Tag Archives: Indie

Q: Who are These New Puritans?

A: A decidedly strange indie outfit out of the UK. It is difficult to classify a particular genre for their music, as it incorporates and amalgamates so many diverse and discordant influences. Post Rock, Industrial, Minimal Electro, Shoegaze, Post Punk and Brian Eno/Thom Yorke-esque avant-gardism are just a few influences that come to mind. If nothing else, These New Puritans are an ambitious lot. The recently released Hidden LP involves the band moving far beyond the 3-4 piece standard instruments that characterise traditional rock. Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the thunderous Japanese Taiko drums and the long forgotten Bassoon (yeah, they actually play a bassoon!). The result is a really interesting and surprisingly addictive album. Be prepared to spend a little time with this one…it isn’t designed or instant gratification, and you won’t hear any of their songs in a car commercial.

Not that there is anything wrong with bands who have songs that appear in car commercials. Phoenix’s massively successful Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix LP included a number of tracks that became ubiquitous in large part due to their use in ads. It can be somewhat annoying, but who can blame them in an era when nobody actually purchases music? Anyhow, I always felt that Love Like a Sunset was a song that had massive potential, but ended prematurely and was thus somewhat unsatisfying. In a blatant attempt to appease me, Phoenix have gone ahead and released Love Like A Sunset (Part III), which is essentially an electro remix of the song. It sounds pretty cool, but once again I feel like they could have used the song’s climax so much more creatively and effectively than they did…sigh. Fun track though!

Of course, all good music doesn’t need to be ground breaking and innovative (and in fact a lot of ‘innovative’ music is just pretentious garbage). I (and I would imagine many other people) sometimes crave the comforting simplicity of a well crafted rock song that evokes emotion and just makes me want to sing along. This is the kind of music you will get from the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit. 2008’s A Midnight Organ Fight was a fantastically earnest and melancholy album that incorporated elements of Scottish & Irish folk music. Their most recent release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (March 2010), is a decidedly more upbeat and ambitious record, incorporating a wider use of instruments and texture. I’m impressed with their ability to progress as a band, and this is a good album, but somehow it lacks that emotional punch that made A Midnight Organ Fight such a great album.

Finally, a parting gift of pure electropop sweetness from that loveable sheep shaggin land of New Zealand (thanks SP) by The Naked And Famous. Very Passion Pit/MGMT…and that’s a good thing.


Themeless, Shapeless….

I’m feeling rather magnanamous today, so I thought I’d spare everyone the arduous task of reading this. Just listen. These are songs that have found their way into my head recently, and if you’re not careful they’ll find a way into your consciousness as well.

The Arcade Fire: We Used to Wait

From the new album ‘The Suburbs’. Highly recommended. Head and shoulders above their previous stuff IMO.

Modest Mouse: Bury me With It

The Gaslamp Killer: Sitar Ride (recommended by Shikha, acclaimed music aficionado)

Kanye West, Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Jay-Z: Monster

Kanye West is an annoying megalomaniac, but it’s hard to deny that he knows how to put a song or two together. Nicki Minaj’s performance, however, is by far the most impressive.

Horse Feathers: In Our Blood

Music. New. Old.

It never ceases to amaze me how pop culture trends evolve in a circular fashion. I suppose it has something to do with the need to rebel against the status quo by alluding to an era that itself was jettisoned for the same reason. In any case, there is no doubt that 80’s synth pop is back, albeit in a less earnest and more ironic avatar. I’m surprised to find myself really enjoying this genre, because this is exactly the kind of stuff I would have baulked at in my teens. Se la vie. Electropop groups like the Junior Boys, Hot Chip, MGMT and Cut Copy have influenced mainstream pop, and some of these artists have found mainstream success in their own right.

Of course, the first album I’m submitting to you has absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned trend, other than the fact that this artist also has a keen sense of history, which is evident in all three of her albums. The artist in question is M.I.A, the UK’s underground hip hop and indie pop darling who shot to mainstream superstardom following Slumdog Millionaire’s prominent usage of her Paper Planes (which itself liberally borrows a key part of its melody from The Clash’s Straight to Hell) song. Her new album, MAYA, has received mixed reviews from the music press, but I disagree. I think that the self important ilk that constitutes indie reviews (Pitchfork for example) devise their own expectations about who and what should be, and then are dissapointed when she doesn’t conform to that expectation (ironic because that lack of cookie cutter conformity is what they liked about her in the first place).

MAYA is adventurous, fresh, and intelligent. Of course it didn’t help that she decided to release perhaps the least accessible (and in my opinion perhaps the worst song on the album) as her first single. Nevertheless, MAYA succeeds in blending a wide range of musical influences ranging from straight pop to reggae to dubstep and electroclash into raucous yet compelling and surprisingly cohesive album. There are fewer overt references to South Asian music here, but its influence can still be heard. Oh, and she’s hot!

Top Songs: It Takes a Muscle, XXXO, Story to Be Told

Second on the list is Big Boi‘s superb debut solo album Sir Luscious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty (if you don’t count the Speakerboxx part of Outkast’s The Speakerboxx/Love Below album). In an era when mainstream hip hop sounds more and more formulaic and driven by market research reports than creativity, Big Boi’s genre spanning and veritable party of an album is both refreshing and reassuring. The guy clearly hasn’t lost his passion for music, rapping, or storytelling, a feat that is all the more surprising since he’s been on the scene for the better part of two decades. Sir Luscious Left Foot is what great pop music should aspire to be: Fun, immediately appealing yet capable of longevity, daring, and a little challenging. Big Boi also has enough lyrical dexterity to satiate the more traditional hip hop heads. Bottom line: One of the best Hip Hop albums to be released in the last half decade.

Top Songs: They are all great but if I have to choose….Shutterbug, Hustle Blood

and a few other tracks/albims and artists that are worth a listen…

Artist: The Cave Singers Album: Welcome Joy

I love this album. Chilled out, melodic Northwestern folk rock sounds…nice.

and one from the old school!

Musical Musings-April