Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Late September MP3s: Pop

October 7, 2015

1. “Hopeful” – Bear Mountain. A little bit of Passion Pit, a little bit of Vampire Weekend, a little M83, and you’ve got one of the best dance-pop songs I’ve heard all year.

2. “Entomologist” – Luxxe. Shades of Jason Isbell’s evocative voice creep in here, placed in the context of a perky-yet-mature pop-rock tune. It all comes off with impressive cohesion.

3. “Buoy” – The Band and the Beat. If you wished that Mates of State used analog synths all the time, you’ll be way into TBxB’s gentle, warm, female-fronted synth-pop. The tune just wraps itself around my brain and comforts it.

4. “Understand” – Photoreal. It seems wrong to describe this pop-rock tune as “muscly,” but it feels like a streamlined, beefed-up version of Generationals’ catchy indie-pop work.

5. “Au Naturel” – Holy ’57. The frenetic blitz of a major-key sugar rush will never get old. This tune has everything I’m looking for in a pop tune.

6. “Lodestar” – Starlight Girls. The disco vibes are impeccably done and the vocals are tight, but–for my money–this song is 100% about that bass work. It’s melodic, funky, tight, and just plain irresistible. A knock-out.

7. “Storm” – Bright Whistles. Sometimes I’m concerned that I’ve abused the term “quirky,” because something always seems to come along that was quirkier than the last. Suffice it to say, “Storm” by Bright Whistles is like what The Flaming Lips could have been if they kept on the Yoshimi path, or what all genres of indie-rock sound like in a giant blender, or (stay with me on this one) what an OK GO music video would sound like if the video itself were transformed into audio that reflected the clever, enthusiastic, enigmatic visuals. In other words, it’s pretty rad.

8. “Summertime” – The High Divers. Bands are always making odes to that sunniest of seasons, but this one really nails it: a touch of Vampire Weekend, a splash of Hamilton Leithauser’s vocal gymnastics, and a whole lot of good-old-pop-music. Dare you to not smile.

9. “Two Weeks” – HIGH UP. File this powerhouse tune under “Muscle Shoals Soul/Funk,” right there next to Alabama Shakes, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

10. “Burning Candles” – Disaster Lover. It’s like I walked into a room where Disaster Lover’s vision was already fully employed: not so many songs capture and modify the aural space that they’re deployed in. The whirling/somewhat chaotic percussion and synths that are woven together to create this here/there/everywhere piece of work are wild and yet inviting.

11. “We All Decided No” – S.M. Wolf. This is, at its core, a pop-rock song. It is a very weird, arch, theatrical, blown-out take on the theme, but it’s in there. This is basically what I imagine we’re trying to capture with the idea of indie-pop: pop songs that just aren’t radio material in this universe, but only because it’s an unjust universe.

12. “Suspended in la raison d’ĂȘtre” – Cloud Seeding. Just a beautiful instrumental dream-pop track that’s over too soon.

Premiere: The High Divers’ “Suddenly Naked”

October 1, 2015

It seems that rock’n’roll and lust are inseparably intertwined (the term “rock’n’roll” was originally a bawdy phrase, for example). With a name like “Suddenly Naked,” it would be easy to imagine that The High Divers‘ roots rock tune was the latest in a long line of seduction tunes. Hold on to your hats: it’s actually the opposite.

Yep, this one is an anti-lust jam: “Trying to resist you / when suddenly you’re naked on the floor / begging me to kiss you / I don’t want you anymore.” Is it a relationship gone sour? Is it an uneven friendship, where the expectations have become widely disparate? Is it something even more complicated? The lyrics before the crux of the tune don’t overdetermine it, which works great in the context of the song’s intriguing sound and structure.

The High Divers’ sound is generally an energetic vintage-inflected indie-pop-rock party, but this tune sees them getting more pensive (as is appropriate to the lyrics). The song builds from mumbly, dejected quietness at the beginning to a high point of sonic outrage midway through and out through a long instrumental section that closes the tune. The walking-speed tune has some vintage guitar moments right at the high point of the song: the guitar strumming snaps to attention in a decidedly old-school way. But it never feels “retro”–it feels like The High Divers have integrated tons of sounds into their own unique brew.

To that end, there’s also some serious soul vibes going on in the vocals of the central section, right in there with St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. But the rest of the tune feeds more on the roots-rock template with some gentle psych keys thrown on top of it: this is a gritty sort of vibe without getting too abrasive in the overall mood. (It helps to keep the keys high in the mix during the long instrumnetal section/outro.) It’s a subtly complex tune–there’s no verse/chorus/verse structure to lead the listener. Instead, the shifting melodies are the only guide. It’s an excellent tune that begs you to play it again.

This fascinating tune comes off The High Divers‘ debut album Riverlust, which drops 10/9 on Hearts and Plugs.

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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