA Tapes haunts the hallways of the songwriter’s introspection, filtered through the classic novel’s framework of guilt, desire, excess, and miracles.

Dallas transplant and folk musician Bennett Littlejohn crafts a fascinating tale over the course of ten tracks. Formerly part of the duo Bent Denim which disbanded in 2018, this record pointed Littlejohn in a new direction musically. Through the project’s narrator, the songwriter found the freedom to embrace more experimental textures and soundscapes. Stepping into character as Maurice Bendrix, a new creative aesthetic was born out of Greene’s story of World War II love, infidelity, death, and forgiveness during the bombing of London. Littlejohn recorded and mixed all the tracks, with mastering by Edsel Holden; restrained, haunting subtleties roar throughout this record with stunning clarity. 

Bendrix Littleton admits to finding creative freedom through the classic narrative, giving the artist permission to experiment texturally. Sonically nuanced, many of this album’s moments could be seen as a dark, drunken depression on too much Tennessee whiskey. Opening with Evan Scala’s drums on “Church Choir” is misleading, a skillful sonic sleight of hand. “smoke” firmly entrenches the songwriter’s narrative, as this beautiful little ditty trips away into loneliness. The title track plods here, and it would seem “Deep Dark South” should be ominous. Masterfully recorded, the hollow echo captures that disconnected feeling of being alone we all might have felt at one time or another. Set to acoustic guitar and piano, Littleton’s dance is nothing short of a genius journey of self-discovery. 

The novel The End of the Affair gave birth to multiple films, as the themes of aching love, inadequacy, jealousy, and death transport themselves into any time. Littleton’s Dark South is a whole entity just as a film might be, though there are standout moments. “Carry These Things” is layered in purposefully-delivered metaphor, opening with an almost whiny lyrical delivery as the wander begins. We all collect memories, life’s dredges that somehow we can’t leave behind. This track is perfect. 

As the journey of this record reaches the end, “Wine” may be the best of the record. Deep, velvety, rich vocals draw the listener in, with a simple pillow-talk backline keeping the mood steady. Do people need to know the story that inspired Bendrix Littleton, or has his art transcended the confines of the old narrative, evolving into something satisfying and new? Oddly, many of the most impactful moments on this record are in the transition from each part of the narrative. With background vocals throughout from Sara Beth Go, “Boredom” seems an homage to 2020. Ultimately, Bendrix Littleton’s Deep Dark South via NNA Tapes is a stroke of artistic genius that rises from the ashes of this past year.–Lisa Whealy

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September 2020 Singles: 2

October 1, 2020

1 “First to the Feast” – Stagbriar. “First to the Feast” is the rare indie-rock song that makes an immediate deep impression on me. It’s a tumultuous, torrential, raw indie-rock jam about sobriety, mental health, committed relationships, and more. It’s like raw indie rock of Quiet Company but more so. Yet through it all, there remains a sense of refined polish that keeps it from collapsing in on itself. An impressive opener to their record Suppose You Grow. Highly Recommended.

2. “Erasmus” – Ellen Andrea Wang. I’m always going to feel an affinity with bassists, no matter what the genre. Wang is the composer and bassist here, creating impressive jazz/post-rock structures with a double-bass, drums, and electric guitar combo. It’s exactly the sort of exploratory, melodic, interlocking work that makes me so interested in both jazz and post-rock. There’s a ton going on here (you try to sort out all the different things happening at the five minute mark), and it all comes together into fascinating, exciting work.

3. “And Then There Was Fire” – The Suitcase Junket. Those familiar with Matt Lorenz’s live performances as The Suitcase Junket are familiar with the mind-bending complexities shaping each song. “And Then There Was Fire” off the November release The End is Now marks Lorenz’s entrance into the 2020 soundtrack. Producer and keyboardist Steve Berlin joined Lorenz (drums, vocals) on this richly textured piece. Masterful in producing sonic waves of tension, I’m happy holding my breath until the end is really now.

4. “Not in Our City (Tracy Shedd remix)” – honeybrandy. A big, thudding electronic backline, overlaid with Tracy Shedd dreamily cooing and a powerful speech from Dr. Keith R. Anderson about addressing police brutality. The line “Not in our city” becomes the hook, as the song grooves along. It’s a song of protest and joy, and as Hanif Abdurraqib notes, these can and often do go together.

5. “Western Ave” – Josh Johnson. Starts off as a Khruangbin jam, then floats into a sax-led jazz piece, then spins off into ever-more-unclassifiable ideas. Trying to define this seems kind of like cheapening it; the expansive, omnivorous approach is so wide as to push at the edges of any description. Very cool stuff.

6. “Wholeness and the Implicate Order” – The Last Dinosaur. A big, bombastic, ominous orchestral piece; it feels like a march and the overture to a very serious film. The woodwinds bring a lot of mystery to the piece, which is always fun.

7. “pingpxng” – YĪN YĪN. If you like thai beat tunes a la Khruangbin (as I very much do), then you may connect very quickly with this thoughtful-yet-dramatic instrumental jam (as I did). Lots of great thai vibes and solid performances all around. This one has a lot of Spaghetti Western in its blood, too.

8. “Axis” – Ross Harper. Harper has a background in ’90s techno, which explains why the flowing, watery ambient lead line has the least-ambient-possible backline of clicks, snaps, rattles, and bass hits. This makes it a rather exciting club-influenced ambient track or an incredibly dreamy techno cut, depending on your viewpoint. I like either viewpoint on it! Quite a bit, actually!

9. “Auras (single edit)” -Brendon Randall-Myers/Dither. Engaging, interesting multi-guitar work that consists of delicate, intricate, carefully planned patterns of staccato tones against a spartan sonic backdrop. This eerie, shadowy work draws heavily on the work of minimalists like Steve Reich and Terry Riley; fans of those composers will find much to love in this piece.

10. “Coac” – Qoniak. A synth/drums duo that is half dance-rock and half jammy synth melodies. The duo is tightly in-sync, with the drums and synths really meshing well. It’s a fun piece!

11. “We Came Through the Storm” – Jonathan Scales Fourchestra. This, my friends, is steel-drum-led fury jazz. This is a madcap mashup of things that don’t usually go together, and it works amazingly. I love steel drum and I have been getting into jazz, and the Fourchestra is (apparently) a thing I have been looking for without knowing it. This is adventurous music of the highest order–definitely check it out if you’re interested in unusual sonic experiments or Snarky Puppy-esque maximal jazz.

12. “Night Owl” – Dizzy Spells. Woozy, lightly-psychedelic alt-pop with a whole lot of whiplash moments; questions like “wait, is that an R&B harmony? is that a gospel choir? is that a toy piano?” abound. Makes me think back to when I first heard The Format; Dizzy Spells is a shooting star out of a field of people all trying to do the same thing, but somehow, not quite as well as Dizzy Spells. Lotsa fun here.

13. “The Earth is Flat” – Alexander Wren. This here is the rare “we are about to get divorced” song, usually the province of storytellers like John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. The mature, easygoing folk backdrop is reminiscent of Gregory Alan Isakov’s careful work, and with lovely saxophones included for color. The lyrics are well-drawn but sad, as the topic of the song would suggest: “Honey, you love me / and yeah, the earth is flat.” Ouch. It’s a beautiful arrangement regardless.

14. “Tuesday Get” – Dovie Beams Love Child. A push-pull instrumental dream-pop track that features a martial, percussive stomp under a cascading piano melody. The pairing creates a warm, interesting tension between punchy electronica and loose melancholia.

15. “Sizwile” – SPAZA. I’m told that SPAZA is a South African Avant Garde/Jazz improvisational group, which is good, because I do not know what labels I would even begin to try to give to SPAZA. This is a 8.5-minute journey that travels through mystery, exuberance, lament, and more emotional states. The song is built from piano, vocals, and hand percussion, with brass loping in late to give some heft to the proceedings. It’s an amazing, impressive piece. It’s part of a soundtrack for a documentary film about the 1976 Soweto uprising, and whoa, that film is going to have a lot of weight if it inspired this music.

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September 2020: Singles 1

September 16, 2020

1. “Jefferson Davis Highway” – The Pinkerton Raid. Jesse DeConto and co.’s latest video is from the band’s 2018 record Where the Wildest Spirits FlyThe song itself is an unusual folk anthem of protest backed by a lovely brass arrangement. The content of the lyrics and the video are best explained by the band:

“Jefferson Davis Highway” is a song to honor Southern activists like “Superwoman” Bree Newsome, the anti-racist defenders of Charlottesville, Va., and the people of Durham, NC, who kindled a movement, helping to take down a Confederate monument in an act of civil disobedience in our hometown back in 2017. We also honor the victims of police brutality, too many to name. We especially remember Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile and Keith Lamont Scott, in our own state of North Carolina. They opened our eyes. George Floyd’s brutal murder reminded us never to look away.

2. “Magic in the Moment” – The Gray Havens. The Gray Havens are hitting a new stride: this impressive song includes the vibe of a hip-hop song (via the subtle beat and harp–at least, it sounds like a harp–hook), a clear indie-pop melody, and a cleverly dreamy arrangement. The song itself is about the beautiful world we live in, the beautiful lives we live, and how we could all do to put down our phones more frequently and attend to the beauty around us. (It manages to do this without being saccharine.) It also calls out anxiety directly. Would you stop subtweeting me, TGH? thanks. Jokes aside, it’s an musically on-point, lyrically on-message, brilliantly developed tune that has me extremely excited for whatever TGH is cooking up next. Highly recommended.

3. “Dog Days” – Blue Water Highway. Taking in Blue Water Highway’s “Dog Days” is an invitation to rejoice. The new song soars as the follow up to the lead single  “All Will Be Well” ahead of the band’s album Paper Airplanes due March 12, 2021. The band creates an Americana rock vibe, its steadiness generating that rolling-down-the-highway-with-the-ocean-breeze-in-the-air feel. I grew up along Pacific Coast Highway: years spent with the tunes cranked up, breathing in the sunshine and salt air. My memories of cruising in convertibles at summer’s end could have Blue Water Highway’s “Dog Days” pulsing out of the radio.–Lisa Whealy

4. “Don’t You Worry About Me” – Jacob Faurholt. Denmark’s Faurholt shines with stark imagery and minimalist lyrics, dancing through an array of carefully chosen musical ideas. “Don’t You Worry About Me,” the first single of the artist’s upcoming album Wake Me Up, serves up a delightful tease of the full album via Raw Onion Records on October 2. —Lisa Whealy

5. “Reflection” – Joshua Crumbly. Crumbly’s album earlier this year was a triumph, and this follow-up single is more of his unique vibe: bass-driven melancholy with light jazz overtones and subtle touches around the prominent bass. It’s a poignant instrumental musing on the chaos, trouble, and hope of this year.

6. “Truth 1” – Red Snapper. A groove-heavy tune that pairs grumbling bari sax with punchy percussion, wailing saxophone, and a neat keyboard line to create a strong afrofunk / jazz tune. The largely-wordless vocals accentuate the complex mood perfectly, creating a strong, interesting tension.

7. “Adriane in Wonderland” – Dan Deacon. If I had to pick someone to score a documentary about competitive artistic dog grooming, Dan Deacon is 100% the person I would pick to do it. This maximum-Dan-Deacon cut is basically the sonic version of a neatly trimmed, multi-colored poodle.

8. “Valley Spiral” – Gunn-Truscinski Duo. I’m not into huge guitar theatrics in rock songs, but I absolutely love a post-rock tune where a guitar player just thinks out loud for a while. This dense, gnarly, fascinating guitar/drums jam is an impressive work, as the drums keep the song locked in to a rhythm as the guitars just go everywhere. But it’s not loud or ferocious; it’s thoughtful, careful, exploratory. It’s great. Highly recommended.

9. “Astronomica” – of1000Faces. Big synth swirls, twinkly melodies, and deep-space pictures are a perfect match that hasn’t gotten old for me yet, so have another big slice of all of that! This is on the subtler end of the “big space synth reverie” spectrum, guiding the listener gently through the cosmos.

10. “Hyper-real” – Holy ’57. Holy ’57 has been diving into ’90s sounds for their latest release, and this track is no exception. This one pulls on a mash-up of brit-rock flare with trip-hop/hip-hop beats, overlaid with some old-school synth sounds. Rhythmic ideas from ever-present inspiration Vampire Weekend fit in there too, making this a song that is neither retro nor contemporary, but a fusion of old and new that looks to the future. Hyper-real, indeed.

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Jess Jocoy’s Online Residency: “Somebody Somewhere”

September 8, 2020

This week we say goodbye to Nashville-based songwriter Jess Jocoy, as she wraps up her Independent Clauses residency.  With her track “Somebody Somewhere” from her latest album Such a Long Way as a down-home adieu, Jocoy embraces stylistic choices associated with her folk-Americana genre while breaking free of some of its stylistic confines.

Let me say: I’m not a huge fan of country music, but I respect its connection to rock and roll historically.  Now that I’ve cleared the air, I am always searching for music that connects to the soul. Jess Jocoy connects in this performance. “Somebody Somewhere” is an intricate masterpiece, disarming the listener with each uncomplicated theme rolling along, note by note.  

The songwriter tells her tale simply, the guitar serving as an echo to her deep vocal tone.  Reminiscent of Brandi Carlisle, Jocoy sings as an Americana troubadour ready to step into the metaphor-rich world of indie folk-rock. Providing a steady framework for Jocoy’s vocals, the restrained production envelops the listener like a warm glow from a fire’s dying embers. The video, filmed by Adam Jones of ALJ Innovations in Nashville, feels like we are all hanging out with Jocoy before she sets out on tour. It’s intimate yet casual at the same time. Jess Jocoy is poised to break out with cuts like “Somebody Somewhere”  from her album Such a Long Way as the finale to her stand here at Independent Clauses.

Though this is the final installment of Jess’s online residency here in IC, you can catch Jocoy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. Check out the two previous installations of the online residency here and here. —Lisa Whealy

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Premiere: “Learn How to Count” by Earthquake Don’t Give a Fuck

September 1, 2020

The thing about instrumental music is that (almost?) any genre of music can be instrumental. By moving the remit of this blog from folk-pop/indie-pop to instrumental music at large, I can cover all sorts of things from all eras of this blog–just without vocals. Earthquake Don’t Give a Fuck (EDGAF) is a heavy band that would not be out of place in coverage from IC’s first decade: dense, distorted guitars; thunderous backline; and general fury are all standard elements of EDGAF songs. However, they also sought out a viola player, because why not? Shannon De Jong brings a different sensibility to these post-hardcore/punk tunes.

Most of the songs on EDGAF’s self-titled record have shouty vocals, but closer “Learn How to Count” is an instrumental. It’s a pounding, powerful track:

The track opens with a gnarly guitar riff over pounding percussion; the viola-influenced melodic line of contrasts with dissonant, shrieking guitar thrash to create an electrifying opening. The middle section of the piece slows down and opens up, letting the viola soar. The respite is short, before the band comes barreling back in for the towering conclusion. It’s an excellent piece of post-hardcore.

Guitarist and EDGAF co-founder Keith Waggoner had this humorous story about the piece to share:

“When Greg [DePante, drummer] and I started writing together, ‘Learn How to Count’ was one of the first songs that stuck. A lot of crust punk/mathcore influence there and writing something that heavy, out of the gate, really set the tone for the project. I had always intended on writing vocals for the song, but the words never came, and eventually it felt more natural as an instrumental. If you listen to our early demos, all of the leads are played on guitar. After Shannon joined, we transposed those melodies to viola and that’s when the song came into its own. Once we had a full band together, we had to teach everyone how to count this weird syncopated 6/8 time signature and a couple of the guys had trouble with it at first. The song still didn’t have a name, so I would write ‘Learn How to Count’ on the set list, to poke at them.”

Ha! Well, that’s one way to title a song. I hope the next record includes another instrumental track called “We Did.”

EDGAF’s self-titled record will be out September 18 on LA Hall of Records. You can catch EDGAF on Facebook and Instagram until then.

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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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