Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Indie Is As Indie Does

I used to be the kind of person who only liked a band when no one had heard of them. (I'm sure there's an Urban Outfitters V-neck with that printed all over it...copyright?) But there's something about finding a song & thinking it somehow has an exclusive relationship with you, it's only listener, that makes your possession of it that much more treasured. It's as if your interpretation of the track is the only one that exists. So here are some jams that you (probably) have heard of but if not, I'm secretly ecstatic.

1.Audience - Cold War Kids
you came from the country
wearin momma's clothes
you were born in the city
daddy's dominoes
you need a record you can move to
well we got one
drop the needle we are playing
for an audience of one

2. Nobody's Sweetheart - Simon Wilcox

off her 2007 release, "The Charm And The Strange". don't be fooled, Simon's really a chick with a whole discography to dig thru, which plays like the lovechild of Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. beautiful stuff.

you look like a perfect version
of a pathetic person
you're nobody's sweetheart now
don't say you'll come back for more

3. Hands - Ms John Soda
a perfect song for the new year; an overtly calm track that's like a happy haiku for your ears

things may seem
somehow unsure in times
things refined
directions signed, sometimes

4.The Unknown - Standfast

one of this Swedish duo's biggest US hits; it's probably already somehow been commercialized in a Nissan commercial but until the day I find that out, it's going to stay my lil' secret.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Please tell me you've seen Marie Antoinette, the Sophia Coppola glama-rama that is both aesthetically and audibly appealing. Not only do I think Kirsten Dunst & Jason Shwartzman make an awkwardly amusing royal couple, but everything about the movie, including the music, is fantastic.
My favorite track off this soundtrack, The Melody of A Fallen Tree by Windsor for the Derby, has racked up quite the play-count on my comp over the years (but don't judge it for getting played around), simply for its adaptive, poetic nature. I could literally listen to that song in any state of mind, in any environment, and I would enjoy it. Others, like Bow Wow Wow's Aphrodisiac, are almost made to be played against a montage of Dunst picking out shoes, wigs, and small chocolate cakes. The album is a fine blend of simplicity and decadence, as is the film. Every track though, just as every scene, is oddly beautiful.
Coppola is known for melding the old with the new, and in Antoinette, similar to The Virgin Suicides or Lost In Translation, she brings some of the freshest funk, pop, and alt-rock imaginable to her soundtracks. The film itself is rich with themes impervious to the confines of time and decade-appropriate guidelines. So why should the music be anything but abstract? In fact, the songs that fill your ears as you watch this film very much match every aspect of Coppola's message: of youthful indiscretion, tremendous excess, and the gluttonous, glorious life that such a young power possessed. Afterall, when you listen to these tracks, you might as well be watching Clueless, Pretty In Pink, or perhaps The Breakfast Club. And I think I speak for Ms. C herself when I say, that's pretty much the point.

Top 5 favorites:
-Aphrodisiac - Bow Wow Wow
-What Ever Happened - The Strokes
-Natural's Not In It - Gang of Four: ("The problem of leisure/what to do for pleasure?")
-The Melody of a Fallen Tree - Windsor for the Derby
-I Don't Like It Like This - The Radio Department

Monday, December 21, 2009


Some of the most genuine sounds I've heard this year have been from Duos. The way one voice can complement another, when it's layered against the backdrop or woven in throughout the chorus creates texture and harmony the likes of which are impossible to duplicate as a solo artist.
One of the truest loves of the year for me musically has been Angus & Julia Stone.

A brother-sister duo fresh from Sydney, A & J make beautiful music together. Julia's voice has been compared to Jolie Holland or even Bjork, with one UK journalist labeling her as possessing a "smoke-on-the-beach" quality; a bit of a fractured, funky drawl. The first song I heard of theirs was "Just a Boy". "You took me in, gave me something to believe in/ A big ole smile was all you wore." These songs begged to be played on a road trip/lake drive with the windows rolled down, or possibly as part of an indie film montage. Either way, both their melody and wit will have you curious for more. (And in case you are, let me highly recommend the following tracks:
1. Wasted
2. Mango Tree
3. What You Wanted

What You Wanted has some of my favorite lines and is by far the coolest video I've seen from them, but all of them are pretty dope. Plus, both of them are fun to look at, which never hurts.

If there is one other group that rocked my year in 2009 it was definitely The XX. Consisting of four 20 year olds from South London, The XX makes well-balanced, furtively sexual pop. Their tidy instrumentals and abstract sound blend together to create some of the most dabble-worthy tracks I've heard in ages. If there is one song you take away from them, please let it be Crystalised.
Other note-worthy tracks from this group:
-Islands: sentimental, cozy. "I am yours now, so now I don't ever have to leave."
-Heart Skipped A Beat: lustful, aching. "It's been a while & you've found someone better/but sometimes, I still need you."

Don't get it twisted, the video is nothing special. In fact, its kind of creepy. Just turn up the volume, light a few candles, and marinate on the sound for a while. I guarantee it will spark your imagination.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Contra [Band]

What happens when you combine a group of Upper West Side Columbia students with touches of Congolese soukous music, indie pop, and prepster rock? You might just get Vampire Weekend, and it might just rock.

I'll admit I'm a late-comer to the Vampire Weekend phenom that is the last three years. In my earnest discovery, however, I was quick to find they were unlike any combination of styles I'd come across. Insanely likeable, almost to a fault, you would be hard pressed to find atleast one element of their music you don't quickly enjoy. They're alt enough to have opened for The Shins, but more cheerful, with stylings of African flavor that somehow, quite ironically, don't seem ironic at all. The Congolese influences never seem out of place, and their lyrics are fresh and biting without being overly-satirical.

VW's forthcoming release, "Contra", is slated to debut January 12th, but I'd suggest you take these boys up on their offer for a free download of its first single, Horchata. Find it by dabbling with the link below:

For your next few steps, try some of these tracks off their previously released album and EPs:
-Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - joyful, semi-remniscient of Paul Simon or The Shins
-Oxford Comma - grammar frustrations never sounded so good.
-A-Punk - not a bad little ode to punk rock

Monday, December 7, 2009

Do Yoga To This. Drive to This. Pray, Meditate to This.

I cannot stop listening to this song. It resonates louder with me every time I play it. Whenever I first listen to a Bon Iver song, it doesn't always wash over me completely, but after multiple listens, I fall madly in love with it. Some of my favorite songs are like that. There will always be the songs that give you that love-at-first-listen tingly feeling of excitement, but some of the most clever, poignant tracks are late-bloomers. Bon Iver always finds new ways of translating common thoughts to abstract sounds, expressions, and lyrics; something I greatly appreciate.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Year In Musical Review

I'm ready to say good riddance to 2009. It's not that I have a ton of problems at the moment its just that this year feels like an old, wornout shoe or a dangling scab that just NEEDS TO FALL OFF. As a wise man once said, "Get bored with your past - it's over!" And that is very much how I feel about this past year. But before I can discard it, I think I'll take a minute to think about my own personal soundtrack to 2009.

Dear 2009:
I know things were complicated with us this year, but I thought I'd give you this mixtape to remind you of all the times we shared. (No offense, but lets maybe not keep in touch?):


Juicy - Notorious BIG

Bonita Applebum - A Tribe Called Quest

Zealots - The Fugees

Angel - Rod Stewart

Where Do We Go From Here - Alicia Keys

Hold You In My Arms - Ray LaMontagne

1901 - Phoenix

Sleep Alone - Bat For Lashes

California Stars - Wilco

Allez - Flo Kat

People Got A Lotta Nerve - Neko Case

The Wolves (Act I & II) - Bon Iver


PS: I want my stuff back

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The art of the cover song is a tricky business. In some cases, the original can simply never be outdone. But in others, a new artist brings whole new notes, layers, textures to a song you never knew were there before. Personally, I have some cover songs that after listening to, I could never possibly go back to the original. (John Mayer's version of "Free Falling," for much as I avoid jumping on the JM bandwagon, you can't deny the man's got soul, plus it's a completely different song than Petty's, and one I can't help but like ten times more.)

The queen of the cover song these last few years has to be Chan Marshall of Cat Power. I'd have to say I advocate checking out all of Marshall's work, (The Greatest, He War, etc) but if you only have time to listen to a few tracks, choose them off her cover album. If you don't already own "Jukebox," Marshall's collections of covers ranging from Dylan to Joplin to Sinatra, BUY THIS NOW. Never have I come across a more essential album of covers, all with Marshall's haunting, breathy vocals carrying each track with a delicate ease. She brings a minimalist, fresh style to each classic, that is undefinable by genre. She has the roughness of a forgotten country singer, the soul and depth of an established blues artist, and the boundless creativity of one of the best and possibly most underrated alternative groups of her decade.
Maybe the true test of an artist is their ability to put their own stamp on a previously created work. If you don't have the depth and range to carry a cover, maybe you never really had all that much to offer to begin with. Afterall, any drunk can karaoke their little heart out to "Free Bird," but it won't do it justice, and it certainly won't make you feel anything. What happens when Marshall puts her stamp on a song is that it becomes irrevocably new and touched by her melancholic, earthy resonance. It is a quirky, religious, undeniably heart-staggering work, drenched in romance. Fill up your tub, pour yourself a cup of tea or maybe a whiskey sour and let Ms. Marshall take care of you for a while.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"The Hottest Love Has the Coldest End"

The Big Pink, an electro-rock duo from London, recently caught my ears on the current for their promising new singles, Dominos & Velvet
Equal parts multi-instrumental showmanship and primal, instinctive rhythm, The Big Pink's Robbie Furze & Milo Cordell's debut album, "A Brief History of Love," is definitely worth a listen.

What I appreciate about music like this is that it becomes at once both distant and intimate. "As soon as I love her its been too long..." sings Furze on "Velvet." "You call out my name for the love you need/but you won't find it in me. These arms are mine/ don't mind who they hold." Honest, frank, and heart-breaking are the tracks off "A Brief History of Love." A beautiful contradiction, the album's sound is remniscient of Jack Penate or Primal Scream, (also worth a thorough listen) but slightly... cooler, in every sense of the word. Afterall, as Furze bangs out on "Dominos" - "The hottest love has the coldest end." A perfect way to describe this memorable new debut.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Art of the Mix Tape

If you’ve ever seen High Fidelity with the incomparable and charmingly soulful JOHN CUSACK then you know how much the perfect mixtape can alter one’s life and carve out a permanent place in your heart.

Today I found a mix I had made for my first boyfriend ever, and popping it into the player this morning I was not greeted by my past regret or discomfort but a warm, friendly, nostalgia that bubbled up inside me like a frothy cup of coffee.

Our lives are marked by so many sense memories, and for me, the most important of all has been music. With my first boyfriend, it was Sublime, Bob Marley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd. Reggae, Ska, Punk Rock. It was drunken nights in friendly places, waking up to laughter, smoking too many cigarettes, smoking too much pot. Running around barefoot. Coming home undone. Defying what I thought had been a too-neat past.

Between him and my next boyfriend I found my own musical voice, which consists of more alternative and lovely groups than I could ever mention in a humble little blog like this. The next guy I dated was all about the rap, and I have to say I was too. I had already long since developed my passion for Minnesota Hip Hop, and together we listened to Atmosphere, Aesop Rock, Eyedea & Abilities at full blast. There were some other acts of his I couldn’t really get into… aka Devin the Dude??? but mostly we could always find something to jam out to.

Other guys I have seen have influenced my own musical taste less and less, perhaps a metaphor for my own voice coming through. But whenever I get a mix tape from someone I’m crazy about, I’m pretty sure I fall in love. Music is love. Picking out tracks for someone, putting them in the right order, and hoping that they find the same joy in them that you do. That is love. That is careful, audible, precious joy. Along the way I have found some true musical gems from people I’ve seen. My favorite tracks, of course, are still always the ones I find on my own.