Tag Archives: CD Review

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Clarke Sondermann's Record "The Echo Trail"

Local Record Review: Clarke Sondermann Makes Films, Not Just Music, With His Laptop

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Clarke Sondermann's Record "The Echo Trail"

Clarke Sondermann’s “Echo Trails” conjures up intimate, quiet walks, and envisions pretty excellent films.

“… here’s the last two years of my life, documented and recorded mostly on a laptop,” announces – or opines –  local musician Clarke Sondermann on his Bandcamp page that hosts “The Echo Trail,”  his debut release. It’s a statement that creates a number of possible, but very immediate, reactions – from repulsion to curiosity – and too often might lead to a click through to the next artist. But, if you follow that impulse (in this case anyway) you run the risk of missing out on a serious find. Not just a gem in the midst of so much mediocrity in the self-published online music world, Sondermann’s work comes from a focused, tender heart – awash in just as much drama as there is subtle laughter, and almost as much angst-ridden love as there is pure hope.

This collection of thirteen tunes belies Sondermann’s life as a high school senior (he recently graduated from Denver School of the Arts). They sound like stories from a soul that’s done some traveling – on long, internal and external trails.

Stylistically, the songs are mostly simple, ruminations that really conjure the intimacy of a closed bedroom – purposely hidden, and not just to have time and space to compose. At their worst (a place that, mercifully, they seldom reach), they recall a shade of Ben Folds. But at their best, they invoke the melodic intelligence of Stephin Merritt (more Future Bible Heroes than Magnetic Fields – but just a little), the indie crooning of Joshua Novak and the psychedelia of The Flaming Lips – leaning towards the spirit of “Clouds Taste Metallic” and “The Soft Bulletin,” but in a deeply intimate, quiet way. Definitely recommended for headphones, especially walking alone, and preferably after dusk.

…the songs are mostly simple, ruminations that really conjure the intimacy of a closed bedroom – purposely hidden, and not just to have time and space to compose.

Four simple notes begin “Intro,” ushering in the rest disguised as film. “The Art of Falling Apart” starts off with that disconcerting Ben Folds feel – but quickly overcomes the threat with a song that’s got both deep introspection and Nintendo-style melodic goofiness. And that feeling survives most of the record.

It’s interesting that “The Sounds of the World Waking Up” samples a small bit from Donnie Darko – from Donnie’s visit with his shrink where he angrily decries the need for the dead rabbit – his nemesis – to be mourned. The sample crystallizes the feel of the whole record – it feels like we imagine Donnie Darko does when, in the film, he passes through his epiphany, and realizes just what to do, and that everything is going to be just fine, just fine. The feeling is filled with the necessary sacrifice, too (no spoilers – if you haven’t seen Donnie Darko yet).

That’s enough to whet any appetite – take a listen to the record, streaming below, and remember to buy a copy. As befits this traveled soul, Sondermann is off to do some world traveling – likely building more stories. What better way to send him off, in return for a truly remarkable effort from your hometown?

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The Lumineers play in Denver now, straight outta Brooklyn. (Photo: MySpace/The Lumineers)

DenverThread New Music Reviews – The Lumineers, Salesman

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The Lumineers play in Denver now, straight outta Brooklyn. (Photo: MySpace/The Lumineers)

The Lumineers play in Denver now, straight outta Brooklyn. (Photo: MySpace/The Lumineers)

The Lumineers – EP

The Lumineers just moved here from the insanely creative hotbed of Brooklyn, NY about 5 months ago, and we’re ecstatic to have them. After all, the flow of musicians and great music has seemed to be going in the opposite direction of late. Getting as strong a duo as this in Denver feels like we’ve stolen another team’s top line to help out in a close playoff stretch (the sport in my analogy doesn’t really matter, but I was talking old-school Avs hockey, for the record). And, similarly, this pair’s play off one another promises to let loose some solid music in our scene into the coming months – and their latest eponymous EP more than proves it.

Musically, their seven-song, self-titled EP often approaches Radiohead’s signature quiet, tied-up desperation, then moves towards the Avett Brothers’ brilliance in composition and lyricism, and channels that through rhythms that often recall civil war marches. Wesley Kieth’s vocals summon Thom Yorke’s passion, often channel Devendra Banhart (minus the annoying warbling, thank you) in tone, and layer on top of alternately soft and vehement, anthemic guitaring.  Meanwhile, Jeremiah Fraites fills out the compositions with lighthearted trounces on floor toms, snares and cymbals, or flirtatious and serious  hands beating out rhythms on black and ivory keys. “Gun Song,” with its irrepressible, rolling and driving rhythms, juxtaposed by heartbroken, exhaled wails, exemplifies what the Lumineers bring.

Two other shining examples are the complex and inciting “Scotland” (which you can download or stream from Denver Post Reverb) and the heart-wrenching “Darlene,” available to stream below. As beautiful as these sound on record, they beg to be heard and seen live, and Denver is lucky enough to have the duo in our own backyard, full time.

You can catch The Lumineers this Saturday, April 3rd, at The Meadowlark (27th & Larimer – TONIGHT!!),  part of a local lineup including Science Partner, Sandusky and Rowboat. Don’t miss it.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/06 Darlene.mp3″ text=”The Lumineers – Darlene”]

Salesman's "Skull EP" recalls the music of The Gun Club, and so much more. . .

Salesman's "Skull EP" recalls the music of The Gun Club, and so much more. . .

Salesman – Skull EP

A big, flailing guitar sound, strong vocals and soft, driven rhythms – these are the basic elements of Salesman, based in Austin-by-way-of Cañon City. This four-piece answers the question: “What would’ve happened if Jeffrey Lee Pierce hadn’t died, and instead invested in a little voice coaching?” Or – maybe a lot of voice coaching. On their “Skull” EP, Salesman recalls Pierce’s Gun Club in the sparse and powerful compositions based around Devin James Fry’s wailing guitar and caterwaul, Clayton Guns Lillard’s alternately soft and explosive drumming, and the melodic bass and violin pairings of John Houston Farmer and Patrick Patterson (respectively).

But their sound doesn’t stop there – Fry also seems to channel vocals from somewhere between Rev. Horton Heat and Chris Cornell at times – and the tunes come across as desolate driving accompaniment. I can’t help but imagine this EP on regular rotation in many an ice road trucker’s cab, pushing them over the next horizon and onto another floe.

The title song grabs you and throttles with the pitch and yaw of his big guitar, and when he laments that “New Mexico is an ashtray,” I’m inclined to roll up imaginary windows. From there into the lulling “Great White,” “Three Legged Chair”and out with the pleading and beautiful “Lightly Row,” the band sells images of surreal isolation, weeks between customers at some far-flung convenience store. Plenty of time to entertain some of Fry’s UFO, ghost and sex-obsessed lyrical meanderings (another similarity he shares with Pierce).

Salesman is currently on a tour through Colorado on their way back to home base in Austin, starting in Fry’s hometown of Cañon City on April 15th, with two Denver dates: April 19th at 3 Kings Tavern (along with Panties at the Bar/Ooh La La Burlesque) and at the Meadowlark on April 24th.

Check out “Skull,” available for streaming below, and then go see this band live. This is one you’ll regret having missed soon enough.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/02 SKULL.mp3″ text=”Salesman – Skull”]


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