Two reviews for the price of one, which is free

Regina SpektorFar

Regina Spektor is back with a new album (her third or sixth, depending on whether you can count or not). There are a lot of things to like about Far, the new album, out on Tuesday. People who got all pissy over the Begin to Hope, will like that this leans more in the direction of her older albums on this record, while those who loved the last album will be happy to know that, while there is a lot to think about in this record, they don’t have to think about it unless they want to. (Read the rest)

God Help the GirlGod Help the Girl

It’s not unheard of for a band to provide the soundtrack for an album and history would indicate that it is really something of a hit or miss experience. Think about it. Where would we be if Once had not launched The Swell Season into the spotlight? Then again, Björk’s soundtrack for Dancer In the Dark (a sickeningly brilliant film by Lars von Trier) was a major disappointment, if only because the other actors who sang with her could not begin to approach the shear drama and power packed into every pitch she produces. God Help the Girl is, in a way, a soundtrack as well, but one accompanying a film by Stuart Murdoch that does not quite exist yet. So we have to begin the review process at a loss. (Read the rest)

It’s a landslide nation

Among certain circles who think along these lines, Jena Malone is the perfect woman. And while I confess I have never seen any of her movies, I have seen her on Craig Ferguson and I was beginning to see their side of things. Then I found out that she is a musician. Then I heard her music. Then I saw the face of God and I died.

OK, OK, so Jena’s music (along with Lem Jay Ignacio, of course) did not exactly result in an encounter with the divine (or the Divine, for that matter) and the last check of my vitals confirmed that I am, in fact, very much alive. I can’t even promise you that there are actual circles that consider Jena to be perfect (they tend to be more elliptical). But I can assure you that, of all the movie-star-turned-singer-side-projects, this is the most ambitious and least pretentious. It is also one of the best (on par, I think, with Go-Getter co-star Zooey Deschanel’s work with M Ward if completely different).

In the past, her music has been performed with Jena Malone and Her Bloodstains, but now she works with Lem Jay Ignacio (“Lem Jay Ignacio: playing water love, wurly and hand claps. Jena Malone: playing with fire always”) as The Shoe. From what I understand, “the shoe” itself essentially amounts to a steamer trunk full of keyboards, processors, mixers, pedals, a guitar, and various other buttony things I wouldn’t know the first thing about using, ready to be plopped down on a street corner at a moment’s notice for an impromptu concert, which, I think, is sort of the point.

If you’re not lucky enough to find yourself on one of these street corners or dive bars, then I suggest you head over to MySpace and listen to the Shoe and the Bloodstains while you’re at it. I love the rant at the end of “Landslide Nation” and Raccoon, but there is a special place in my heart for “freestylechuckp’s radio show”, not only because of the David Byrne and Suicide Girl references, the use of the word “fictionary”, or the fact that it may actually be freestyle number 46,700, but also because she coins what could very well become our motto: “I’d know what is indie if it hit me”. Suddenly, I feel vindicated.

This is one band I would love to have on our Christmas album. I think they would do something truly incredible.

And, if you want even more electrified-pseudo-anti-folksy-bang for your buck, head over to therewasanoldwomanrecords.com and explore. There are even more tracks available there. They’ve got a YouTube channel, too. This video is my favorite, even if it isn’t exactly from the album.

[Apparently, I am not allowed to embed the video, so you will have to click here, or here, or here.]

The Anti-Indie

Here is some honesty for you: since Dutch Week, we are struggling with withdrawals.  Please support us in our grief.

In the meantime, I am going to write about Kimya Dawson.  Cool.  Before Juno, no one knew who the heck Kimya Dawson was (fine, maybe people did, but no one I know did).  Let’s play a game called, listen to one of her songs or one of her albums, and then pick which picture you think is her:

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If you picked the second choice, it is because you are like 95% of the population, who also think Kimya sounds like an adorable little child.  If you picked the first choice, it is because you had the intuition to know what I was getting at, and so you didn’t really know at all, and so you are a faker and would have picked the second choice in any objective situation.

But seriously, I entitled this post “The Anti-Indie” because I feel that Kimya Dawson sort of is the anti-indie, or maybe the anti-folk–at least she was…until the movie Juno and it’s infectious soundtrack took over life as we know it and threatened to make the indie scene trendy forever and ever.  Sufjan, the ultimate indie (do you love my random assertions about what is indie?  Me too), plays all of his own instruments, and he does it well.  However, Kimya’s music is very much like a little girl writing crazy but strangely meaningful things and putting them alongside acoustic Raffi-like guitar, ukelele, badly-played violin, and maybe another 5-year-old hitting a xylophone.  Although her most recent album, Alphabutt, is a children’s album, Remember That I Love You (2006, K Records) is not–thus the irony of hearing her childlike voice say “Fuck Bush and fuck this war” on “Loose Lips”–and so I don’t feel so bad loving it so much.

So!  to the album: you already probably know “Loose Lips” and “Tire Swing” from the Juno soundtrack, on which a very lame version of “My Rollercoaster” was also featured.  You must listen to Remember That I Love You for the good version of “My Rollercoaster,” though, because in the middle of her own awesomeness, Kimya breezes through bits and pieces of such musical gems as “On the Road Again,” “From A Distance,” and that “do do do” song by Third Eye Blind.    She is also very peacy (not to be confused with P.C.) and does not hesitate to sing about her political opinions, like a modern day Bob Dylan!  Just kidding, she is not really like Bob Dylan very much at all, but she is both political and good.

The 2 most fantastic things about Kimya are that she is incredibly sincere and that she is easy to sing along to (which you know you like to do).   “Caving In” is poignant for the angsty twenty-something (The Indie Handbook loves angsty twenty-somethings) in which she presents her hatred for working for the Man and her desire to “leave for the coast and never work for anyone again,” and also her fear of change and the rootlessness that often follows (“Where will I go where I can feel safe when my family sells this place and we all split up and move away?  I’m trying to be brave ‘caus when I’m brave, other people feel brave, but I feel like my heart is caving in.”)  “I Like Giants” has a strong feminist streak, and “My Mom” indulges Kimya’s fear for her mom as she battles cancer.  Basically, you will listen to Kimya’s album, you will relate and it will bring tears to your eyes to think that someone really gets it and it’s okay and let’s all just be youthful and frolic around and sing and play 7 minutes in heaven and go to the state fair.  You just can’t say no to that.

I couldn’t say it better than the bio on her website:

“There is something really precious about being alone and sad, but there is something powerful and reassuring about watching someone blossom out of that cocoon, sprout wings, and learn to fly. The world is in a state of disarray and Kimya sees that, but she also sees all the magnificent strangeness and unwavering beauty in the world and in people. And she shows us how to see it too.”