Maltese Additions…

Although I generally eschew domestic responsibilities/activities of all sorts, there’s some housekeeping to be done before I begin my “actual” post tonight.

1. Gee whiz, Eric and I sure do love to write about music, y’all!  Is it because we’re terribly pretentious and dreadfully pompous people?  No, sillies!  Reference our About Us section to sweeten our sarcasm with sincerity.

2. If you read our About Us section and can still stomach us, be our fans.  For realz.

3. Also, as much as we love love love writing, our day jobs sometimes get in the way of us doing all we would like to do (and knowing all we would like to know).  We value your knowledge, and also your writing abilities.  Send us guest submissions at the.indie.handbook@gmail.com — we are great editors, promise!

Now, onto this evening’s post.

Well, the great thing about having weeks dedicated to music of other countries (re: Dutch Week, Malta Mayhem…) is that often, we’ll hear back from musicians and music lovers in those countries with glorious recommendations,  picking up what we have missed.

So, although Malta Mayhem is over and done, it lives on in our hearts and our ears!  And I have two more bands to share with you, thanks to a lovely email from a Maltese music connoisseur extraordinaire.  Yes, I did make that title up myself. The first is a band I had previously considered reviewing…but Brikkuni beat them out.  Maybe only because Brikkuni’s myspace page is better-looking, I’m not sure.  Packed with interesting sounds and instruments, Hunter’s Palace must be named experimental.  With such an emphasis on guitar motifs and a percussive feel, melody definitely isn’t the main focus here.  Hunter’s Palace achieves something very similar to what Sigur Ros achieves, but through very different means–atmosphere; the listener can’t be half-hearted, as they must immerse themselves in the musical experience or they probably won’t be very interested in what’s going on.  This may or may not be what my grandma calls “noise.”

To be quite honest, I don’t really listen to much electronic music; it isn’t really my style.  I’m more indie-folk, I think.  But when I heard Mathematikal (and passed them on to my little sister, who is into some electronic music, and by that I mean, she really likes Crystal Castles), I agreed that they were definitely worth mentioning and experiencing on our little indie blog here.  They’re electrosynth all the way, with plenty of beats and changes and voice distortions to go around.  I asked my sister whether she got an 80’s vibe from it, because I kind of do, but she doesn’t–she said she gets a strobe lights vibe.  I’m not sure what that means, but I’m gonna go with it.  If you check out their myspace, I especially recommend “The Mathematimix,” which reminds me of Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds at some points (and to me is a good thing, soooo is Eric going to kick me off the blog for that?), and in the middle, there’s a little Michael Jackson remix (I’m still in mourning).  I also really enjoy PonyPonyRunRun_HeyYouRMX–the beat, the layers, and the vox are a pretty awesome combo.

Well folks, if you were still yearning for a bit more from Malta, here you go!  If nothing else, these two great bands are a bit different from mine and Eric’s usual taste, which you better not be sick of yet, and so isn’t it always nice to have something fresh and exciting?  Answer: yes.  Enjoy!

Shh, talk about Slow Club in your Library Voices

Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!
Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!

(Thanks to thepoptimist.com for the logo idea)

Guess what guys!  If you work at a semi-normal workplace, you get Friday off, so today is sort of like … not Wednesday, and tomorrow is sort  of like Friday!

And it’s “listen to indie music and have a great Wednesday”, which is my new name for “follow an indie band Wednesday” because I’m getting tired of calling it that.  I’m not very big on commitment.  That’s okay, though, because this day allows me to be as random as I need to be.  So with that, I have some highlights and some housekeeping things for you today!

1. 5 months f rom today, December 1st, is Free-E-Day, which is an online indie culture festival being hosted by Year Zero Writers.  This is a pretty freaking awesome idea, and I hope to see it come to fruition in an even more brilliant way than anyone expects.  Basically, artists will contribute books, music, photography, etc etc etc, and they will be available to the public for free!  If you’re an artist, this is a great way for you to put your stuff out there, and if you’re a lover of the arts (as Eric and I most definitely are), this is a great way to find something new and groundbreaking.  For more information, check out the website here.  Also, remember that when you talk about it, you have to say it sort of like this: “FreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Day!”  It’s much more fun that way, trust me.

2. Right now I am listening to Library Voices. I’ve been coming to a realization…it’s like waking up from a dream…that I have a thing for Canadian music.  How to describe them?  They’ve got the tension between playfulness and self-awareness that we all admire about the Magnetic Fields, with a brilliantly indie-pop sound and a free but catchy structure, which isn’t the easiest balance in the world to accomplish.  Their little a cappella melody at the beginning of “Drinking Games” is precious, and they also clap and ooh and aah and count off in Spanish and reference The Unbearable Lightness of Being and make the synths sound cool.  Yeah, that’s hot.

3. 5 days till the new Slow Club album! Yeah So will be released on July 6, 2009, and somehow I just know it’s going to be the most wonderful thing you’ve heard all year so far.  Can you believe it’s already July?  Yeah, me neither.  I can’t keep up.  Anyway, let me tell you what Yeah So is going to be like.  Charles and Rebecca are going to charm you with their vocal chemistry and their playful, creative, honest lyrics.  You’ll dance around even if you never dance, you’ll blast it from your car even though folk is not usually blasted, and you will make all of your friends listen to it.  Some tracks may also make you cry.  And if you have ever listened to the musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown, which is probably like…one of you…”Sorry About the Doom” is going to sound like “I’m Still Hurting.”  And if you check out “Dance Till the Morning Light” on their myspace, there is going to be an even better version.  Jus’ sayin’.  On Monday you better invest a few bucks in this album, because if Paste magazine comes to their senses, it will be on the top-25 list of 2009 at least.

4. Another gem of FAIBW is Ra Ra Riot. They’re from Syracuse but they have a bit of a London sound, reminiscent of the Kooks.  Violin and cello are prominent elements of their distinct ethereal indie rock, and even though the lyrics are kind of weird, they’re also pretty  cool.  I should have more to say about them, but I am getting antsy.

5. Here is a video of Slow Club to get you excited about the new album (if my writing isn’t exciting enough for you).  “Because You Are Dead” will be on it!

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.

Star Trek: Spaced Out!

Here’s the deal, guys.  In honor of the new Star Trek movie, I am going to bring us all back to the original Star Trek, with genius Leonard Nimoy and pre-Priceline William Shatner.  We are going to both celebrate who they were, and mourn who they became–well, depending on you who are.  I’m fine with who they became.  This stuff is pretty fantastic entertainment.

So, in case you aren’t aware, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner made an album a few years back–it’s sort of William Shatner doing dramatic monologues and Leonard Nimoy singing.  I am now going to liveblog this entire album, and you will feel sorry for me and jealous of me at the same time.  The major question throughout this entire thing is: seriously?

1-“King Henry the Fifth”: Well, that’s one way to start a spoken word piece…William Shatner is the most dramatic man I have ever known.  He makes Laurence Olivier sound like a pansy.

2-“Elegy for the Brave”: Can William Shatner speak me to sleep every night?  His voice is so calming.  “And the sunlight sprinkles diamonds on a clear, flowing stream…”  I especially love the “ahh ahh ahh” background vocals.  Mmm this is lovely.  Do you think he is the pale young soldier?  I sure hope he is.  Oh crap wait, the pale young soldier is dead–ok, now I’m just insensitive.  Next track.

3-“Highly Illogical”: YES!  This is like, straight out of Star Trek.  I freaking love Spock.  Oooh great beat!  It’s like the Brady Bunch!  Leonard Nimoy is now talking about how women change men…he should give us all relationship advice, I think.  I’ll take advice from a Vulcan any day, they’re the experts on life.  Counseling + dancing at the same time = new Vulcan field of psychology?  I think yes.

[now my sister is interrupting me to tell me about her tetanus shot.  i wonder what spock would say about that.]

4-“If I Had A Hammer”: Can I just get this out of the way and say it sounds like he’s talking about having sex?  I’m sorry, but it does.  And Leonard is really into hammering, apparently.  And also ringing bells.  Anyway, how is it that his songs are so much peppier than William’s?  I mean, first we watch Star Trek and Spock is much more serious than Captain Kirk (in my trekkie opinion), and then we hear these ridiculously dramatic monologues in the first two … songs? … and now Leonard is like LET’S DANCE!  Ok it’s getting more serious towards the end…kind of peacie and nationalistic at the same time.  This is weird.

5-“Mr. Tambourine Man”: Oh there are so many things to say about this.  Ok William Shatner is back in all his glory.  I think he is trying to have a Bob Dylan voice, but he is failing miserably.  It’s too choppy even for Dylan.  Is he constipated?  Also, the instrumentation sounds RIDICULOUS.  It’s like a really bad middle school band arrangement.  Oh my gosh now he is yelling for the tambourine man!  When you cover Dylan you can’t sound desperate, you have to sound cool!!

6-“Where is Love?”: Aw, is Leonard lonely?  Aw, I think he is.  I wonder if he ever took voice lessons.  This genre is not quite working for him.  Can we get back to the 60’s dance music?

7-“Music To Watch Space Girls By“: Let’s address the obvious fact that space girls do not exist, unless you’re talking about astronauts, in which case a) they’re very covered up in those spacesuits, aren’t they? and b) unless you are also an astronaut, where are you going to see them?  Other than that, I’m glad Leonard has returned to his fun surfer dance music, despite the freaky synths.  I’d also like to point out that Leonard Nimoy is credited for this song, but he does not sing.  That’s 2 minutes of my life I cannot get back, and I wasted them because Leonard Nimoy wasn’t actually singing.

8-“It Was A Very Good Year”: Ew.  William Shatner is starting to get creepy.  He is talking about girls and sounds very pervy.  Geez, William.

9-“Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town”: This is an uneventful piece of work.  I am starting to realize how many tracks are on this album, and how consequently long this post is going to be, and now I am starting to feel insecure.

10-“Hamlet”: Another dramatic monologue!  This is particularly meaningful to me, because when Eric and I took Facebook quizzes to determine what Shakespeare characters we were, Eric got Ophelia and I got Hamlet.  I’m basically driving him into madness!  Anyway, Shatner should never play Hamlet in a movie.  He has been outdone already by too many people–Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, Ethan Hawke (yes Ethan Hawke was even better than this).  Aye, there’s the rub!

11-“A Visit To A Sad Planet”: This is weird.  Leonard Nimoy is talking about charred, radioactive vegetation.  There is a pretty flute in the background though.  BORING.

12-“Abraham, Martin, and John”: Oh my gosh I love this song!  It is covers like this that make this album worth listening to.  Leonard Nimoy is being all peacie again!  What a precious man!  Not sure what’s going on with the bizarre instrumentation on this entire album–the brass doesn’t really fit at all, but…I can’t lie, I think Leonard has a decent, if just a little shaky, voice on these little ballads.

13-“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”: I liked this a lot until 30 seconds in when William Shatner started speaking instead of singing.  Now I’m just dying of laughter!  I think he may have been high when recording this; if not, he actually is a pretty fantastic actor.

14-“If I Was A Carpenter”: Whoever originally wrote this song is obviously unclear about the grammatical use of “if I was” and “if I were,” because just to be safe, he uses them both.  Anyway, I think Leonard Nimoy is living out his childhood fantasies here, because his covers are getting boring and they all sound the same, but I think he is getting super into it.

15-“How Insensitive”: William Shatner is now talking about how “unmoved and cold” he is in regards to love.  I think he likes it.  Oh wait, now he’s being a whiner about how alone he is.  You feel like an ass now, don’cha Mr. Shatner? There’s a nice little jazzy thing going on in the background, too.

16-“I’d Love Making Love To You”: I bet you would.

17-“Put A Little Love In Your Heart”: I wonder if these men ever intended this to be released to the world, or if they just had a drunken late-night recording session that accidentally leaked.

18-“Sunny”: What was I thinking?? I’m officially bored with Leonard Nimoy’s vocals.  We’ve got William on the one hand being hyperbolically ridiculous, and we’ve got Leonard trying to be suave but only coming across as … blah.  Can we get Stevie Wonder singing this instead?  Oooh it gets a little exciting towards the end, though, doesn’t it? (no.)

19-“Gentle On My Mind”: Not even listening to this anymore.

20-“I Walk The Line”: I kind of like this.  Is that horrible?  I mean, whatshisface Phoenix was more in tune than Leonard, but still…it’s kind of cute.

21-“The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”: OH MY GOSH.  OH MY GOSH.  I’ve heard this before, I can’t lie, but OH MY GOSH, every time I forget how FABULOUS it is!!  There is no decipherable key, and who wrote the lyrics to this anyway?, and the ladies in the background seem to be singing whatever pitches they feel like singing, and OH MY GOSH now it sounds like Leonard is trying to act out Bilbo’s adventures!  I think they hired a 7th grade band for this one, too, but you know what?  I would pay $20 just for this song.

22-“Everybody’s Talkin'”: My mom used to sing me this song when I was little, probably because of my little kid routine of “mom? mom? mom? mom? mom?”  Leonard Nimoy sounds really broken up about life in this one.  I want to hug him…but without having to touch him.

23-“Both Sides Now”: Aw, no one but Joni Mitchell should ever sing this.  This cover is too fast.  Slow down, dammit!!  And also, what do you know about life, Leonard?  You’re a Vulcan!  Stop!!!

24-“Spock Thoughts”: This is brilliant.  Spock is wise.  He could have written Proverbs.  “Listen to others–even the dull and ignorant.  They too have their story.”  But seriously, he should just write a book of platitudes.  Oh!  Or they could hire him to write the fortunes for fortune cookies.  “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  We have a right to be here…the universe is unfolding as it should.”  I love you, Spock.

So, you decide.  Were Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner trying to be funny?  Is the album worth the purchase for tracks like “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Spock Thoughts”?  Worth the purchase for sheer entertainment purposes?  I think yes.



It’s UK Day at FAIBW!

Hello, everyone!  Please forgive us for not covering Follow An Indie Band Wednesday (FAIBW…fyi) last week!!  We are eternally apologetic.  Tonight will not disappoint because tonight I noticed that many of the best from FAIBW are from the United Kingdom and I am thereby declaring today UK Day at FAIBW.  Do I have the authority for that?  Well…yes.

We Were Promised Jetpacks hails from Glasgow, Scotland.  I had never heard them before tonight and I’m ready to purchase everything they’ve got out.  Too bad I am poor.  Anyway, We Were Promised Jetpacks can be described as tight alternative indie, with driving guitar and cathartic build.  I’m  in love with the listening experience here…the intense amalgamation of talent and passion.  Between the four songs on their myspace page, I can’t pick one favorite–everything they’ve got is so completely together, and their hearts are completely in it.  They strike the glorious balance between power and fragility, something that doesn’t always fall into place with other bands.  Also, Eric and I decidedly love Scottish accents, although he will be less than thrilled that these are boy accents and not girl ones.

My next UK favorite of the day is Dinosaur Pile-Up.  These alternative indie Brits have not let me down except in picking a weird band name (boys are weird).  They have especially not let me down in their attractive myspace profile picture–it is QUITE sexy.  But seriously…I was going to say that Dinosaur Pile-Up is pretty similar to We Were Promised Jetpacks in its drive, but their heavier guitars and darker vocals really make that a stretch, so I won’t say it.  They’re more grunge than melodramatic, but they’re absolutely adorable nonetheless.  And very rock’n’roll.  Also, I really want one of those cool tshirts.   White, size small, please.  Who is going to make that happen?  They’re so rock’n’roll!!  And maybe some Clash-inspired lyrics?  Did I make that up?

Finally, in keeping with tonight’s trend of inexplicable band names, United Kingdom origins, and a more alternative vibe than you usually get from Miss Indie Folk (that’s my new nickname, btw), here is Scientist The Orange Pip!  Actually, Scientist The Orange Pip is, while still alternative  indie, not too far from crossing border into emo, but their innovative sound and rhythmic play prevents them from getting there and emotionally convinces me, which is something most emo (read: Dashboard Confessional) fails to do.  However, if you have emo leanings, this may be your thing.  The changes in “Lupitas Observation” rival The Format’s ability to brilliantly cater to ADHD listeners, so obviously I recommend it, and “Proof of Propensity” has a great sound as well, a bit different from their other songs.  I think my favorite thing about these guys, though, is their background vox.  Is that weird?  They’re fun, biotches.  So, button up those skinny jeans, smudge that eyeliner, and freaking check it out.

Thanks The_Recommender, Miss_Cain, and NatGuy for winning suggestions this week.  Thanks to the UK for producing such fabulous music.  See ya next week for Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!  (Unless of course something cooler comes up, in which case you should be here anyway, shouldn’t you?)

In A Cabin With…We’ll Make It Right

Those of you who kept up with The Indie Handbook during Dutch Week may remember my post about the IN A CABIN WITH international recording project.  If you don’t remember, well, here it is again. And of course you can find a more official description on the IN A CABIN WITH official website.

And now that you’re up to speed on the project, a new album was recorded in January and just released!  I downloaded it today (because there’s a free download available!) and have been simultaneously listening and reading the collaboration’s blog.  This particular project’s name is We’ll Make It Right and is made up of several Dutch musicians I’ve never heard of (because let’s be honest, the Dutch musicians I know are mostly the ones we covered during Dutch Week).  The instrumentation, as described on the blog, is “amongst arp, vibes, piano, banjo, and flute the strange duck in the bite!”  I’m not sure what it means to be the strange duck in the bite, but I’m pretty sure by listening that it’s a good thing.  On a whole, the collaboration is quite fantastic.

Within the first five seconds of the first track, “Stop Trying So Hard,” I couldn’t help thinking of Sondre Lerche, along the lines of “Everyone’s Rooting Just For You”.  Dominant chords and flute motifs bring a definite jazz feel to this track as well as to others, the most notable being the sassy “Just Like A Man.”  If I could swing dance, I would.  Eric can.   Songs like “It Ain’t All Good, “For The Sleeping,” and “We’ll Make  It Bright” are incredibly lovely and sad, and the end of “For The Sleeping” is especially ethereal.  If any of you care about my own personal favorite track (I know, I’m shameless), I think for now it is “Some Day,” which is one of the most playful and moving (literally, not emotionally) songs on the album; however, as with most truly great albums, my favorite is likely to change with more listens.

Reading the blog alongside of listening has added, I think, a new dimension to my comprehending the collaboration as a whole.  This makes sense, as a person’s understanding of an artwork can only increase with their understanding of the artist and the environment under which the art was created.  Can you appreciate Shostakovich without a cognizant acknowledgement of his life in Soviet Russia?  Sure.  But this acknowledgement will take you much deeper into his music than a surface-level listen or chord analysis.  So, I’d like to share a few thoughts I have upon reading the IN A CABIN WITH We’ll Make It Right blog.

The bloggers in the band not only sleep in one hotel room, but “we all sleep in 1 big 8-person bed, and DJ Extraa talks in his sleep. He shouted: ‘Which asshole does this!’. Later on he murmered: ‘Slackers.'”  This is so funny and so imaginably difficult at the same time!  It puts a whole new spin on the second track, “My Best Friend”– “when you bother me/i’ll bother you/and we’ll both know/i wanna make you my best friend.”  They describe their overall feeling as “one of intense, vulnerable sweet people spending day and night in a chalet.  We show each other movies, play each other songs we’ve made or songs by others, have dinner together, sleep together…Definitely not rock’n’roll!”  I don’t know, I guess they’re right.  Maybe it isn’t particularly rock’n’roll.  Later they admit they’ve pretty much lost touch with reality.  That’s natural, I guess!  But don’t you freaking love it?  It’s so artistic and wonderful, and the effect it has on their music is inimitable.  “Sweet with balls,” they call it.  Brilliant.

My favorite is their second-to-last blog post; the implications of this excerpt are fascinating:

“Each person in the band contributed several scetches for a song. And we wanted everybody to at least make 1 song out 1 of their scetches, and we’ve acheived that. So everyone ‘s got his “own” song now, except for Extraa. We will do his tomorrow.”

I think the reason this interests me so much is that despite everyone having their own song, and despite an earlier post saying the only music they all liked was Phoenix’s, all the songs on the album flow beautifully.  There is a definite and distinct sound to this collaboration, which can only come, I suppose, from spending every waking hour together in a tiny hotel room, and perhaps drinking lots of whiskey, and pushing through all those annoying idiosyncrasies that literally every person has, and knowing in the end, you have to produce, and whatever you produce has to be beautiful and it has to be art.

And it is beautiful, and it is art.  So I would say that In A Cabin With We’ll Make It Right is an enormous success.

I can’t embed it, so watch this video.


I Miss You, The Format

Tonight is a night of mourning, because I am reviewing The Format, who I love and have no more.  They are the biggest teases ever…giving us but two albums and then splitting.  I know when I’m unwanted!  These two albums, however, are two of the best, most personal albums I have ever owned.  So, I forgive them for the split.

Anyway, many of you may already know and love The Format, in which case you should probably honor them with me by listening to their albums on repeat and looking into fun., Nate Ruess’s brand new band, who actually toured with Manchester Orchestra and who Eric got to see in concert while I listened to top-40 radio in Hampton Roads.  However, many of you may not have heard The Format because you are too young or were too uncool in high school/college to listen to them.  It’s  okay.  I was uncool at one time as well.  Now is a time of celebration for you–and a time of spending money on some new albums.  Listen up, kids.

My second favorite of The Format’s albums is their first album, Interventions and Lullabies (Elektra, 2003).  In their first album, The Format begins showcasing what sets them apart from others–quite literally, the format of their songs.  As far as I can tell from their lyrics, the band members seem to be personally acquainted with restlessness and change–one reason why I connect so deeply with them, I guess–and these qualities play a significant role in their music-making.   Perhaps the most prominent examples of this are the bridge on “Let’s Make  This Moment A Crime,” the general structure of “Sore Thumb,” and the surprising last minute or so of “Career Pay,” which by the way, is my favorite track.  Just in case you were wondering.  Beyond the interesting FORMAT (haha it never gets old!) of their music, their lyrics = genius.  From “I’m Ready, I Am,” The Format hits what is important to me as an artist and listener: “I”m trying to find truth in words and rhymes and notes and all the things I wish I wrote”–isn’t that the point?  Their twentysomething/graduate feelings are familiar…”old classmates please drop all your pens/don’t write a word caus i won’t reply/i’m not bitter no it’s just i’ve passed that point in my life” or “as for joe oh i’ve seen him around/then there’s adam/he’s afraid to go out/i don’t blame him/i just wanted to go out to eat/then there’s mark goddamn i wish him the best/we were kids back then/as if we could progress/sometimes i, i just can’t sleep/thinking of the things we could have been.”  I know, it sounds kind of emo.  But let’s be honest with ourselves.  Well,  I feel like that a lot.  So that’s enough.

Moving on, Dog Problems (The Vanity Label, 2006) is my favorite of the two albums, because at this point, the Format has grown into musical  maturity.  The interesting changes in FORMAT!! are not only in the bridge or the last thirty seconds of a song, but they keep occurring…not too many key changes because that is annoying as hell, but tempo and style…it’s incredibly intriguing, and incredibly ADHD-friendly, which is always nice.  They have figured out how to use background vocals brilliantly (“I’m Actual” — great example) and have played with instrumentation.  The melodies are interesting, the writing is creative, and it’s singable.  So, that’s pretty fantastic.  Because I’m a self-aware lyric whore, “Oceans” (“why am i scared of people in a room?/why can’t they see a good time/are the people close to you?/why don’t i just give in/have a drink and shake some hands…”) and “If Work Permits” (“now standing in a room/it’s filled with older folks/they’re pleading ‘baby listen’/and i scream as loud as anyone/but when asked to make a point/i tend to whisper”) are my favorite tracks on the album.  They make me want to scream, I feel that way!!!!!!!!!! But I don’t, I just listen.  Anyway, despite these being my favorite, the title track is amazing and in my opinion, puts all of the great characteristics about this band into one song.  The lyrics, the swing to ballad style changes, the awesome instrumentation… it’s all here.  And check it, yo.  You can watch the video.

You can also listen to some of their songs on myspace, but really I’d just recommend buying the albums.  You can probably get them cheap on Amazon.  Is that cheap of me to mention?  I don’t care.  We’re poor, you probably are too.

I miss you, the Format…

They Play Fleet Foxes Better Than Fleet Foxes

Who are they? First Aid Kit! And aren’t they cute?  Eric’s going to need a first aid kit for his heart!  (I’m so clever…)

I’ve been really slacking on my reviews lately.   I need to sit down and write some album reviews, but recently I haven’t had enough time or emotional energy for that (story of my life).  Also, my job pretty much equals staring at a computer screen all day.  I know, I know, no excuses.  I will write some bonafide album reviews ASAP.  In the meantime, I am trying desperately not to let you down.

So, for tonight, another EP I cannot purchase on iTunes because it is Swedish.  So I will see what I can do on Amazon.  But for now, check out First Aid Kit’s myspace.  They aim for the hearts, not the charts!  And that, my friends,  is the best thing a band can do.  Writing and playing good music also helps.

First Aid Kit is a lovely indie folk two-piece: sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg.  You’ll be charmed at the first acoustic lilt of “You’re  Not Coming Home Tonight,” especially as the girls’ voices blend into lovely, melancholic harmonies.  Klara and Johanna’s voices are an awesome combination of playful, rich passion, and their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” shows this off beautifully, especially at the end with “I don’t know what I have done, I’m turning myself into a demon.”  Honestly, I like the Fleet Foxes and everything, and even though they are overrated, I understand why they are–because they’re creative and wonderful, obviously–but I like First Aid Kit’s cover better than the original.  They downplay the acoustics and emphasize the vocals, which are strong and full of character.  If you haven’t already noticed, I really love when singers know how to use their voices in creative ways, almost as actors.   Maybe this comes from studying classical music for so long, but in any case, it reflects the singer’s own passion, talent, and all  in all just makes them a whole lot more interesting to listen to.  You can hear another example of this in “Jagadamba You Might”–the girls’ moody ooh’s and aah’s lead into almost-scat, and still fit the eery folk perfectly.  Finally, “Cross Oceans” is not to be forgotten, with its rhythm-based acoustics.  Despite the moodiness of their tracks, something about First Aid Kit is still uplifting.

If you don’t already love Swedish music, start here.  I know I’ll be keeping my eyes out for First Aid Kit to be more readily available in the States.  For now, here’s the Fleet Foxes cover.  Leave your comments and let us know what you think–better than the original?

Follow An Indie Band Wednesday: The Best Day of the Week!

Hello and welcome to Follow An Indie Band Wednesday highlights!

First, some “housekeeping” that isn’t really housekeeping.  Tonight, Eric is too pissed to write (Do we listen to indie music because we are depressed, or are we depressed because we listen to indie music?  I don’t know, John Cusack, I just don’t know) so I am bringing you some fantastic bands to become obsessed with.  Also, if you listen to my mix from Monday now, even though it is Wednesday, I will not harass you about it next Monday.

Anyway, back to Follow An Indie Band Wednesday!  Last week, due to Malta Mayhem, we had to give up our routine and fill our day with Maltese music; today, we are back on Twitter listening to tons of free tracks and myspace pages of great indie bands, and there’s pretty much something for everyone!  You can check it out here, and if you don’t feel like blindly listening to everything posted or if you just really value our opinions (can’t blame you for that), here are some highlights:

We here at The Indie Handbook have multiple musical personalities, and while sometimes I just need some delicious girlie twee, I can be pretty badass.  And Transfer is for when I’m needing something badass.  I’m tempted to call them rockabilly, but that’d be way too extreme…they’re western rock with a bit of grunge.  I like the mellow feel of “Like a Feather” and the build on “A Bitter Pill,” so those are my recommendations for this fine Wednesday evening.  Also, the vox on “Sinking Sailing” remind me vaguely of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” which is always a good thing.  Transfer comes from San Diego, so if you’re a local, I suggest you go find them and be friends with them.  At the moment, I’m begging for an east coast tour…

Now for something completely different…The Aquamen, because all their songs are named after drinks!  But seriously, they are, but also seriously, you’ve been looking for your fun summer music, and I am giving it to you now.  Thank me.  Or better yet, thank the Aquamen.  You know that song “Tequila” where the only thing you do is dance around and then yell “Tequila” in the middle of it?  This is way better.  As San Francisco natives, these guys have learned to capture the beach in sound–it’s a tiny bit garage and a lot of sassy guitar, with very few lyrics, but you don’t care.    Think of a more drunken Ruby Suns.  The Aquamen are playing your quintessential surfing summer drinking tunes and you will listen to them and you will love them.

POPPOPHEADERAlright, I may have been seduced by his precious myspace page.  The adorable picture, the explanation that “Pop plays the six string while Pop plays the blues”…I’m just cute-ed out.  Maybe Pop Pop just started this project recently and joined myspace less than a month ago, maybe Pop Pop is what some people call their grandpas, I don’t care. The Indie Handbook is about what we like, and I like this, and you very well may like it as well.  It is lo-fi, acoustic, the lyrics are lovely, and Alex Thraikill has a voice bursting with character, almost reminiscent of The Mountain Goats.  It’s just so adorably likeable.   You can follow him on Twitter, too.

While you’re listening to Pop Pop, check out his friend Oberhofer.  This is why we like Follow An Indie Band Wednesday…everyone’s got friends!  Oberhofer’s wildness reminds me of the Born Ruffians…the vocals on “I Could Go,” for instance.  It’s very free, kind of dancey, and the lyrics are sassy, and as we all know, sassy lyrics (think Dear & The Headlights) are some of my favorite things in the world.  I could go on, but this post is taking me forever to write and I wish you would all just listen when I tell you to!!  And I’m telling you to!!

Thanks for reading and hopefully listening to our highlights!  This blog is worthless if you do zero listening.  Also, we want to emphasize again that we adore your comments and want to hear all your thoughts!  Seriously.  Just go for it, tangent in our comments.  We’ll love it (or at least I will, and it’s mostly my opinion that matters.  Eric just does badass interviews.)

Much love, my dear musical friends!

A Song That Has Its Own Soul

When I first heard the name Musée Mécanique, I couldn’t help but wonder what to expect.  Are we talking Edgard Varèse here?  Because I am not particularly in the mood for good ole Edgard today.  The band shares, though, that they’ve named themselves after the museum in lovely San Francisco–they “love to make a song that has its own soul, just like the machines they have over there at the museum.”  Now that’s something I’m always in the mood for.

Hampton Roads is an interesting place because we have very few good venues, but the venues we have are pretty cool.  (Then again, it could be like those guys in your college classes who aren’t really that cute, but you are tricked into thinking they are because everyone else in the class is so unattractive.)  So,  I was going through the list today deciding what shows are going on my calendar for the summer, and if you’re local (to me, not to Eric), you’ll be glad to know that Musée Mécanique will be playing with Laura Gibson and The Muckrakes at the Boot on June 18th!  And now I will convince you why you should be there with me.

Musée Mécanique is an indie folk band, but they are not your average indie folk band.  They’ve incorporated some awesome instruments, not just as fun showstopping gimmicks, but as a convincing contribution to the whole.  You’ll hear minimalist influence in tracks like “Under Glass” (how ironic) as violin, oboe, cello, and others are added to the repeating guitar, building to the point of catharsis.  Accordion underbelly on tracks like “Like Home” and “Sleeping In Our Clothes” make their sound incredibly distinct, and although glockenspiel has become an indie staple, when you combine it with melodica, real strings, and real wind instruments…well, it’s pretty different, right?  Micah and Sean’s soft vocals fit comfortably into the ensemble, and I think this is getting to what is most impressive about the lovely Musée–every lyric, every instrument, every solo, every harmony, and every stop and start has its place.  Nothing is random; nothing sounds unintentional.  The result is something that I can only think to describe as whole.  How often do you find music that moves you, and how often are you looking for it?

By the way, since I know all of you can’t be at the Boot w/me… they’re in Chicago on June 6th, Columbus on June 9th, DC on June 15th, and Portland on July 3rd (to name a few).  Find the rest of their tour dates + details on their myspace.