Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Summer’s comin!

March 20, 2014

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).

Summer’s Comin’

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.

7. “Lucid Dream” – Glue Trip. #ChillwaveForever

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.]

Monsenior: That AM pop gold

December 2, 2013

monsenior

I broke out Nik Freitas’ Saturday Night Underwater this week, because its AM-pop gold was on my mind. I’ve got the soft way on my mind because of Monsenior‘s self-titled EP, which is an excellent example of the form itself. The Irish duo is meticulous in its song constructions, purveying sweet pop melodies and tight arrangements to go with them. The band gives the RIYL of Bright Eyes, but it’s much closer to Supertramp, Paul Simon, even Fleetwood Mac (at its most structured, not its “Tusk” weird era).

“Seven Bells” leans on a gentle guitar riff, shakers, tambourine, rolling piano and pressing bass, creating that old driving feeling. You can put your top down to this one, but it’s the knowing-cool sort of drive, not the the giddy-freedom sort of trip. “Head Screwed On” is a jaunty acoustic tune that reminds me of Fionn Regan and (again) Paul Simon; that’s high praise from over here. The winding lead guitar melody expands into a wide-open pop tune, complete with either spoons or tapdancing. That’s the sort of tune I can get behind! Each of these four tunes are supported by intricate arrangements that don’t self-consciously draw attention to themselves, which is nice in the chamber-pop era. (Don’t worry, I still love chamber-pop. But the change of pace is nice!)

If you’re disillusioned by the fact that rap, dubstep, country, rock and pop are all converging as one amorphous pop sound, let Monsenior’s four-song EP remind you that in the minds of at least a few holdouts, pop means something specific. Cheery hooks, acoustic guitar, piano (“Simple Miss”), and an unassuming backing band are all you need to get an overall shine to your pop. Monsenior has those things in spades. Here’s to pop music.

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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