I'm not good at accepting disseminated concepts of genre, and I have been accused of being hopelessly stuck in the 90's (1890's and 1990's), music wise. That being said, here are some of my all-time, can't-live-without, flagship indie albums/songs/artists which are pretty much constantly represented by any shuffled digital device I own.
I love old B2S, like the timeless There's Nothing Wrong With Love album, but later efforts showcase the producing genious of Phil Ek as well as their musical creativity. I'm more likely to keep a permanent track from Perfect From Now On handy to play. The cello on "I Would Hurt a Fly" is always moving and I am especially thrilled with the busy chord progressions and introspective lyrics of "Kicked It In The Sun."
When I first heard GBV (the Bee Thousand album) I couldn't get enough, sang along to every track, annoyed every one around me by obsessively promoting their stuff, etc. I spent the better part of a decade allowing that love affair to disolve into generalized admiration, but it had a pretty serious effect on me overall. The work they've done in the last decade, when Bob teamed up with Cobra Verde and the like, had a much more mainstream rock vibe (for god's sake, Ric Ocasek was on the project for a while!) but I will always cling to the brevity and beauty of Alien Lanes, Vampire on Titus and the gorgeous Pollard solo work.
That little "Why #3" button is starting to get on my nerves. Seriously? You won't find the level of poetry and song craftsmanship that Pavement had anywhere else in rock. My favorites are Terror Twilight (lots of banjo on that album...delicious) and I will always have a tonally guided soft spot for Crooked Rain.
I guess the guys at Matador just have a knack for knocking on my door. Spoon's early efforts, thick with overblown rock effects, intrigued me. When Girls Can Tell came out on the Merge label in 2001 that intrigue became infatuation. This band evolved to showcase the enigmatic simplicity of Britt Daniels's songwriting, and this album had everything I ever wanted to hear wrapped up in tiny bundles of verse.
I think anyone can relate to the softspoken DIY mastery that Smith left as a legacy for Indie musicians and fans, or to the sensitive poetic lyrics that haunt America. As for me, the reason I'm always finding him on my playlists is as simple as guitar appreciation. Flatpicking, fingerstyle, extended chords and *gasp* creativity with the buzzing strings are not as common as you might think. Either/Or is full of brilliant moments and begs for the sing/play-along.
The founders and proprietors of this band are absolutely in love. I have observed Dave and Barb skipping through a park in Manhattan, Kansas hand in hand. Not only are they two of the nicest people in rock, but they have helped to build a wheel of Midwestern independent sound that had influences and predecessors like Urge Overkill and Ultimate Fake Book. Three piece performances are clear and precise.
I do enjoy thoroughly creative instrumentation, and not necessarily for the virtuosity of the performer as much as for the sensibility of composition. Jayhawks songs often start with the squeezebox pattern of flute, strings or piano rhythm, soon to be accented by clever guitar effects and an intimate voice, with harmony. They have also written many songs that force pop rock appreciation. The Sound of Lies has a permanent home on my playlist, for the beautiful contributions of "Stick in the Mud" and "Haywire," et. al.
Along with bands like Sleater Kinney, this band has the ability to scream poetically and to convince the listener with heavy rock sounds. "The Modern Log" and "Like a Criminal" are mandatory sing alongs.
I've spent most of my life getting paid to teach, mostly young children. Obsessed with the ancient world, I studied Classics with a focus on Roman poetry, contributing to my degree in English from … more