Independent Clauses’ 10th birthday is coming up, and we promised loyal IC readers a present/surprise at the beginning of the year. Today is the day that we unveil that present. We are putting out a 20-band compilation album of covers from Give Up by The Postal Service called Never Give Up: Celebrating 10 Years of The Postal Service. It will be out May 15 on Bandcamp.
We’re running a Kickstarter campaign to finish up the funding of the mechanical licenses. We’re only looking for $695, because this project isn’t looking to change the world: we just want everyone to get paid legally. So, if you want to support Independent Clauses, get some sweet free tunes, support one of the bands below, or generally be awesome to each other, you should hit up the Kickstarter Page and check out the prizes. I’ll handmake you a mix CD! With art!
I’ve rarely been on-the-ball enough to get my year end lists done by December 31, but this year I made a concerted effort to have all my 2011 reviewing done early. As a result, I was able to put together not just a top 20 albums list, but a top 50 songs mixtape and a top 11 songs list. Here’s the mixtape, organized generally from fast’n’loud to slow’quiet. Hear all of the songs at their links, with one exception of a purchase link (#27). The other lists will come over the next few days.
I don’t know of many people in the United States who still listen to Turin Brakes. The band is alive and kicking in Britain, but their U.S. moment in the sun came during the early ’00s with Ether Song during the melodramatic Brit-pop wave (Coldplay, Keane, Travis, etc.). For whatever reason, they didn’t have the good fortune of sustaining and entering the American public consciousness. Still, I really enjoy their thoughtful, pensive melodrama, and consider it a fuller, folkier counterpoint to the fragility of Parachutes-era Coldplay.
I mention all that to say that Run Dan Run sounds like Turin Brakes, and that’s a compliment in my book. (That payoff probably wasn’t as good as the setup warranted.) Run Dan Run’s Normal is a solid collection of acoustic/electric tunes that works incredibly well as a whole album, in addition to its single-producing abilities.
The fullness includes horns, drums and earthy electric guitar on “Lovesick Animal,” as well as some sort of synth/keyboard on “Box-Type Love.” These songs are the catchiest of the lot, offering up hooky vocal lines and intriguing tones to assert dominance over whatever was happening in your musical brain before this (for me: Sleeping at Last). “Box-Type Love” is especially potent in this regard, as you’ll be humming the nonsensical, titular hook after all is said and done.
The lyric probably makes sense in context, but the lyrics aren’t foregrounded in the mix. This is an album about the sound of things, and a carefully constructed one at that. This detailed attention to craft is much more comparable to The Walkmen (Ed. note: two days of Walkmen references in a row!) than Mumford and Sons or even Coldplay.
Not that Coldplay doesn’t pay attention to the sound of things (they certainly did in Parachutes, and since Eno came on board, increasingly do), but the little flourishes are more easily recognizable as mattering than in other albums: The background keys in “Gestures and Patterns,” the mere presence of the instrumental “Intro,” the woozy bass tone in “Fresh Faces,” and the gently dissolving closer “In Parts.” This album belongs in the conversation alongside bands like Turin Brakes and The National: Old souls making contemplative music that gets labeled rock for lack of a better term.
There’s much more and nothing left to say about Normal. I could go on about individual tunes, but the main points have already been said: this is a beautiful album for the album’s sake that also has some great singles on it. Run Dan Run has succeeded in a rare task, and you should check it out.
Coldplay is the rock band to beat in the world right now. They have consistently excellent songwriting, an adventurous bent that doesn’t allow them to write the same album twice, a fantastic live show, a rabid following, a non-pretentious attitude about most things, and what seems like a genuine love for making music. Although there are bands that have more of each thing (Radiohead fans are more rabid, The Flaming Lips have a top-notch live show, the Mountain Goats have been cranking out consistently excellent songs for almost twenty years, etc), the one category in which they stand out pushes them over the top as the rock band right now. X&Y is as different from Parachutes as they come, and same for A Rush of Blood to the Head and Viva La Vida. They consistently push themselves, and it shows.
I say all this because my first thought when I heard Run Dan Run’s 27 Coming St. EP was, “Whoa. This sounds like Parachutes-era Coldplay!” And then I was struck by how Coldplay is one of the few bands in the world that I would have to specify which album a band sounds like instead of just comparing band to band.
And Run Dan Run’s songs do bear strong resemblance to their Parachutes-era brethren. The songs are a bit more ragged and wild, like Turin Brakes or the most passionate moments of Damien Rice, but the moods between the two albums are very similar. Run Dan Run features piano and acoustic guitar prominently, always having tension between the two as to who is most important. It’s a good tension that provides a neat flair to RDR’s sound.
The only downfall here are the vocals, which are more toward the Bob Dylan/Neutral Milk Hotel ragged school of indie-rock singing rather than the Ben Folds-smooth voice. In several tracks the vocals are just too much, and they detract from the song. “Wasted Love” is a very nice song dragged down by a weak vocal performance. On the other hand, the wild passion invested in the end of closer “Points of Departure” makes the song into what it is, yelling and all. The vocals are a part of listening to RDR, and if you’re not going to be able to enjoy it through the cracks, breaks, and pauses, you should look elsewhere. But if you’re down with bands like Neutral Milk Hotel or newer artists The Tallest Man on Earth or The Rural Alberta Advantage, you’ll be down with Run Dan Run and their grounded acoustic pop in the vein of Parachutes by Coldplay.
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.