This project has been a microcosm of my whole 10 years running this blog: a little idea that got bigger and bigger with help from all sorts of people who pitched in. Massive thanks go out to The Carradini Family, Uncle David and Aunt Rose, the Lubbers Family, Neil Sabatino & Mint 400 Records, Albert & Katy, Drew Shahan, Odysseus, Joseph Carradini, Jeffrey M. Hinton, Esq., @codybrom a.k.a Xpress-O, Conner ‘Raconteur’ Ferguson, Janelle Ghana Whitehead, Tyler “sk” Robinson, Jake Grant, Anat Earon, Zack Lapinski, Mila, Tom & April Graney, Stephen Carradini, Theo Webb, Jesse C, D. G. Ross, Martin & Skadi, Jacob Presson, Michelle Bui, and Elle Knop.
The first 200 downloads of the album are free, so go get ’em while they’re available! (The price is $4 a side once the freebies are gone.) The streaming will always be free, so if nothing else you can go listen to some sweet tunes from some of Independent Clauses’ favorite bands. Once again, thanks to all who contributed in any way, both to the project and to Independent Clauses’ last 10 years. It’s been a thrilling, wild ride.
Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of the Postal Service
I’ve got a bunch of singles to throw your way, so here’s a mini-mix. It kicks off on an upbeat note and then drops you right into the season with track two.
Fall, Slowly Mini-mix
1. “The Day” – The Tiny Elephants. Perspective knocks in the form of a jaunty pop tune.
2. “Believe” – World Tour. Maybe this is winter music? Definitely it’s chilled-out beauty.
3. “Wish” – Prints. Click-heavy beats, burbling synths and a night-on-the-highway electronic vibe make it feel all mid-’00s up in here.
4. “Caves” – Founds. Flowing instruments carry a swooning vocal line, and the whole thing grows into a pounding whirl before disappearing. Wow.
5. “How It Ends, How It Starts” – Big Dead. Dusky, jazzy, sultry beauty.
6. “How It Went Down” – Dark Dark Dark. I love that the title dovetails with the above track. More piano/patient cymbal instrumentation, but a woman on the jazzy vox here.
7. “Going” – Carl Hauck. Hauck’s voice is a warm blanket on a cold night, and his acoustic songwriting is that moment you put on a pair of shoes and immediately know you’ve always loved them.
8. “Not Knowing” – Clara Engel. The Jason Molina school of songwriting dictates ultra-slow tempos, sparse instrumentation, and an almost overwhelming gravitas. Engel is an A+ student with her incredibly moving songs.
Carl Hauck has spent his last few releases searching for an identity. He was right at the cusp of one with Counter Intelligence, and his subsequent release Windjammer finally pushed him over the top. Carl Hauck’s lush, calm, finger-picked folk rides on gently thoughtful lyrics and understated yet rich vocal melodies to create an expansive experience inside an intimate mood. Hold up while I unpack all that mumbo jumbo.
Opening track “Martial Riesling” is the best song I’ve heard yet from Hauck, building on the strengths of his “To Coast” track that he contributed to On Joyful Wings’ latest comp. He starts the song off with a gentle guitar melody, which he quickly follows up with calm but rapid lyrics. Hauck’s not in a hurry, but he’s got a lot to say; that idiom follows through the album. In previous albums, his rapid delivery made understanding difficult. That doesn’t happen here. He’s letting listeners in to his thoughts much more, not shrouding them in cryptic words or speedy delivery.
His sound takes a turn for the expansive when he brings horns in for accent toward the end of the song. They aren’t particularly brassy or blaring; they, like the rest of the album’s parts, gently make their case before fading off. It alerts the listener to keep ears out for the stuff that’s going to be happening on the album. The same was true with previous releases, but the sounds didn’t fit in his songs as cohesively. Now the pieces gel perfectly, as gentle orchestration becomes a staple of the album’s sound.
The circumstances in which Hauck wrote the album also help the mood. Windjammer is the name of the street Hauck grew up on; it’s the same street he currently lives on, where he wrote the album. The whole album has a quiet awe about it, and features repetition of vocal and guitar melodies heavily. The repetition serves as a model of the feelings running through his experience (“whoa, I’ve lived here before”), as well as a showcase of his excellent melodic abilities.
In addition to having wonderful songs throughout, this album is a cohesive experience. It is best listened to in order, without distraction from the liner notes, lyric transcription or anything else. From tip to tail, it evokes a consistent feeling that feeling washes over the listener. It put me in a nostalgic state, especially by the time “Rooster” appeared at track 7. It’s a rare album that sustains a single consistent mood without getting monotonous, so Windjammer is definitely worth praising on that front.
Carl Hauck’s latest release builds on his strengths and drops out old weaknesses, which is about all you can ask for in a developing artist. The songs are emotive and powerful without being forceful, and beautiful without being cloying. Windjammer is one of the best acoustic releases of the year, as it will continue to reveal treasures as one listens repeatedly.
I am a big fan of compilations. Twenty or more bands to check out at once in a format that plays them end to end while I chill? Yes please. On Joyful Wings‘ compilation We Were Lost, We Were Freeis the best compilation I’ve ever heard, bar none. It even trumps Deep Elm‘s enormously influential Too Young to Die; seeing as I discovered my favorite song of all time via that comp (Appleseed Cast‘s “Fishing the Sky”), please know that I’m endowing an immense amount of praise in those words.
The reason it’s the best ever is because out of the 21 bands featured, there’s only two bands whose offerings I didn’t enjoy. Furthermore, I was inspired to go get more music from eight of these bands. Add in the fact that I already own music by three of these bands, and you’ve got an 11/21 conversion rate. That’s enormous for a comp. Mostly I find one or two bands off a comp that I enjoy enough to follow. These guys know what’s up when it comes to tracking a comp.
The bulk of the tracks here are gorgeous, flowing acoustic tunes; there are a couple indie-rock tracks, an indie-pop song and an excellent pop-punk tune by Chasing the Sky, but other than that it’s all acoustic. Holcombe Waller contributes “Risk of Change,” which has brilliant melodies, solid lyrics and a contained energy that makes the song infectious. I’ve listened to it 22 times already. I’ve also listened to “Umbrellas (Acoustic)” by Sleeping at Last 22 times; the track itself is gorgeous in its construction, and this acoustic version translates beautifully.
Carl Hauck‘s “To Coast” was written specifically for this comp, and its optimism through depression sets the tone for the whole album for me. Ikaik offers up a soul-crushing (yet still beautiful) tune that contradicts that last statement, as there’s little hope in the lines, “you can hate me/you have got the right/and when you leave tomorrow/don’t say goodbye/and don’t try to change my mind.”
TW Walsh (ex-Pedro the Lion) contributes a really nice change of pace with a goofy, upbeat tune; Tom Hoekstra reinterprets “Be Thou My Vision” excellently; Josh Woodward goes all Depression-era troubadour tales on us; Fireflies offers a beautiful “fields at dusk”-type piece; and Jeremy Larson leads off the set with an impeccable piece of melodic, cinematic pop.
If a 19/21 success rate and a 11/21 conversion rate aren’t enough to convince you, perhaps the fact that you get all that plus contributing five dollars to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation should pique your interest. Great tunes and a charitable feeling in your soul. At this point, your only question should be “why didn’t you tell us about this sooner?” and the reason for that is that I’m a jerk. and I’m busy. But mostly a jerk.
But seriously, get over to their Bandcamp page and download it. You will not regret it if you like acoustic music. It’s an absolutely incredible collection, and I absolutely can’t wait for their next project, which they’re already working on. I promise I’ll tell you about it quicker next time.
Carl Hauck is a folksy singer who sounds like Andrew Bird if Andrew Bird knew how to have emotions. All of Bird’s work suffers from a disaffected whimsy; it seems that Bird takes bemusement from everything he’s singing and writing about, but does not actually engage with it. Thankfully, Carl Hauck takes the best parts of Bird’s amalgam, adds some of his own, and slathers emotion on it to create Counter Intelligence.
That’s not to say that this is a Damien Rice-esque wailer of an album (not that Damien Rice is bad, but it’s a fair bet that there will be wailing in a Rice album). Hauck’s voice and songwriting are both very pristine, distinct and precise. The lyrics that Hauck produces are all understandable due to his easy tone and clear pronunciation. This is great, because his lyrics are solid. Whether storytelling (“The Rebel”), reminiscing (“Schmaltz”), or speak-singing semi-stories (“Zhuangwho”), you can clearly discern what Hauck has to say.
What’s great is that even though his lyrics are solid (the anti-war “The Rebel” is probably the best anti-war diatribe I’ve heard this year), he doesn’t have to hang his hat on them. His music is just as clever, witty and talented as his tongue. He primarily plays the acoustic guitar, and it’s from that instrument and its melodies that much of the emotiveness of these tunes is drawn. But the acoustic guitar doesn’t bear the whole burden: piano (“The Rebel”) and dreamy electric guitar (“Herrick, You Devil”) make occasional appearances. The extra instruments work perfectly in the context of his folk songs; they fill in gaps instead of taking over songs.
“Herrick, You Devil” is especially enhanced by its extra instrumentation; the eerie feel that Hauck and a female back-up vocalist create is mimicked by the dreamy, cascading guitar. It creates an overall feel of impending dread that only ratchets up higher when they kick in heavy reverb on a piano and the vocals; it turns Hauck and his foil into ghostly apparitions, drawing the song into the transcendent. “Herrick, You Devil” is a highlight track that you probably won’t hum; the mood will just stick with you and the reverb will take up residence in your head.
There are other highlights as well: the oft-mentioned “The Rebel” is a ten minute epic that swoops and leaps through various styles in its story, but it all holds together in a memorable way; “…And Their Hair Looks Like Flocks” invokes the meandering guitar lines of Elijah Wyman. “They Come in Flocks”, which is the companion (at least in title) to the previously mentioned piece feels vaguely like a Nick Drake piece in mood.
Carl Hauck’s folk songs do have nods to many other artists, but the completed product is distinctly Carl Hauck. The album feels tight and cohesive, as there is no letdown between tracks. Each of the songs unfold their own treasures, and because each is a little different, the album travels at a consistent pace. The album is ultimately held together by his clear, distinct vocals, as it’s a real treat to hear them. I would recommend Counter Intelligence to anyone wanting to hear some precise, emotive folk.
Band Name: Carl Hauck
Album Name: Something to Laugh About EP
Best Element: Minimalism.
Genre: Acoustic songwriter
Label Name: N/a
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
First off, I must compliment the artwork on this release. You guys can’t see the inside cover or the CD itself, but Carl Hauck’s Something to Laugh About EP has the best artwork I’ve ever seen on a CD-r. It retains a consistent feel throughout three very different pictures, which is very tough to do, but through subtle uses of line and repetition, Mr. Hauck made it work.
It’s odd that there’s such continuity in Hauck’s artwork, because continuity is exactly what is missing in this EP. Opener “Absolute Relativity” is a meandering, minimalist, mostly instrumental track that sprawls across exactly fourteen minutes- taking up nearly half of the album’s running time with twinkling piano, forlorn lead guitar, occasional sound clips, warm synths and softly pulsing guitar and bass. It’s not bad, but as a student of the Sigur Ros school of minimalism, I believe that there has to be substantial growth throughout a song to constitute excellence- even if the song is 10+ minutes long. “Absolute Relativity” feels more like a bunch of separate thoughts strung together than one cohesive song- the downtempo guitar and synth noodling at 8:00 has little to do with the melancholy guitar solo at 2:00 and even less to do with the acoustic guitar and vocals section at 11:50.
The acoustic guitar and vocals section does have to do with the rest of the album, though. The other five tracks on this EP are of the acoustic singer/songwriter fare- in sharp contrast to the minimalist, moody “Absolute Relativity”. While “Absolute Relativity” had a quirky, almost bizarre songwriting, these tracks are standard fare for acoustic songwriters. Hauck proves his skill at writing a melody with “Dissociation” and shows off his lyrical skill in “Weekly Heretic” (impressive lyrical highlight: “Religion makes me lose my faith in man”), but these straight-up songs don’t really leave an impression.
The two best songs here are “The Cell” and “Regretting the Future”, each where Hauck takes his love of minimalism and fuses it with a songwriter’s touch. “The Cell” feels like an improved, shortened version of “Absolute Relativity”, as Hauck sets his calm, even tone on top of the forlorn spaciousness of the music and makes a stunner of a track.
“Regretting the Future” also features Hauck’s voice, but with only a very minimal guitar line behind it. The quiet humility, direct honesty, and perfect vocal performance of the track make it a beautiful addition to any mellow mix tape.
Hauck has passions at two ends of the spectrum- moody minimalist compositions and acoustic pop songwriting. When the two come together, the songs are excellent. When the two are on their own, the results are par. Hauck’s voice and lyrics are just too good to lose, so let’s hope that there are more meetings between the two genres in Carl Hauck’s future.
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.