Archive for the 'Indie' Category

The Antlers

Ever since I first listened to the Who’s Rock Opera,  Tommy, in 8th grade, I’ve been fascinated by concept albums. The concept album, for those of you who don’t know, is an collective work in which each of the songs contribute to a unified theme or story. There are countless examples: The Wall, Ziggy Stardust, Pet Sounds, Sgt Peppers, etc, my favorites unquestionably being the narrative concept albums. Done well, the inclusion of  an interweaving story adds so much to the communicative effectiveness of the music. It was with great satisfaction then, that I recently came upon a great example of concept album technique with the Antlers’ release Hospice.

Hospice, released last year through one of my favorite labels, French Kiss Records, is a deeply poetic work. The album details the story of man encountering a depressed and abusive bone cancer patient in the Kettering Cancer Ward where he is working. As the songs progress, he ends up falling in love, and eventually watching her die while he is beside her. Needless to say, it’s an emotionally impactful album, at times wistful and beautiful while at other times full of angst.  Shifting lyrical points of view from the male protagonist to his dying love help drive the effectiveness of the narrative. Additionally the album is notable for its stylistic variation – exhibiting a range of soft ballads of sweeping guitar, folk influenced songs, and faster-paced numbers with heavy reverb. The lyrics, too, are worth reading on their own. It is readily evident that a lot of artistry went into their writing. Check out the liner notes here.

The Antlers certainly took a chance in making themselves vulnerable by crafting a very personal debut album. And because of this I think they’re off to a fantastic start. Hospice is definitely a work to listen to (all the way through please) on your own accord. While you won’t be bumping these tracks on the way to Malibu, it’s a great solitary listen.

Bottom Line:  if taken lightly, Hospice could be seen as over the top and needlessly dramatic. But I’ve found that if you allow yourself to be absorbed by the story, it is a rewarding experience.



Travis Vick

If you have ever heard of Manteca California, you would probably know it used to be the home of the glorious “Manteca Waterslides.” However, another equally remarkable thing has come forth from this quaint farm town located in the central valley. His name; Travis Vick. So moving beyond this incredibly lame and cheesy introduction, the artist I introduce to you is simple in style, yet exceptional in talent.  (I went to high school in ol’ teca town with Travis. I know…HBB *holler big baller*) He uses an array of instruments in his music including, Piano, Guitar, Accordion, Banjo, Bass, Mandolin, Harmonica, Ukulele, Trombone, Clarinet and Drums. (My personal favorite being the banjo. I love that “twangy” sound and ever since I found out that Steve Martin could play, I have grown a certain fondness for the instrument. I just love Steve.)  On his myspace music page he classifies his sound as “melodic folk rock.” His melodies are intriguing and voice is soothing. His falsetto is beautiful and delicate  (“October 31st”) while the notes he hits in the lower register are rich and pure (“Box”). It is powerful while still remains an endearing quirkiness. Also, being a big fan of harmonies, the parts he interleaves in his songs are perfectly blended, smooth and warm. Some of the harmonies are a layering of his own voice or other singers, including his sister. I just love this artist and I would try to relate his sound to other artists in order to give you a feel for his sound, but due to my lack of musical knowledge…and laziness, I will let you see for yourself. I recommend the songs “The Hedges” and “Seamus Fruitfridge” from his EP, “Player Piano” and the songs “Box” and “Bees Don’t Bite” from his music myspace. You should give him a good listen, a real good listen.




Circulatory System

Alright, time to rep some psychedelic rock!

Its not the 60’s anymore.  Psychedelic rock just ain’t what it used to be.  Bands like The Flaming Lips and Animal Collective are really the only main bands still going with that style.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re awesome awesome bands, but they are in the mainstream, and sometimes they lose the psychedelic drive behind the pop.  There’s also a lot of stoner rock out there, which is at many times good, but isn’t really psychedelic roots based.  Alright enough babbling, my point is, you sometimes have to dig deep to find psychedelic roots bands, and one of my favorite discoveries in my excavations is Circulatory System.

Circulatory System

The band formed after the collapse of the Elephant Six Recording Company.  This company featured artists such as Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Olivia Tremor Control, which were all premier psychedelic bands at the time.  Members from The Olivia Tremor Control left to form Circulatory System once the company ended.  Circulatory System is an eight piece band, with a whole range of instruments such as guitar, bass, clarinet, cello, organ, keyboards, and drums.  The band is led by singer Will Cullen Hart.

They just released a new album, which I haven’t given a listen to, but they’re real treasure is their self-titled album from 2001.  This album has 22 tracks, which seems long, but they are all very short, usually ranging from 2-3 minutes each.  The album has a great flow, and when listening through, almost seems like one long song.  This does not mean it gets tedious, it makes for a great listen.  Hart is the main vocalist, but they employ a choral style of singing with several vocalist.  This along with the variety of instruments creates for a very dense sound, which I love for psychedelic bands.  Their entire style seems to be an homage to the psychedelic bands of the 60’s.  Today, psych rock is usually fairly intense, but this harkens back to the upbeat melodies, dense texture, and a general calming and spacey air that bands such as The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane had.  This is definitely an album that HAS to be listened to straight through.  There are a few songs that can be played on their own, but you won’t get the full effect.  This is one of my favorite albums ever, and definitely needs to be checked out.


Try this if you like bands such as Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, Menomena, Destroyer, The Olivia Tremor Control

Circulatory System - Circulatory System

Check out the self-titled album

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak

Ted Leo

Ted Leo may be one of the best accidental secrets to hit the rock scene in the past decade or so. While he has successfully evaded much mainstream attention (with the possible exception of single “Me and Mia”), Leo continues to pump out album after album of great, catchy, pop-driven rock sing-alongs. Having dabbled in dub reggae, alternative rock, folk, and other genres, Leo has mastered the art of constructing well-written melodies into undeniable anthems.

This is largely evident on Hearts of Oak, the band’s third proper album (although their first release [tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists] was largely a solo effort). Here, we get to see Leo’s potential as a songwriter and a one-man music machine, proving the power of a singer’s voice paired with a jangly guitar. With one listen to “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?”, you’ll be hard-pressed not to get your toes tapping. Go ahead, try it out.

“Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?” by Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

With a constantly-growing number of fans, it’ll be a miracle if they’re not playing to massive crowds in a couple of years. Until then, Ted Leo and crew will keep rocking the basements and smaller club shows for those lucky enough to experience it.


If you’re interested, I’d recommend checking them out on tour in the coming months (dates posted below), and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the new album, The Brutalist Bricks, due out March 9th.

3/11/2010 Cleveland OH Grog Shop
3/12/2010 Pontiac MI The Crofoot
3/13/2010 Chicago IL Bottom Lounge
3/14/2010 Madison WI High Noon Saloon
3/15/2010 Minneapolis MN First Avenue
3/19/2010 Seattle WA Neumo’s
3/20/2010 Portland OR Doug Fir Lounge (21+)
3/21/2010 Portland OR Doug Fir Lounge (all ages matinee)
3/23/2010 San Francisco CA Great American Music Hall
3/27/2010 Los Angeles CA Troubadour
4/4/2010 Atlanta GA The Masquerade
4/5/2010 Carrboro NC Cat’s Cradle
4/7/2010 Philadelphia PA First Unitarian Church
4/8/2010 Washington DC 930 Club
4/9/2010 New York NY Irving Plaza
4/10/2010 Boston MA Paradise


A Portrait of Nostalgia

I’m going to put it simply: As of February 4th, Beach House’s Teen Dream is the best album of 2010. From start to finish, this ten track record is the closest thing to a masterpiece that the band has produced in their short but already impressive career. Have I caught your interest? Good. Let’s talk music.

Teen Dream. Perfect album title. I actually cannot think of a more appropriate way to describe Beach House’s music. Their music strives to recapture those defining moments of adolescence, bringing them into focus but at the same time distorting them in a almost surreal dreamscape. In a way, the album provides a soundtrack to the memories of the past. Upon repeated listens, I felt myself reliving experiences in high school, adventures in the city, old romances, triumphs, and failures. What Beach House has done is create an album full of crafted contradiction, a celebratory yet remorseful tale of nostalgia that produces mixed feelings of elation and wistfulness. Take the lyrics of the song “Walk in the Park” for example:


Teen Dream


You go for a walk in the park ’cause you don’t need anything

Your hand that you sometimes hold doesn’t do anything

The face that you see in the door isn’t standing there anymore

In a matter of time, it would slip from my mind

Although we have a new life, independent from the trials of our youth, there is a yearning to go back to a simpler time. While taking a walk in the park with our romantic partner, we suddenly realize things aren’t as novel as they once were – in the case of these lyrics, remembering a past lover who is no longer with us. This is what Beach House really accomplishes with Teen Dream – taking the emphasis away from our set-path, material lives and bringing back feelings from a not so distant past when we weren’t so sure about who we were. Because it is those first experiences that really stick with us.



Local Natives…redundant

I may be biased in this review, ’cause lately, nothing gets my goat like some good multiple vocalist harmonization.  I heard this Silver Lake, CA band first as an opener to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in Seattle, and quickly bought the homemade ep’s they were selling.  That short 5 song album instantly gave me the feeling that I was listening to a seasoned band.  They have an odd combination of sounds, but it all seems natural.  They have a great start, and I can’t wait to see them mature.

Live, they were amazing.  They had the entire room in an skinny-jean frenzy for their entire set.  Although I love Edward Sharpe, there were still moments during their set where I felt a bit bored.  Not so for Local Natives, I was captivated the entire time.  They have one of the best live sounds of any Indie band I’ve seen in a while.  The best part was that I had no idea who they were, and had zero expectations.  How could they not be a great indie band, look at this awesome indie pose! (And how about that indie mustache, I’m talking to you number 4!)

Local Natives

About a month after this show they happened to release their first full length album, Gorilla Manor.  This album is very high energy.  This is a good thing, and a bad thing.  Good thing because an energy like this is hard to come by, but bad because it makes it hard to get through the entire album in one go.  But really, this is only a minor issue, because songs like Sun Hands (you had me at a cappella breakdown) and Airplanes, I could listen to over and over.  They even do a Talking Heads cover, and its badass to boot.  It won’t be marked down as an album of the year, but so what.  Peppy drums, awesome harmonies, good energy, tight jeans and a mustache.   Check it out.



Decided to throw out another interesting trend that’s been brewing in England (and elsewhere) and that’s math rock. I know, it sounds strange and probably brings back bad memories of your elementary school teachers attempting to make learning the multiplication table fun, but it’s actually pretty cool. Math rock is an experimental style based on complex rhythms and variable tempos- usually driven by guitar and drums. Unlike most rock music, which uses 4/4 time signatures, math rock prides itself on incorporating unconventional time sigs like 11/8 and 13/8 and then throwing them in unique groupings. Some bands (I dont think foals does..) even use equations and scientific formulas to structure their music. Interesting stuff to be sure.

Foals is a newer project of Jack Beven and Yannis Philippakas, who together used to head the cult math rock band The Edmund Fitzgerald. The album I’m posting is Foals’ debut Antidotes, which came out sometime in 2008. It’s among the more stylistically interesting experiments I’ve heard in the last few years and I had a fun time (failing) to pick out the time signatures. Not a fan of every song on here, like “Cassius,” but there are some great tracks like “Heavy Water,” “Big Big Love,” “Red Sock Purgie.” So here’s some music all you science majors can enjoy.  -Chris


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