With the rise and fall and rise, again, of Fiona Apple, is it possible that other female singer-songwriters have taken the angst queens place? While Foreign Slippers (alias of Swede, Gabrielle Froden) may not have that power in her melodies, her lyrics truly pack a punch. It’s always a hit and miss with singer-songwriters nowadays, most can be boring and repetitive and get immediately tossed into my computer’s trash can, but Foreign Slippers’ album, Farewell To the Old Ghosts certainly hooked me from the first track so aptly titled, “It All Starts Now”. What I thought would be simply simple acoustic guitars, I was grossly mistaken–full of wind instruments, drums, brass instruments and yes, the occasional acoustic guitar. Instead of a quieted singer, she is more like Annie Clark of St. Vincent or even Regina Spektor in her more wilder days. With quite a beautiful vibrato, it seems Froden was classically trained, and if not, she deserves praise for her ability to sing like an angel. She has that smoky jazz quality while being able to still fall into the “indie female rockers” genre, and it completes the album. But first, let’s break down why this record is perfect and now on repeat –firstly, her songs are refreshingly new with repetitious melodies that evolve into a whole other being during a 4 minute song and while sometimes the songs linger they complete the whole story of the song, specific rhythms may change, but it always returns to the beginning but is never the same and it takes a real musician to be able to accomplish that. Next, the lyrics are frighteningly resonant and relatable–without fluffing up the lyrics, Froden tells it like it is. Towards the end of her album, the song “Is That You” is perfect for the experience of seeing your ex and wondering why, “I saw you in the light of day, you didn’t look that pretty anymore, there was something about you I hadn’t noticed the night before.” If there is one thing I love in indie music is the ability to be completely honest in a song, lyrics wise, and allow the lyrics to tell a story that everyone has experienced . It makes music so much more personal, and Foreign Slippers. With all of these qualities melding together to form this album that is shockingly full of surprises in every song, it’s no wonder that Foreign Slippers has been on repeat, for there is nothing more exciting than an album the revives your love for music in a 45 minute album.
Mellow indie rock is sort of a laughable genre because when everything is stripped away, it’s just elevator music. But ex-Wisconinite duo, Foreign Fields (previously Flights), have made mellow music cool to listen to. Ethereal without being categorized as dream pop, Anywhere But Where I Am is an epic, traveling through lush melodies and softened almost whisper-like vocals, much like Bon Iver’s style. An album of loneliness and introspection, the duo attempt to uncover a deeper meaning to life, relationships and nature. More often than not the music speaks louder than the lyrics, with instrumentals that rival symphonies and film scores alike. Flights take their slow and mesmerizing melodies and brings them to life with understated lyrics in songs like, “Taller” and “From the Lake to the Land”. Foreign Fields is the indie elitist’s Air, a band know for their ethereal yet almost electronic vibe. However, the duo takes on a more folk approach to their songs, allowing the theme of nature to play a more imminent part in their album–and everything is calm. When the music swells up, there is still a controlled aspect to where the melodies are going and how they are going to affect the listener. It’s almost scientific without becoming too thought out. They are a folk-electronic band, again, two genres that should never really mix, but the way this album pans out, an hour of your time to listen is incredibly worth it. Beautiful music to listen to while thinking, reading, dreaming or relaxing, for they are calm without being sleepy, they are powerful without being dominating, and the music they create is important to them and to their listener because in the end, that’s what music is supposed to do, and Foreign Fields proves that with their debut album.
England knows what they doing. It’s not a secret that I’m an insane anglophile, but more often than not the music being released in England is superior. Signals, a four-piece piano indie rock band from Southampton is no exception. Asked on my music tumblr if I would listen and review their music, I instantly agreed–their sound is refreshing and harkens back to an early 2000′s time of indie/alternative music. Much like Eisley or The Hush Sound, the piano driven music compliments singer, Ellie Price’s subtle but almost haunting vocals. Much like another British band I blogged about before, Daughter, both songs have subtle melodies and rhythms but almost out of nowhere, the songs progress and create swooping anthemic power-ballads that just kind of take your breath away. For some reason, British songstresses are infinitely more powerful and Price’s gorgeous voice makes you wish she sang every song in the world. However, the most important part of this band that may or may not be overshadowed by the wonderful music, is the lyrics. Especially within, “Square Wheels”–Price sings, “and your bed’s now dirty and my lips are sealed and I said from the start that I’m in with this deal and we tried to work and rise above but all that we did was fall out of love”. A non-love, love song. A great premise that is often attempted, but normally falls short. But, between the mixture of sweeping melodies and harmonious vocals, the lyrics are successful. Releasing their debut EP soon, Signals should be watched carefully, if they continue the path of piano indie rock, they will most likely make themselves stand out amongst other indie musicians. Stating inspiration from Bon Iver, Local Natives, and Manchester Orchestra, it could be very soon that Signals makes their mark as well.
Coming out of San Francisco, The Spyrals have introduced its neo-psychadelic, guitar heavy, all encompassing sound into the indie world. Immediately explosive, the self titled debut album shows immense promise. With a lot of psychedelic music often monotonous, The Spyrals bring back the 1970′s rock feeling–lava lamp and all. While updating their sound to the more indie mainstream “garage rock” genre, takes the power of Iggy Pop but uses it in a more Joy Division-esque sound, bringing the controlled raucous noise to an audible and listenable album. To be honest, I feel like I should be stoned while listening to this music (how fitting for a San Francisco band, as well). They bring a fresh outlook on the neo-psychadelic music, updating a stale genre that many musicians have tried to conquer but not many could succeed. There is great hope in The Spyrals, with constant accolades on their live performances, they have allowed themselves to take the genre by full force and perhaps lead it into a whole new direction. With long winded songs like “Lonely Eyes” and “Evil Kind”, the music is never stagnant, always progressing either to become louder or to hook the listener in a completely different direction. They take the rock’n roll of the past and make something new out of it, an increasingly hard thing to achieve, but seemingly easy done by these guys. As they say on their Bandcamp, they play rock’n roll. Their debut album is out on Mock Records now, they also have tons of EP’s and singles floating around the internet or their website.
Check out their Bandcamp to purchase their album.
And now for something completely different, an alt-country supergroup, a blend of words not often found in music. But it’s quite true! Diamond Rugs consists of two members of alt country gods, Deer Tick, Ian Saint Pe of The Black Lips, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate and Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite. With this lineup, the mind immediately goes to some deep Southern punk rock. Well, not too far off. However, there’s something so much more interesting about this band, taking the ever so cliche country lyrics (their song, “I’m So Lonely” is pretty much the standard) but they put it to music that is much more relatable to their captive audience, and somehow they make it listenable. Deer Tick is a deep Southern rock band, full of floor stomping , jangly guitars and harsh voices–and the two members from the group bring that same flavor to Diamond Rugs but instead put it into a more alt-country garage rock mixture. This may sound like the worst mix of music in all of existence, but listening to songs like “Motherland” and “Gimme a Beer”, brings this niche genre together–for they make it possible to cross two genres that should have never met, and they produced an album that people from both genres could appreciate and listen to. With rough sounding, whiskey soaked vocals, harmonica, and some guitars, Diamond Rugs is just a fun supergroup that probably doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Their songs for hipsters are like looking into a whole other world, one that they’ve opened up. Truly, the self titled album is just fun, and in the summer months, what’s better than cranking up some dirty Southern garage rock while people stare at you awkwardly from cars because you’re air drumming?
With neo-soul and funk making its comeback (think bands like Fitz & The Tantrums, Foster the People, Alabama Shakes) and without signs of slowing down, Electric Guest has stood out from the crowd. First there must be an explanation of this new genre of indie music, while it may not be what you or your parents listened to back in the old days, it takes the same principles of the beloved genre and updates it for modern listeners–so think of that old sound and put some electronic beats and groovier melodies and there you have this sub genre. Electric Guest has more than my toes just tapping, my whole body seems to awkwardly dance to songs off their debut album, Mondo. Made up of four gentlemen, Electric Guest have put themselves on the map–recently named as one of MTV’s “List of Artists to Watch in 2012″–which to hipsters could either be a death sentence to a beloved band or it could be nice that they get noticed. They definitely deserve the notice. With a mix of old (really old) Phoenix and Chromeo, With space-age noises to a dominating rhythmic beat, it’s physically impossible to not want to do ridiculous hand and body movements. And people who have read this blog regularly (thanks Mom and Dad!) know I’m on a never-ending quest for good indie pop music that stands out from everyone else. It’s easy to say this band does, with ease. Asa Taccone, lead singer, has the charisma of any hype man or lead singer in the 60′s and 70′s, and this is just listening to the album. It’s easy to hear the passion and love that this band has for music, from the bass lines to the lyrics, everything was brought together to create music for people, for there is not an out of place song on this record, and the best is that the whole album simply flows together to create what sounds like, a live concert. While MTV can have some negative connotations in today’s society, they picked a respectable and deserving band to put on their list, and Electric Guest is most definitely a band to watch in 2012 and even farther.
In an age where Adele and Florence and the Machine rule the female diva world, chantress Alex Winston provides a rivalry. Undeniably and irrevocably full of life, King Con proves that Winston can pack a punch in the indie pop genre. With a voice like a louder Joanna Newsom and a tamer Paloma Faith, Winston takes the soul and upbeat tempo of a Danger Mouse production and creates an inspiring album throughout. It’s the Top 40 sound without being overproduced and fake. Each song can stand alone and be its own anthem, but together it creates a power album that never stops its ride of hooks, turns and downright fun. There is no doubt that Alex Winston is full of soul, but she contains it in a way that makes it more intense yet subtle to the listener. The whole time while listening to the album, you are waiting for her to explode in power and vocal range much like the previous diva’s mentioned to. But she concentrates that power and puts it against a more lush background than her predecessors. Her melodies recreate the same idea, waiting to dominate the song but keeps its punch restrained. This does not mean that this album isn’t explosive in sound, in fact, that’s quite the opposite. Every song is its own creature, and each allows the listener to show the range of Alex Winston as a singer, songwriter and performer. From anthemic songs like “Sister Wife” to the more Grimes-esque high pitched electronic “Guts”, this album has a song for everyone and while that may not sound cohesive by any means, it works. And only a woman like Winston understands the power this kind of indie pop has over listeners in this day and age.
There are certain albums that resonates with listeners during a specific or important times in their lives, and Yellow Ostrich’s Strange Land is mine. This “stuff” between graduation and starting life has taken its toll on me, and Yellow Ostrich has been my go-to album for a few weeks now. With anthem-like songs dominating the first half of the album, “Elephant King” and “Marathon Runner” are two incredibly breathtaking songs at the core–with fuzzy guitars and a hint of garage rock, the lyrics make it beautiful; “I am a marathon runner, my legs are sore, and I’m anxious to see, what am I running for?” What perfect lyrics for an inbetweener, a person searching for reason in life, and I think Yellow Ostrich is seeking the same thing. While listening to their debut album, The Mistress, you could hear the naivety and innocence of the album–very raw and still searching for a sound. However, within the whole sophomore album, there is reason, there is a connection that they found. They matured into great musical craftsmen, creating hauntingly abrupt indie rock songs–with horns included. And while their lead singer may not have a classically “good” voice (much like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame, yet we still gobble up every morsel of music he releases), and that shows that the indie world is more interested in how music is presented rather than if it’s “pretty”–hence the escape of auto tune that has plagued Top 40 radio. Yellow Ostrich has all the qualities of a great indie band, they are raucous but in a controlled way. They have come so far since their first album, and Strange Land is a testament to their dedication and ability to grow within the band to create an album that is meaningful with a little bit of fun added. While this album focuses on the first person a lot, it makes the album much more relatable, suggesting that the listeners have the same emotions that Alex Schaaf has–bringing the idea that we are all humans and we all experience the same things. I may be thinking too much into the album, but it’s one I’ve listened to many times, and each time I observe a new facet of it.
Indie rock has sort of been quiet recently, an influx of indie rap and neo-soul music have sort of dominated the genre for a few months, and thus, ever so refreshing comes Father John Misty. Ex-drummer of Fleet Foxes, and solo artist J. Tillman, Father John Mistry may be his most interesting project yet. Absolutely breathtaking, the opening of the album is quiet but refined–you know where the album is going to continue just from the first few notes and it’s exciting. I’ve been waiting for my “summer album”–that one album that defines the next couple of months and this is surely it.A lot of indie music albums have a good few songs and it is rare that one comes along where I put every single song into my “Favorites” playlist–and Father John Misty made it. From “Nancy From Now On” to his single “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, he is much like Neutral Milk Hotel in his lyrics relating to death and life. Sort of creepy, sort of haunting and definitely ethereal , this album has taken my heart and soul. Everything is perfected from the transitions between songs to the melodies to the lyrics. Nothing has been shorted, and he has shown where indie music can and should go. While some songs may be more upbeat than others, they flow into each other and it allows the whole album to be listenable and not choppy. Tillman knows his strengths and he plays to them well, he opens up his music a little more than his solo work or Fleet Foxes and experiments with different tempos and rhythms and just for this experiment, his work is extremely commendable. If you can’t tell by now, I’m madly in love with this album, I can find no faults in it and while indie music seems to be headed into an unknowing directions–at least Father John Misty can still create that type of music I fell in love with and have been for many years. (Also, if you haven’t seen the music video for “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”–you’re missing out. Watch it below, it’s amazing and it has Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Rec in it!)
As a young girl, ZZ Ward listened to an eclectic array of music spanning from Etta James to hip-hop, and while sometimes that can create conflict in making music–she uses it to her complete advantage. Full of soul and sensual beats, the Eleven Roses mix tape offers everything to its listeners. With a voice like Adele or Amy Winehouse, Ward channels those alt-country vocal roots and uses them against R&B beats that produces an EP that just gets down and dirty. She is first and foremost a singer, and doesn’t allow the beat to beat her, instead she flows into them but with a fierce domination that many R&B female singers lack. Music like that always sounds harsh like that, but perhaps because she is a great singer, she treats the music as music and allows the melody to flow through without it being the main focus of the album. In fact, you could completely forget the melody is playing behind her because her voice and the tones set the motion for the whole mix tape and that is what is important. She has such passion in her voice that everything is believable and while you hear that “dirty” hip-hop mouth, it’s done with conviction and not for the sake of just saying it. ZZ Ward is going to be an up and coming artist, mark my words, already touring like crazy, she has two EP’s out–the Eleven Roses is free on her website, and her Criminal EP is out on iTunes. Definitely check her out if you are interested in great female singers who can create fresh and inspiring music.