Scenesters, connoisseurs, jaded, novice and music appreciators of all sorts read along to be informed, appalled, surprised and bored by this latest offering of the indie roundup. Not all these artists are independent, unheard of, current or everyone’s cup of tea—but they are noteworthy and, by some standards and opinions, some of the best current out-of-the-way music worth looking for and listening to.
The somewhat seasoned
Sparklehorse, comprised of Mark Linkous and his motley group of contributors, released their much-anticipated second album in late 2006 to delighted fans and critics alike. After a 5-year hiatus involving a mountainous retreat and bouts with depression, Linkous returned with Dreamt for Years in the Belly of a Mountain. With collaborators Danger Mouse, Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips and Tom Waits (among a few) Linkous refreshes his lo-fi sounds with just enough digital magic to keep it dynamic but not so much to alienate long-time fans. It’s a must own album for fans of slow burn contemplative effected music.
Grizzly Bear released its acclaimed sophomore record Yellow House in 2006, and through constant touring and a lot of Internet hype, they have become one of the new “name drop” bands to know. I realize this last sentence may have caused several of you to vomit in your mouths, but there really is something to this band beyond the uber-hipster hype. With songs built on ethereal string and piano arrangements complimented by Brian Wilson-esque vocal stylings, this Brooklyn-based band lends more than apt musical credibility to their buzz.
For fans of shoe gaze and Asian-influenced new wave Asobi Seksu clear your head like a dap of hot mustard on a California roll. As front-woman Yuki delivers her spaced out vocals sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English, the swelling guitars ice over the zoning drums and bass to create the special music you would hear in your in-flight headphones traveling from Japan to the moon. Their latest offering, Citrus is sure to please.
The somewhat new
The Canadians are once again out to claim their place as the envelope pushers in the indie music world. Tokyo Police Club are a group of young canucks producing pleasantly raucous melodies comprised of keyboards chasing guitars in a field of danceable drums, while the melancholy vocals about future destruction keep them from being another annoying dance-rock band. These guys are refreshingly infectious and fun.
Cold War Kids claim an almost lore-like beginning of simple pots and pipes being banged on to create the rhythm for chanted verses sung and howled aloud on the second floor of a restaurant in Long Beach, Calif. Whether this be true or not, it is more than fitting a tale for this rock band’s classic rootsy caricature sound. The soul of Cold War Kids’ rock dialogues with the likes of Dylan, Waits and Bowie while the production and musical quality argue with the liner notes that this band is from California and not the British Isles. Robbers & Cowards has been hailed as one of 2006’s best records and is more than worth a listen. Cold War Kids is one among a few bands whose sound is much louder than their hype.
Bound Stems have crafted a masterfully technical-yet-pop accessible record with Appreciation Night. Bound Stems excels at building songs with meticulously pieced together rhythms, creating dramatic changes and graced with literary-worthy lyrics. A bit like Modest Mouse reinterpreting Decemberists’ songs. Based out of Chicago, this band plays with an air of theatrics more likely appreciated in an opera house than a dirty club.
The somewhat obscure
“Girl Talk is rad!” is not a quote taken in the mid ‘90s from a preteen girl’s diary about her favorite new board game. This statement could have easily been lifted from one of hundreds of blogs or texted to any number of hipster’s cells. Girl Talk, is Pittsburgh DJ Greg Gillis’ mash-up project that lifts familiar and obscure pieces of pop music from all genres and pieces them together Frankenstein-like into undeniably enjoyable dance tunes. Girl Talk’s latest record Night Ripper pended release for several months in 2006 due to expected lawsuits, but eventually saw the light of day thanks to Internet buzz and Gillis’ cata-cosmic live shows. This record is too much fun and, aside from the acclaimed mixing accomplishments, is the source of much pop music trivia delight.
Long-time home for some of the most endeared independent artists, Sub Pop has just released their newest discovery, Loney, Dear. This one-man outfit, piloted by Emil Svanängen, hails from Sweden and, in an irresistible delicate accent, sings his sugarcoated folk songs a top an eclectic arsenal of instruments and hope swelling arrangements. Loney, Dear holds its own in the current wave of new folk. Sub Pop released Loney, Noir early February 2007, and it’s leading the pack among the years best new music.