Posts Tagged ‘indie rock’


Some bands deserve more than just a paltry mention. So let me start over again…Portland indie rockers The Decemberists make fantastic music that pauses every 20 seconds to consider metamorphosing into something more menacing. Sometimes it does and with sound and fury, gnashing its teeth and escaping most clichés; and sometimes it doesn’t, but stays just as captivating, with its affinity for ethereal lovemaking over a lush soundscape.

Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query and John Moen christened themselves as The Decemberists in 2000, having shared an equal fondness and fascination for the Decembrist uprising in Russia and fellow indie bands – Norfolk and Western, Camera Obscura, Long Winters and The Shins. While their music does bear similarities to their influences, it really does elevate itself by constantly evolving.

hazards of love

After a slew of mostly acoustic, accordion-based tracks and the erstwhile foray into 12-string guitar madness on their previous albums, The Decemberists have now tackled hard rock opera to the ground with dissonant ease. Their 2009 album The Hazards Of Love is the bastard child of The Who’s Tommy and the cult-tastic Neutral Milk Hotel’s  In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album. As we know, when storytelling meets clever chord progressions, music shakes it little butt and struts off into the sunset, looking prettier and more seductive than ever before.

The album recites a haunting story of a woman named Margaret who “falls in love with a shape-shifting boreal forest dweller named William.” The villains – a jealous forest queen and an ensemble of unruly characters – bring gnarly darkness to the story and appropriately make for the brightest moments.


The sonic horizon of The Hazards Of Love also seems broader than ever, with gorgeous vocal performances by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond. Bless these angels for reaffirming my faith (and another friend of mine) in female-fronted alternative rock music. Not often has this genre seen the species do it justice. “The Queen’s Rebuke” is a glorious testament to the oestrogen-fuelled awesomeness.

shara worden

Imagine, a deliciously modern twist of a Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, with Robert Plant replaced by a pissed off Patti Smith; and I mean, raging, frothing and restrained all at once. As a thunderous riff rides on the spine of ethereal backing vocals, Shara Worden croons, “And you have removed this temptation that’s troubled my innocent child, To abduct and abuse and to render her rift and defiled. But the river is deep to the banks and the water is wild. But I will fly you to the far side” and lets you go to sleep, dreaming about great tree monsters preaching to a congregation of lepers and deaf children, but that’s just me. And Jenny Conlee is insanely great as the keyboardist. I would love to hear these guys cover Light My Fire just to see Conlee rip into that organ sound.


The mesmerizing The Hazards of Love 3 features an eerie harpsichord tune performed by a children’s choir. I have been gorging myself on it for over a week now and it has become a prelude for most of my daily chores. I don’t what it is but there’s something appealing about angelic vocals singing, “Father I’m not feeling well, must be the flowers you fed, they tasted spoiled for suddenly I find that I am dead. But father don’t you fear, your children all are here, singing ohhhh, the hazards of love” while I procrastinate about deadlines at work. Oh, and I am almost sure that many cute instruments were injured during the making of this track.

Matter of fact, many silly theories about indie music have been knocked the fuck out after the release of Hazards Of Love. The Decemberists have done their bit to fade to black the pretentions and egomaniacal jackass-ery of the genre and its tendency to fall in love with itself.

Stand up, kindly sirs and sisters of indie rock, and be proud…if the world ignores you any longer, it is only to preserve your rare gift for creating beauty in silence and to a chosen crowd of those who either shake a fist or shed a tear at the current social and artistic dystopia.


The Decemberists – Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing

The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love 3

The Decemberists – Isn’t It A Lovely Night?

The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid


The Hazards Of Love

The Crane Wife

Inexpensive pet food

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My first introduction to The Shins was through their sophomoric Oh Inverted World album. A friend of mine shared a few mp3s and well, I wasn’t too impressed with their cutesy, willfully ironic indie rock. It was almost as though Franz Ferdinand had been playing their brand of music for many years, but with a bit more bile in their balls and a penchant for experimental histrionics to boot; and who are those Ferdinand fellows really but Coldplay band members who bunked two decades of choir practice to drink coffee and beer at the local pub. Recently, after listening to their Chutes Too Narrow album, I have turned 360 degrees on these Portland lads. While the tracks maintain that grand mushrooming of gentle pop melodies into bursts of sunny, sometimes alarmingly pensive rock anthems, the ghostly rhythms that are gratuitously made to swim amidst them make all the difference.

chutes too narrow

Saint Simon is one those reasons why music remains as literature’s most cherished companion; some might have believe it’s a warm blanket or a mug of coffee, but to hell with them.  I can picture about seven hundred literary characters walk into the sunset with this track playing in the background. Kissing The Lipless could have so easily been that song, which Rent Boy heard before deciding to call it quits on drugs in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. In fact, those precious seconds of psychedelic guitar noodling towards the end could have made him go running back to Mother Superior Swan. Oh indie music, you gloriously inverted, lovable nincompoop…you.



I’m pretty sure you have met Damon Gough. Maybe in the bar, gently mouthing the words to the songs playing in the jukebox or perhaps crossing the road, whistling an old folk tune…hell, you might have even seen him driving a car on the highway, unperturbed by everything but the music blasting from the stereo.  See, Damon Gough – also known as Badly Drawn Boy – is one of those kaleidoscopic glitches on the pop industry. He seems just like one of those blokes who couldn’t care less if VH1 wanted to do an episode of Cribs with him; he’d probably tell the host, “don’t touch anything and we’ll be ok”. Don’t we all know people like that?

hour of the bewilderbeast

He even strives to look like the average John despite his unkempt beard and trademark skullcap often threatening to make him a regular face on Billboard countdowns and other tripe endeavors orchestrated by bored marketing gurus at media and publishing companies. He refuses to let his music take its normal course into readily conformist U2-like landscapes of sound,  releases an album about once  every two years and promotes it with the enthusiasm of a goldfish fighting long-term cancer. Yet, he succeeds…as a musician making unique, pleasant alternative pop music and as an artist earning more than loaf of bread through his dedication to his art form. Pretty decent living, if you ask me. All Possibilities (Have You Fed The Fish?) is an ideal song to start with; funky, joyous and very aware of its distance from reality. Then you should immediately check out the tender and morose Stone In The Water or the gently alluring The Shining (of the fantastic The Hour Of Bewilderbeast). I swear, if I got paid for crafting something as exquisite as that, I would cry. Yup, me = man after all. You = will understand when you listen to it.



Mathew Stephen Ward (M Ward) makes music you can think about Leonard Cohen to. Matter of fact, at times he sounds remarkably like Adam Cohen – offspring of the man who made me forget every other interpretation of Hallelujah but his own (yes, even Jeff Buckley’s). He even channels the spirit of the late Nick Drake in Let’s Dance – the perfect song for the funeral of a lonely dancer.



I must admit that the Coldplay comparison was rather harsh. After all Franz Ferdinand have been known to put out some decent music out there. Some of them even great enough for us to erase the memory of the British pub rock scene getting fucked in the wrong places by Coldplay’s complete nonchalance towards all that is worthy of a second listen. Everybody say hello to the dark side of the manatee.


The Shins – Saint Simon

The Shins – Kissing The Lipless

Badly Drawn Boy – All Possibilities

Badly Drawn Boy – The Shining

Badly Drawn Boy – Stone In The Water

M Ward – Let’s Dance

Franz Ferdinand – The Dark of The Manatee


The Shins, Badly Drawn Boy, M Ward, my spleen

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indieIt’s hard to find a good Indie rock track nowadays without bumping into the 8,809th cover version of The Strokes or The Vines. As a definitive rule and not dissimilar to communism, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal or the slinky, anything and everything that starts underground and eventually ends up mainstream will suck. I guess that explains why Kerala Government, Metallica, and neon-coloured slinkys – have all been subjected to both ridicule and apathy.

Portland-based garage rockers The Newspapers are certainly not representative of the burgeoning American Indie rock scene. No. No. No. These guys live on the other side of industry; a barren land where eye mascaras is gay and guitar solos are only served piping hot. I bet over there they also give cheese its due status as a main course meal. If you enjoy listening to polished, clean-sounding and coyly-marketed “garage music”, stay away from The Newspapers.

For those who appreciate bands, who give us those precious moments when we can be sure that the guitarist bloody well knows how to kick out a solo like it was 1970s all over again…


The Newspapers – Devil’s Dance Blues

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Before pickup pubs, there once was free love. Before pretentious geeks started uploading their favourite Indie rock song of the summer on their idiotic blogs, there were pretentious self-styled peace mongers hosting free psychedelic freak out concerts for potheads and yoga enthusiasts. The music of the flower generation was incidental in hindsight, but nevertheless terrifyingly lovely. Here’s a post-modern toast to the glorious sounds of the Sixties.

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