I take it back, I take it back!

Hi, everyone!  We here at the Indie Handbook have a very important announcement to make.  Throughout the (glorious) month of May, we’ll be running a big indie contest, and we want EVERYONE to take part in it.  We have some fantastic prizes lined up that I’m not sure I can disclose yet (Eric, I’ll leave that to you), and hopefully, we’ll have some other special surprises to supplement the awesomeness of the contest.  I’m actually just kind of throwing the “more cool stuff” idea out there in anticipation that we can come up with other cool stuff, but the prizes are seriously existent and fabulous.  But, in order to get this contest up and running, we need some things from you.

What do we need from you?
1. More prizes!!  Ok, we will survive without more prizes because what we’ve got is great, but the better and more abundant the prizes, the more fun for you.  So, if you are a musician/artist/creative person and you have anything you think would be a kickass prize, let us know!
2. Become our fan on Facebook.  This will make more sense later.

Stay tuned–we’ll be announcing the contest and prizes soon.  In the meantime, try not to be too bored.

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Now, down to business.  I have to admit, sometimes I read things I’ve written, especially things I wrote a long time ago, and I’m really embarrassed.  For this reason, I refuse to link to the post I wrote almost exactly a year ago about She & Him and how un-indie they are and how Paste sucks for making the album Best of 2008 and how everyone just likes Zooey Deschanel because she’s cute.

I won’t link to it, but I will tell you right now that I’ve listened to Volume Two and I’ve watched the video for “In the Sun,” (thanks Laura–by the way everyone, Laura’s at an Elton John concert tonight and I am pissed I’m not there), and I love She & Him.  You know what?  After I wrote that post about how much they annoyed me, and how listening to them doesn’t make a person indie, I listened to Volume One for like 3 weeks at work.  I hated Zooey Deschanel because all the indie boys love her, and you know what?  I give up.  I love her, she’s effing adorable.  My god, everything is just coming out, isn’t it?

Volume Two is great, an extension of Volume One in title and sound.  Zooey and M. (can I call him M.?) have kept that lovely, melodic, sugary sweet pop sound but have matured in their BGV’s and layered harmonies.  I like hearing a bit more of M. and what he can do, and the arrangements/instrumentals are spot on.  I mean, let’s be honest.  She & Him are like the Fun Dip of the musical world.  I can’t listen to it and not be happy.  Even the sad songs make me happy.  Something about it all seems exaggeratedly simple, almost devoid of the typical emotional connection between the musician and the tunes.  If there is even the tiniest streak of confession in this album, it is so heavily veiled that it has little effect on the listener…and I think that quality puts She & Him in a category of their own.  Plus, Zooey’s voice is just about perfect.

I’m not going to review the entire album, but I do want to address another thing about that horrible post I wrote a year ago.  Here’s the thing…my whole premise for hating She & Him was that people think listening to Paste’s Best of the Year album makes them indie.  Eric and I think and talk a lot about what indie is (we can’t really figure it out) and we laugh at hipsters, because gosh,  the whole thing just seems ridiculous.  When it all comes down to it, we want to listen to whatever the hell we want to listen to, and we want you to do the same.  We would just prefer whatever it is to be good, created by talented and creative people who put some heart into what they do, because why wouldn’t you want to be a part of something good?  So whatever indie is, I’m sorry for telling you that you can’t be it because you listen to She & Him.  Although if you are a hipster, I will still laugh at you.

Next post: Eric, admitting his love for Fleet Foxes.  And flannel.  Stay tuned.

You Think You’re Sooo Indie… She & Him

Ok, so welcome to our new column, which will appear whenever we feel like writing it!  It is lovingly entitled, You Think You’re Sooo Indie, and it will be featuring bands which you think make you indie because you are young and naive like that, but  do not actually make you indie at all.

You Think You’re Sooo Indie… because you listen to She & Him

Paste magazine voted She & Him’s “Volume 1” as the best album of 2008. She & Him are Zooey Deschanel, who you know from Elf and possibly some other less interesting movies, and M. Ward, who doesn’t matter because no one really cares about his half of the collaboration anyway.  Paste magazine’s coveted and highly esteemed seal of approval is probably the number 1 reason you think listening to this dynamic duo makes you indie.  I can’t blame you, really.  Paste has much knowledge…much more than I or Eric…and in the exact same issue, they feature The Welcome Wagon, which is decidedly indie and somewhat obscure simply because it’s Christian, so that deserves respect.  However, I’m pretty sure another reason you think She & Him makes you indie is that their name is “She & Him”–how cheeky!  How cute!  How just plain indie!  On top of that, what kind of album name is “Volume One” anyway?  Everyone knows that cryptic = indie! Yeah, no.

Can we get back to Paste, though?

I flip through the December 08/January 09 issue of Paste magazine in awe.  I mean, look at the bands on their top-25 list and tell me how Mates of State’s Rearrange Us, Okkervil River’s The Stand Ins, Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, and Sigur Ros’s Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust failed to take the number 1 spot over She & Him!  Sigur Ros made it only one spot behind them, and I’m not even satisfied with that.  I’m still unclear about how Dear & the Headlights and Envy & Other Sins failed to make the list.  I suppose you could make an accessibility argument–but we aren’t voting on a The Most Accessible Album of 2008 award, are we?  And if She & Him is accessible, I have to assert that 75% of the others on the top-25 list are too.  Sigur Ros probably doesn’t fall into that percentage.  Paste magazine, what happened???

“Maybe it’s just a sweet little folk record–

–a tiny, flawless, diamond.  Or maybe it’s a pristine distillation of harmony and craft; 50 years of songwriting experience served up on a spinning silver platter.  Either way, it’s our album of the year.”  (Paste, Dec08Jan09)  Well Paste, that’s ridiculous.  First of all, maybe it is a tiny, flawless diamond.  In fact, I think that’s a perfect description.  The album is truly beautiful.  Zooey Deschanel has a lovely voice, and when M. Ward does decide to show off his vocal talents, they are there.  I wouldn’t call their style so much unique as timeless–a bit western, a lot folk, and just so much good clean fun.  While their sound is simple, their songwriting and arranging are full of raw talent  (“Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?,” “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today,” “I Should Have Known Better”).

My complaints are not so much about the band as they are about the publicity.  They’re great, sure, but they’re not pee-your-pants-revolutionize-your-life great.   Zooey has a unique and lovely voice, but it gets annoying sometimes (“Take It Back,” “I Was Made For You”).  “This Is Not A Test” and “Got Me” get a bit repititious.  I respect the musicians and their songwriting talent, but I simply don’t find them to be Best-Of worthy.  Or indie-worthy, with all the ridiculous publicity.  Best album of the year?  Please.  We know why they got best album of the year.

We all really do  know why, don’t we?

Look at that precious face.  That talented, artsy girl next door.  She doesn’t need M. Ward to get all the attention in the world, because she could have

aw, sugary sweet!
aw, sugary sweet!

put out “Volume One Half” by “She” and been voted best best BEST! album of the year.  Upon the first notes of “Sentimental Heart” you just want to squeeze her, and then you see the music video for “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” and you just collapse into a comatose state, probably related to all that sweet sugary goodness.  And do you think that’s a self-portrait on the album cover?  Oh my gosh probably…she’s so carefree and charming and wonderful…

Welcome back to reality, guys.  Haven’t you ever seen High Fidelity?–even She (ha…ha…) is not always lovely!  Also, contrary to popular (and sometimes Eric’s) belief, cuteness is not a good enough reason to call a collaboration incredible.  Those bearded Fleet Foxes boys are good…but not because of their beards, and not as good as everyone seems to think.  And She & Him are good, but not because Zooey Deschanel is adorable, and not as deserving as everyone seems to think.  I know, I know, ranting about it is not going to change anything.  But listen up boys and girls: I will I keep your indie points from you because of your mixed-up priorities and inability to compartmentalize squeezability from talent (especially when my male audience seems remarkably able to compartmentalize literally everything else in their lives!).

In conclusion, listening to She & Him does not make you indie because:

1. Paste magazine voted them #1 of 2008…for no good reason.
2. Their sound is timeless…but not incredibly creative.
3. They are mostly popular because everyone just dies when they hear Zooey sing…even though her voice sounds like 9/10 of the rest of the girl singer population.
4. She & Him? “Volume One”?  They’re trying too hard.

And if we ever have the follow conversation…

me: “what kind of music do you like?”
you: “oh you know, indie music…”
me: “oh cool, like what bands?”
you: “um, well i’m really into she & him right now–”
me: “SHUT DOWN.  NOT INDIE.”

…then you will be shut down.  Because that is not indie.