Lisbee Stainton, girl on an unmade bed

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the goings-on here over the course of the last six weeks or so, you may have noticed that The Indie Handbook is in the midst of a transitional period. Where things are headed, I cannot say because I’m not entirely sure myself. Wednesday’s news that Paste would be ceasing publication of their print magazine further complicates things, raising the inevitable question of relevance once again. I won’t go into my answer here (read the new “About” page if you’re interested) but I do want to address one of the artists who led me to it.

Lisbee Stainton was first featured here about a year ago. Then again, her most recent album, Girl On an Unmade Bed, was released months ago and has been reviewed by publications far more important and, dare I say—relevant—than this one. Why, then, should I bother with it? Haven’t I missed the window? Well—no, actually; The Waste Land is 75 years old, but that doesn’t stop me reading it every month or so. And, while I’m not suggesting that Girl On an Unmade Bed is going to define the next quarter century of music, I do quite like it.

The album begins with a pair of waltzes—a new version of Lisbee’s classic “Red” and the title track—which, together, amount to about six minutes of harmonic seduction (oh, those chord changes!…), before picking things up a bit with “Is Whispering”. The second verse of “Underground” is easily one of the best moments of the album: The man said we’d be free to fight them on the beaches in the night / The shells fall on our shore, rubble, trouble, boil and bubble / Take my hand, oh take my hand and we’ll run to the underground / and hide here ’til the ‘all clear’ sounds.

Other highlights include the coming of age number “Just Like Me” and “Practice Room”, a song that seems to me proof that the lives of music students on either side of the Atlantic are not all that different. Take this, for example: There’s a prima dona in the room behind me / singing opera so that Rome can hear. I can’t say I didn’t become intimately familiar with that sound in my four years of fruitless “practicing”. And then there’s “Harriet”, due for release later this month as the next single from the album. I used to think it would be cool if someone were to write a song about me. Harriet did too, apparently—so cool, in fact, that she asked for one, quite frequently it seems. Harriet! Why did I say I would do this for Harriet / Just because she wants me to? / I’ll write a song all about you / Just to get you out my room. (I am beginning have second thoughts about having my own song.)

Perhaps the death of Paste Magazine is a harbinger of the death of indie music (the beardy-flanneled music genre, that is, not the DIY ethic) as people will undoubtedly be shouting from the mountaintops in the coming days, but singer-songwriters are in the midst of a solid run (about 800 years) and show no sign of letting up. Just like the best of those pioneering minnesingers and trouvères*, Lisbee is currently wandering Europe and the UK on her massive (and first ever) headline tour. And though her name will never be as fun to say as that of Walther von der Vogelweide, she is infinitely more charming and there are eight strings on her guitar. Add to that this brilliant album (which can be streamed, along with her first album Firefly, on her website) and it’s pretty clear to see why there’s no denying that Lisbee Stainton is going places.

How’s that for relevance?

*Technically, the traveling ones were called jongleurs, but I needed the minnesinger reference.

Si & Lisbee

goldsmithsHello, lovely readers. Before I begin, I want to let you know that from now on, Eric and I will be posting THRICE a week (I have been looking for a way to work the word “thrice” into my everyday conversation for so long) instead of four times–once me, once him, and once either a guest post or Follow An Indie Band Wednesday highlights. Don’t despair, because three times a week will be perfect for all of us! I would also like to let you know that you, my friend, YOU are perfect for a guest submission. No seriously, you are, so send them along: the.indie.handbook@gmail.com. On Wednesday, we’ll be posting from Dan Holloway of Year Zero Writers, who is heading up the Free-e-day we’ve mentioned before, and will no doubt keep mentioning.  We’re trying to convince Libby of the Poptimist to write us something, but she’s being really slow about it (Libby!).  So, get excited and make sure to tune in on Wednesday!

Tonight, I’m focusing on two artists who both attend(ed) Goldsmiths College in Southeast London. The only way I can think to describe Goldsmiths for readers in the States is as a cross between the top-notch, cutting-edge musical training one would experience at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and the free thought and open-minded discussion one would find at the New School in New York City. With this combination, it’s no surprise that incredible young artists emerge from Goldsmiths every year with a strong grasp on the technical aspects of their art as well as the deep philosophy, history, and emotion behind it. I love listening to artists from Berklee and from Goldsmiths for just this reason. Si Cliff and Lisbee Stainton are no exceptions.

We’ll start with Si Cliff… Si could be classified, I guess, as acoustic rock, and while I can’t decide if my favorite thing about his music is his seriously brilliant technique or his honest lyrics, they definitely lend well to each other. It isn’t often that you come across a songwriter so quick to offer vulnerable and personal lyrics, be it through storytelling or just plain confession, to the point where you as a listener hear your own story is being told. On top of that, and probably due to a combination of fantastic training at Goldsmiths and an abundance of talent, the structure and sounds of each song are incredibly well-crafted, and Si’s guitar-playing is excellent. There’s a lot of pure goodness here. My favorites from his recordings are “Memories”–especially with the awesome instrumental solo in the middle–and “Start Again.” Oh yeah, and did I mention he has a great voice and a great accent? Well, consider it mentioned.

And gee whiz, speaking of honesty, can we get some more? Lisbee Stainton my other recently-discovered Goldsmiths singer/songwriter who also seems to be really in tune with…I don’t know, life?…and seems to be more than willing, as I always want artists to be, to share her thoughts and feelings and cares. Artists like this make me feel more okay about being who I am and living my life. Anyway, on her myspace, I cannot pick a favorite song…at least not based in any kind of objectivity. I love “Just Like Me,” because, well, do I really need to talk about my twentysomething confusion again? It resonates. Also, “Girl on an Unmade Bed” is quite beautiful. The thing is, the Miss Lisbee Stainton brand of folk rock will charm you with its absolute loveliness and honesty–and can you deny that you’re looking for more loveliness and honesty in your life? No. Don’t deny it.

Listen and love it. Also, if you’re from Goldsmiths or Berklee or some other place and you want us to listen to your music, we totally will.