Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

July MP3s: Acoustic

August 6, 2015

July MP3s: Acoustic

1. “I Touch My Face in Hyperspace Oh Yeah” – Devin James Fry. You shouldn’t need my encouragement to listen to a song with a title so enigmatic and intriguing, but if you do, the fiery, wild-eyed psych-folk-rock is just as immediately engaging and mind-expanding as the title.

2. “Cheap Shades” – Chris Staples. Staples tosses off lyrics in this gentle, walking-speed acoustic tune as if they were easy to come by, as if they weren’t complex and unique and deeply thoughtful. This doesn’t sound like the Mountain Goats at all, but fans of John Darnielle will hear the lyrical kinship (even if the music is closer to Sufjan’s Michigan than anything TMG has put out, except maybe Get Lonely). If you’re of the age and vintage that 238’s “Modern Day Prayer” is tattooed on your consciousness, get prepared to have your mind blown: this is that Chris Staples.

3. “Can’t Undo This” – Heather Bond. It’s tough to do a dramatic, introspective ballad without getting formalist or maudlin. Bond balances gravitas and vulnerability to come up with a searing, poignant, piano-driven tune.

4. “Take You Away” – The National Parks. Handclaps, pizzicato violin, punchy horns, and bright-eyed guy/girl vocals buoy this cross between orchestral-folk-pop, party-friendly indie-pop-rock, and even some disco vibes (!). Weighty genre labels aside, this is a cheery, thoughtful tune that does more than bash out chords on a well-trod road.

5. “Ida” – El Tryptophan. Was Pet Sounds an orchestral explosion of the Phil Spector sound? If so, “Ida” could fit in the chronological and sonic space right between ’60s girl-pop arrangements and Brian Wilson’s masterpiece (with some Velvet Underground thrown in for good measure). [Editor’s note: El Tryptophan is now known as Gryphon Rue.]

6. “Pink Lemonade” – Monogold. Sometimes the title is all you need to know.

7. “Cross My Broken Heart” – Sherman Ewing. Sometimes the chorus is all you need to hear.

8. “Kids” – Dara Sisterhen. Somehow manages to blend country, ’50s pop, and folk-pop into one breezy, carefree tune perfect for your next road trip.

9. “The Script” – The Treacherous French. Almost any accordion-laden acoustic tune is going to come off like a sea shanty; the washboard percussion, enthusiastic high-tenor vocal performance, and “whoa-ohs” solidify the notion.

10. “Willingham” – Echo Bloom. Somehow combines the murky sounds of a forest, high-drama noir vocals, indie-rock slinkiness, and ghostly aura. Wildly inventive.

11. “Little Dreamer” – Charlotte & Magon. Delicate electric guitar, gently dramatic vocals, and an overall sense of lazy Saturday mornings.

12. “Gotta Wanna” – Gun Outfit. I turn the key and the engine hums. I turn out of the gas station and back onto an empty Arizona highway, headed back toward California. The insistent drumming underscores my sense of motion, but the vocals and guitar lean back to make sure that everyone knows it’s not all that urgent. We’re gonna hang out and enjoy ourselves when we get there; we’ll enjoy it on the way, too.

13. “Hold Hands for Dry Land” – Oryx and Crake. The gleeful community feel of Funeral was part of what made it so engaging: Oryx and Crake develop that same sort of group vibe in this punchy-yet-thoughtful melodic indie-rock track. Anyone named after a Margaret Atwood novel is asking for your full attention–they reward, both musically and lyrically.

April Video Recap!

May 7, 2015

Chris Staples’ “Dark Side of the Moon” pairs old clips about the reaction to a space launch with a earnest, plaintively hooky acoustic pop tune. It’s a great tune and a great video.

Stein Sang’s “House of Sticks” video tells the story of a tumultuous (but not totally broken) relationship. The cinematography is great, and the song fits excellently.

Peach Kelli Pop’s clip for “Princess Castle 1987” sees the female quartet running around a city in full Princess Peach dresses. It is a hilarious and fitting clip for the bubblegum pop garage rock of PKP.

Iron & Wine’s “Everyone’s Summer of ’95” clip features semi-pro wrestling prominently–maybe Sam Beam and John Darnielle should hook and have a discussion about how the sport impacts their creative processes (The Mountain Goats’ recently-released Beat the Champ is about wrestling.) The video is tender, thoughtful, and poignant.

Get on up get on up get on up

November 2, 2014

1. “Cassius” – The Maytags. You want some fun, dance-around your kitchen vibes? The Maytags have perky horns, upbeat rhythm section, group vocals, and a totally infectious mood. My fiance likes it, and she likes good music. Jump on it, people.

2. “In a Desert of Plenty” – Sunmonks. Motown horns, distant vocals, funky vibes, and engimatic/intriguing rhythmic elements make this track a keeper.

3. “The Snowfalls” – Whyte Horses. Gentle psychedelia meets ’70s folk with some ’50s girl pop vibes in the vocals: it’s a really inviting overall effect.

4. “Center of the Universe” – Chris Staples. Remember that hyper-personal acoustic indie-pop movement from the early to mis ’00s? Some called it quiet is the new loud, but I called it deeply engaging, personal work with a priority on intimate recording styles. This Built to Spill cover nails all the right notes.

5. “i don’t need an advocate, i need an exorcist” – moyamoya. If Appleseed Cast’s wide-open, cinematographic motion from Mare Vitalis made into to the minor keys of Peregrine, we’d have this track. Tons of great guitar work throughout, beautiful production job.

6. “A Sunday Afternoon Epilepsy” – More than Skies. MTS continues their very intriguing campaign to mix lush, autumnal folk landscapes with angular, punk-inspired guitars and creaky vocals. I’m a fan.

7. “Ghostlight” – Alex Tiuniaev. Here’s a cinematic, pensive, romantic instrumental piece led by piano and strings.

8. “Opus No. 21” – The Greatest Hoax. Ambient classical? Dreamy no-guitars post-rock? Wistful dreamweave pop? Whatever this is, it’s pretty, moving, and sets a scene well.

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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