1. “Lighthouse” – The Burgeoning. One of the most intriguing singles I’ve heard all year, this track combines the ambient uppers of chillwave with the melodic structures of Vampire Weekend and the frantic fury (and guitar noise) of a punk band. It’s a fresh, amazing combination. I’m looking forward to hear more from The Burgeoning.
2. “The Next Morning” – The Drafts. The energy and enthusiastic guitars of The Vaccines meet a reserved, pensive vocalist for a charming, infectious tune that you’ll want to hear multiple times.
3. “Where I Go” – Pistol Shrimp. If Passion Pit, MGMT, and Anamanaguchi had a basement dance party, this bangin’ tune would be the result. Pop gold, right here.
4. “Heartracer” – Cosby. Synth-laden, big-pop ’80s revivalism is going great this year. This fits right up there with Challenger for the best of the bunch.
5. “Recurring Dreams” – Shivery Shakes. The carefree nature of whistling in a ’60s surf-pop influenced tune gets me every time. You like The Drums? You’ll love this.
6. “Promises” – Barreracudas. If you make a metaphor that includes arcade games (specifically Donkey Kong), I will be immediately more endeared to you. Fun, poppy garage-rock here.
7. “Speed Date Yr Way to Fame” – Sweet Deals on Surgery. Starts off a thrashy, screamed, frantic punk song before taking a momentary break in pop. Then in blasts off again.
8. “Name on a Matchbook” – Springtime Carnivore. ’60s girl pop gets a slight sonic update, but the soul of this tune really begs for an -ettes suffix.
9. “Head Down” – The Ocean Party. Jangly ’80s indie-rock meets airy ’80s synth-pop. The peppy, fun results are less ’80s and more ’00s than you’d think.
Bear in Heaven’s cinematographer filmed for a month at night in New York City to capture the many feels of what goes on in the city at night. It’s a mesmerizing, incredible short film that works perfectly with the music.
IC faves Challenger return with a video about a girl, an abandoned asylum, a ghost, and trespassing; now with 100% more ending you didn’t expect.
Sharon Van Etten’s video for “Our Love” is almost uncomfortably personal; a black and white shot of her bedroom and her lover (without showing any nudity whatsoever), it depicts the tensions inherent in the tune perfectly. It’s beautiful, just like the tune.
Did you like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? If so, you will love the clip for The Yuseddit Brothers’ “Metronome.” The song seems to have approximately 0% connection to the video, but that’s totally okay because the video is awesome.
It’s getting better and better outside, so my ears are getting more and more attuned to those summery tunes.
Oh So Summery
1. “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!” – Kishi Bashi. He’s on Joyful Noise Recordings, which sounds like a 100% perfect fit. This ridiculously happy and catchy tune will get stuck in your head. HAPPY SUMMER Y’ALL.
2. “Sweater Weather” – Challenger. If John Ross gets any more inspired by the ’80s, I’ll have to start questioning where he’s hiding his time machine. But for now, enjoy this blissed-out synth-pop, complete with gated snares and stuttering percussion fills.
3. “Dead Man’s Pose” – Old Smokey. Almost as excited as Kishi Bashi is Old Smokey, a folky outfit that features no guitars but 3000% enthusiasm. This is not your average folk: brass and clarinet counter throughout when the members of the band aren’t group-hollering. It’s just wonderful.
4. “Let’s Get Started” – Dylan Gardner. OH SUMMER YOU ARE ALMOST HERE. I will celebrate you with a guitar-pop tune by a flop-haired teenager with pop chops. I only thought of Hanson like once. Mostly the Beatles. But some Hanson. No Bieber though.
5. “Halo” – DamnRight! There’s always room in my heart for chillwave-inspired electro fun.
6. “I Spy” – Michael McFarland. I love Train, so take this as nothing but a compliment when I say that this track falls somewhere between Train and old-school Guster.
7. “Old Foes” – Yaquina Bay. Orchestral folk is not generally known for its easygoing vibe, but Yaquina Bay creates just such a mood here.
8. “Morning Light” – Andrew Judah. I’m not sure how Judah came up with the idea to get steel drums and banjo together, but it sounds incredible. I am extremely excited for this upcoming record–it promises to bend genres all over the places.
9. “Terrible Love” – Moda Spira. Latifah Phillips takes a different angle on The National’s slow-burner, but it’s no less dramatic or powerful at the end.
10. “Right In My Arms” – Exzavier Whitley. Like early Iron & Wine, this is deeply calming fingerstyle guitar that cares more about the mood than perfection of performance. Gorgeous work.
April is my busiest month of the year, so I’ll most likely not get as much posting done here as I’d like. But I’m giving it all my effort. Here are five tunes that I’ve been jamming to.
A Small Collection, etc.
1. “The Stone” – The Gray Havens. No matter how far afield I go, I always come back to folk-pop. This takes a grand, sweeping approach to the genre (not unlike I and Love and You-era Avett Brothers), capping off a giant crescendo with a cascade of “ohs” counterpointing the chorus. It’s a fun, peppy, carefully-constructed track that has me excited for their upcoming new album.
2. “Spero” – Cindertalk. IC fave Jonny Rodgers is now Cindertalk. His first release under the name is a haunting, powerful track that relies on his fragile voice and an impressive arrangement of his ethereal tuned wine glasses. There’s a vinyl that will be on sale during Record Store Day–you should check that thing out.
3. “Postworld (The Sun Explodes)” – Manuka Piglet. Were you looking for 13 minutes of psych-folk freakout about the cosmic end of things? Or maybe you were looking for a clarinet solo? Or both? Ambitious, impressive, a little bit nuts.
4. “XOXO” – Swordface. Wiry indie-rock that doesn’t take its talents or melodic prowess too seriously. I heard there’s an emo revival on? This probably counts.
5. “How Terrorism Brought Us Back Together” – Challenger. IC fave Challenger is bringing its ’80s-influence electro-pop back around again, and this one kicks it off with a bouncy track that features strikingly direct vocals and melodies. Throw this one on the car stereo and let that top down.
Even though spring is officially today, it iced two days ago in Raleigh. It’s been a long winter, so it’s nice to start thinking about and hearing summer (even if I can’t see it yet). Here are some summery tunes for you, with occasional interjections from fall (everything folky sounds like fall, sorry bout that).
1. “The Sun” – Sleepers Bells. Jesse Alexander keeps busy: he’s in IC favorites Battle Ave. and The Miami, as well as releasing a solo project under the name Sleepers Bells. This track combines the Titus Andronicus punk fervor of BA with the wild vocals and mournful sadness of The Miami for a completely fascinating track.
2. “Ether” – Gentle Robot. Is night-time rock a thing? (Bloc Party says yes?) If so, that’s where Gentle Robot lives: dark but not angry, melancholy but not brooding, loud but not abrasive.
3. “Raise a Glass” – Monsenior. Bouncy indie-pop that evenly balances weight and effervescence. This one never loses its grounding as a bass-heavy tune, but it’s still a ton of fun.
4. “Beauty’s Bones” – Villa Kang. Combinines giant, thwomping ’80s electro-pop beats with some wistful ’00s indie-vibes in the vocals. The ghost of MGMT hangs low over this summer banger. [Editor’s note: This track is no longer available.]
5. “Concorde” – Incan Abraham. No better title for this Springsteen-meets-’80s electro cut than the sadly-no-more jet.
6. “Til Tomorrow” – DWNTWN. We have entered “summery pop” season. It couldn’t get here fast enough, for my money.
8. “Dare the Dream (Challenger Remix)” – Pure Bathing Culture. IC faves Challenger give the dreamy PBC cut an even dreamier take, turning it into an ethereal-yet-triumphant take on the tune.
9. “Towers” – Orphan Mothers. Smooth, delicate R&B-esque tune with some indie-rock flair in the guitar. Remember The Antlers? They’d be jamming to this.
10. “She’s Falling” – Breanna Kennedy. It seems like I’m including one adult alternative track per mix. This week’s AA track features a nicely understated chorus; it’s great to not hear a gigantic instrumental explosion every now and then.
11. “Flaws” – Vancouver Sleep Clinic. Falsetto over electro/acoustic jams is either going to invoke James Blake or Bon Iver until further notice. Still, this is a beautiful track.
12. “Burning Promises” – GreenHouse. Piano, synths, found sound, and dry percussion come together to make a relaxing tune. [Editor’s note: This track is no longer available.]
2013 is over, but the 10th year of Independent Clauses marches on. It was an amazing year, full of shows and releases and old friends and new friends and more good music than I could possibly cover. It was one of my favorite years of Independent Clauses, as I feel that I’ve finally hit my stride in what I want to be doing here.
Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of the Postal Service was our 10th anniversary, but that was only the beginning, not a swan song. That release ran its time, and is now gone but for the torrents running about on the Internet. You can still hear Jenny & Tyler’s excellent version of “We Will Become Silhouettes” on their charity covers album For Freedom, and I recommend you do that. It was an amazing project, and I’m thankful to the many, many people who helped make it happen, as we raised almost $500 dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief (along with making some really awesome music).
Here’s to many more years of Independent Clauses: more projects, more reviews, and more shows. More friends, especially. More friends.
And here’s Challenger‘s two-song New Year release, which features a quiet, piano-led original and a version of “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s an unexpectedly chill turn from a big, bold synth-pop project, but both tracks are perfect for sitting back and thinking about the year that was and the year that will be. Christmas gets all the love, but Challenger is sticking up for New Years. In the same way, some bands may get all the love, but Independent Clauses is sticking up for the young, new, and small artists out there.
Here’s 11 tracks of indie-rock, indie-pop and folk that I’ve been loving recently.
Keep That Summer Alive
1. “Little Lucy” – The Worriers. Somewhere between early 2000s garage rock and highly stylized Vaccines pop-rock sits The Worriers’ excellent track. Viva la indie rock.
2. “Lazer Gun Show” – Hey Geronimo. If you aren’t screaming out “LA! ZER! GUN! SHOW!” by the end of this tune, you’re doing it wrong. You may also be dead. Thank you, Hey Geronimo. Thank you so much.
3. “Who You Are” – Natural Animal. In a perfect world, this song dominates radio, wins VMAs, and is crowned song of the summer.
4. “Science of a Seizure” – Challenger. Ratatat percussion eventually gives way to the best sort of ’80s revival pop. Challenger can make even brittle beats warm and enveloping.
5. “Tell Teri On Me” – Sir Wes Al Gress. Wobbly dub plus bubblegum vocals, shimmering synths, and a walking-pace beat. It’s completely bizarre, but infectious in a strange way.
6. “Once a Servant” – Psychic Teen. In a perfect world, this song dominates… wait. (Generationals, meet your new opening band!)
7. “When He’s Down” – The Lonesome South Comfort Company. Folky, Southern, psychedelic: this band knows how to hit you hard and early. One of the best singles I’ve heard all year.
8. “Robber Barons” – Cloud Person. Celtic vibes from a big string section give this full-band folk assault an anthemic, epic quality. If you think indie-rock is a little too American-sounding.
9. “Ramble” – Rivals of the Peacemaker. The Civil Wars get a little more outlaw (as you’d expect with that excellent name). Try to get this one out of your head, I dare you.
10. “Silent Film Reel” – Breathe Owl Breathe. The orchestral folk-pop of BOB is always earnest, infectious, and delightfully off-kilter.
11. “Happiness Is a Sad Song” – Owls of the Swamp. There are a certain group of people who agree innately with this song title and therefore will be in love with this smooth, mellow tune.
So I went running this morning, and it was actually hot. Summer is creeping in, y’all!
Interstitial Summer mix
1. “Confidence” – The Dodos. Here’s a jaw-dropping fusion of intricate guitarwork, indie-rock bombast, and pop sensibility. Thrilled to hear this album.
2. “Southern Belle” – The Radio Reds. Pop-punk is where I’m from, and it’s where I go in summer. This bass-heavy tune reminds me of Titus Andronicus due to the atypical vocal rhythms of the vocalist. Great stuff.
3. “Baton” – Pan. My favorite gleeful post-rockers are back, emphasis on the rock … and the violin.
4. “Back to Bellevue” – Challenger. Summer mixes can always use more ’80s-inspired electro-pop, especially when it’s as bouncy and charming as Challenger’s.
5. “If It Speaks” – Hospital Ships. Hospital Ships plays indie-rock that I immediately recognize but can’t place. Their tunes come from a deep understanding of how indie-rock works, circa 2013. Mighty.
6. “Make It Home” – Hoodie Allen feat. Kina Grannis. Hoodie drops the studio version of the track he and Kina Grannis wrote for Fuze. It starts out with voice and acoustic guitar, but it’s a block party by the halfway point (complete with huge horn sample). The Mets still get a shout-out. It’s still awesome.
7. “You’re Turning From” – Fiery Crash. No summer mix is complete without a lazy, hazy poolside jam.
8. “The Hypnotist” – Owls of the Swamp. And no self-respecting summer mix wouldn’t include a midnight makeout track either, and this Australian indie-folk gem fits the bill perfectly. Swirling, mysterious, and beautiful.
We’re moving ever closer to summer! We’ve almost emerged from the wintry doldrums! I must play as much wintry, doldrum-y music as I can before it’s June and that sort of music gets weird! The first three are sunshiny, the back five are chilly and reminiscent of snow (or at least dead leaves).
Winter Won’t Go Without A Fight Mix
1. “Dance Until Three” – Hey Anna. Just do what they say, as summer comes.
2. “Knock Yourself Out” – Slow Buildings. Guitar rock never dies, it just grows another appendage. Nice wiry, spry tune here with a surf-rock-inspired chorus.
3. “W.T.A.” – The Miners. Like The Killers, how had this name not been taken? These Philadelphians peddle story-tellin’ alt-country that makes the most of pedal-steel and six-string interactions.
4. “Hold On” – Sons of the East. Because Mumford and Sons don’t tour Australia enough.
5. “Common Year” – Thomas. I used to turn to Pedro the Lion for morose indie-rock like this, but now that’s not a thing, so I’m thrilled that Thomas is here to alleviate some of that hole in my heart.
6. “My Own” – Morgan Manifacier. Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear haven’t collaborated yet (to the best of my knowledge), but I imagine this tune would be sorta what they’d come up with. This one balances lush chamber-folk arrangements and stark moods effortlessly.
7. “Life in the Paint (Jesu Remix)” – Challenger. Like the Challenger remix we debuted, Jesu’s wide-eyed take on “Life in the Paint” strips out the original layers of synths to cut right at the heart of the tune. Cool stuff going on with these remixes.
8. “Liquid Gold” – Archie Atholl. A calming, wintry piano tune to close out the evening.
Grossymmetric is the video and music art project of NYC’s Kyle Marler. Marler gives “How Are My Thoughts Not My Own?” an inverted mix of sorts, stripping out the blaring treble synths and squelching bass synths. In their stead, Marler inserts plenty of bedroom synth doodles, found-sound, and gentle beats. This turns the formerly jubilant track into the perfect accompaniment for a 3 a.m. drive home. It’s a unique take on Challenger that I very much enjoy.
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.