1. “New World” – Grammar. What if the Postal Service had been thought up by a woman instead of a man? Here’s a loose, flexible, smooth take on electro-pop that made me ponder the question.
2. “Gum Wrapper Rings” – Kind Cousin. I love to hear sentimental-yet-complex songwriting, and Kind Cousin delivers. Fans of Laura Stevenson will rejoice in the amalgam of wistful indie-rock guitars, ’50s girl pop vocals, and noisy drumming.
3. “Hold On Tight” – Ed Prosek. Radio-friendly, catchy folk-pop that’s a cross between Ed Sheeran and Phillip Phillips. Yes, that’s a pretty strong litmus test, I know. But it’s true.
4. “White Pine Way” – More than Skies. This impressive track falls somewhere between noisy punk/emo and slicker indie-rock bands like Interpol and Silversun Pickups. Lots of great melodies, but without hitting you over the head with them. Great work here.
5. “Black River” – Wild Leaves. Lush harmonies and ’70s-style production make Laurel Canyon the spiritual home of this track. Fleetwood Mac can come too.
6. “Tulsa Springs” – White White Wolf. Here’s an ominous, mysterious, rugged cabin-folk tune that’s high on atmosphere. (Also, +1 for anything with the name of my hometown in it.)
7. “Ne Brini Za Mene” – Neverdays. The Serbian response to Jason Molina, complete with mournful cello.
8. “Even I” – Grant Valdes. Valdes found a trove of hymns written by Haden Laas (1899-1918), an American soldier in WWI. They didn’t have scores, just words–so Valdes is setting each of the 44 hymns to music. This initial offering is a plaintive, yearning, piano-led tune. I’m super-excited to see where this goes.
I’ve proclaimed my love for real dancing in videos and continued to write about Americana/folk for a very long time, so it should be self-evident that Grant Valdes’ music video combining these two things would steal my heart. The instrumental “Streetcorner Waltz” off his album Brownout is a tender, fragile instrumental piece that is suited perfectly with a delicate, charming video. Click “Full Screen” and enjoy this lovely video debuting on Independent Clauses today.
Before we get to the surreal video clips, here’s an absolutely surreal performance. I will never tire of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and Jenny & Tyler (and guests!) do an incredible rendition right here. Jenny & Tyler is one of the most on-fire acts I know of right now.
A lot of artists want to make surreal music videos, but Elliphant’s latest clip is one of the few that succeeds. The visuals are unsettling without being graphic, perfectly fitting the tense electro-pop of “Revolusion.”
Grant Valdes’ “Lord, Don’t Take the Sun” clip gives a herky-jerky, also-surreal take on building a fire. I know it sounds pedestrian, but it’s compelling.
& Yet gives a strong studio performance of a forlorn chamber-pop tune as part of the Fastback Sessions. It’s not surreal, really, but I wanted to include it anyway. It’s my blog, I do what I want.
If you’ve got 11 minutes for three freak-folk songs from Matthew Squires and The Learning Disorders, then you should check out this video. Squires and a cellist perform amidst a half-finished boutique, complete with mannequins. Suitable space for Squires’ fractured, surreal visions.
As a newcomer to the Seattle music scene, I was eagerly anticipating my inevitable introduction to the many talented local artists that the Pacific Northwest is producing. I got just such an opportunity when Stephen asked me to review the album and CD release of Grant Valdes and his newest album of indie-folk, At Peace At Last. Valdes was previously the primary songwriter in The Empty Mirror.
Grant’s talent as both a musician and a songwriter was obvious from the start of the show as he began with “What the Hell Do I Know” and “When We are Dead” off his new album. Grant led his trio with guitar and keyboard melodies that were well conceived. He conducted the violinist and dreadlocked cellist, who accompanied him in a clear and connected way. The simple combination of strings and piano matched Grant’s singular, full-toned voice and created a haunting, poignant sound that lingered in my head as I hummed between tunes.
Grant also showed an impressive ability to invent lyrics that dramatically communicate his exploration of the purpose of life, death, and love in a creative and unique way. Let’s face it, that’s often hard to find. He explores the never-ending question of politics on “Fear the A-Bomb” and “Plutocracy,” and his conclusions seem to be familiar and attractive to his audiences. The songs brought a strong response and energy from the crowd who made it to the release show.
Grant’s vocals are especially effective because of his ability to move between his breathy falsetto and his stronger voicing in a way that communicates unbiased emotion in each and every tune. This is especially true on “A Lesson for Kurt,” “I Know,” and “The Gift of a Poor Memory.” His strongest vocals appear on “Antithing” and “Fear the A-Bomb.”
All around, Grant is a talented musician and songwriter whose tunes are bound to get stuck in your head – and you will like it. His compositions for piano and guitar are creative, but his experimentation in composing for violin and cello really makes the album a step above the rest in this category. His insightful lyrics are hauntingly perceptive to the human condition. For some indie-folk that will catch your attention and satisfy your desire for both melodic and lyrical potency, be sure to look for more on Grant Valdes and At Peace At Last.
One of the joys of being around for almost a full seven years (secret: keep your eyes peeled for a 7-year birthday present soon!) is that I can follow artists through their careers. We’ve covered every single Felix Culpa release except for their debut three-way-split EP. We’ve covered half a dozen Fairmont releases. We’ve covered just about as many Marc with a C albums. Green Song is the fourth release that’s associated with musician E Deubner that we’ve covered – two solo albums and an album by his band Futants preceded this latest solo effort. This is his first under moniker The Hotel Chronicles.
One of the reasons it’s so fun to cover artists over the long range is that artists grow and change. It’s neat to see where an artist was, where an artist is, and where an artist is (maybe?) going. That’s what makes Green Song especially interesting to me. When I reviewed The Wasted Creator in 2006, Deubner was cranking out heavy, industrial-influenced rock tracks that had almost zero pop influence. Over the years, Deubner’s aesthetic has refined and changed, although never losing the core of dark, distorted, truly alternative rock.
Green Song is the strongest effort that Deubner has put out yet, because like Grant Valdes, Deubner has put his focus squarely on composing and not on becoming a rock star. I’m not sure what the green song that he’s singing about is, but it’s referenced at the beginning, middle and end of the album. The decision to tie the album together thematically also causes Deubner to tie the album together musically, making one of his most ambitious but most cohesive collections of songs yet. Deubner stretches his musical boundaries by including burbling ’80s-style electronica (“Intermission”), Beck-style hip-hop (“My Baby’s Coming Home”), and modern beat-making production (“Love Me, Leave Me”) in his dark, vaguely apocalyptic rock this time around.
Green Song isn’t for the unadventurous. Deubner’s aesthetic, while honed on this album, is still not within the realms recognized as modern rock. If you approach this thinking it’s a Nine Inch Nails sound-a-like, there’s a good chance you will be disappointed. You might not; there is definitely industrial influence that an open-minded NIN fan could enjoy. Songs like “Just for Fun Fun Baby, Run Run Run” and “Green Song Part II” rock out in a way that calls to mind his work with Futants, and those are two tracks that could be enjoyed by many.
But for every accessible riff (like the great opener of “A Minute to Love”), there’s two or three things that would never see the light of radio (like the simultaneous weird falsettos, quaalude guitar tempo, and old-school hip-hop beat of “Love Me, Leave Me”). For every accessible tune like “A Minute to Love,” there’s the late-night basement experimentation of title track “Green Song” and “The Final Push.” This is the way E Deubner wants it, and while not every one of his ideas succeeds (“Reborn” has an awful vocal performance that dooms it instantaneously), he is hitting with a higher level of success than on previous releases.
E Deubner’s Green Song is a solid statement from an artistic with a unique aesthetic. The rock/industrial/other presented here is the work of an artist continually refining his sound. This is a big step forward, but not his final destination. There are a lot of new elements introduced to his sound on this album that will need to see refining in future albums, just as his guitar riffs have. I can’t wait to see where he goes next. Recommended for fans of industrial, experimental rock or experimental music in general.