Current obsessions – Vanessa Carlton, Asa, Imelda May

I’ve been gone for a while. (Keen readers—or keen prospective readers, as the case may be—may have noticed this.) I haven’t really had much time to sit down and write over the last month and a bit. But what can you do? Unexpected family emergencies will do that to you. But things are beginning to look up again, so be patient with me while I try to get caught up. And is there ever a lot of catching up to do?! So, here, let’s get started with a few of my recent obsessions, which just so happen to be from some well-established artists (“established” relative to the other artists who typically show up here, that is).

Vanessa CarltonRabbits On the Run. Yes, you read that right. I said Vanessa Carlton. Stylistically, your typical Indie Handbook fare is about a thousand miles from—well—“A Thousand Miles”, but that doesn’t change the fact that, when I was 18, I loved Vanessa Carlton. I was in love with Vanessa Carlton, but we parted ways before she even managed to release a second album. So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I first heard “Dear California” jangling overhead at a local coffee shop. I honestly thought for a moment that I had missed a new Camera Obscura album. Sure, the album sports a handful of piano pop tracks in the vein of vintage VC, but far more interesting are tracks like “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride”, “Hear the Bells”, “The Marching Line”, and “In the End”. Rabbits On the Run is, by far, Carlton’s most mature work to date, and, for that reason, it is one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard all year. If she keeps this up, the next album is definitely going to be something to look forward to. It may even be safe for me to fall in love again.

AsaBeautiful Imperfection. I love soul music. Now, I know that doesn’t always come across. But seriously, nothing makes me melt faster than the idea of Sam Cooke singing just about anything. I guess, in general, I agree with my dad on the issue of contemporary soul music. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. But here’s the thing, apparently, they do. First with Aloe Blacc’s irresistible “I Need a Dollar” and now Nigerian soul-pop siren Asa’s sophomore release Beautiful Imperfection (Naïve), it’s perfectly clear that the old school sound is still alive and well. Go ahead and try to watch the video for “Be My Man” without immediately pressing the replay button at the end. Highlights: “Be My Man”, “Why Can’t We”, “Bimpé”

Imelda MayMayhem. UK readers, no doubt, know this is old news. But Universal has been dragging their feet on this one and only managed an American release back in mid-July. Anyway, I’ve been on a serious rockabilly kick lately (I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve listened to that Blue Angel record this week) and rockabilly just doesn’t get any sexier than Imelda (not even that frenetic 27-year-old Cyndi Lauper can compare). Really, the whole album is brilliant, but I honestly never thought I would come across a version of “Tainted Love” that put’s Soft Cell to shame the way Imelda’s does.

Gun (the band, not the firearm)

Sad story: when I was little, I was terrified of guns.  I saw that episode of Family Matters where Laura got shot because she wouldn’t give that bully her new gym shoes, and then at the end of the episode everyone turned their guns in.  That episode scared the crap out of me for the following reasons:

1)  Did you realize the Winslows lived in the ghetto?  Me neither.  I thought I was going to go to school and get shot.

2) Where did all those people with guns at the end of the episode even come from?  They did not look old enough to own firearms and/or carry concealed weapons.  Also for some reason I thought they all had criminal intent.  How many people in my neighborhood owned that many guns and had criminal intent?

I can’t think of any more reasons.

Anyway, tonight I am posting about a band called Gun.  They are good angry Monday music.  They are also very cool–like James Dean cool, the kind of cool I will never be.  They’re from Indiana, and as they say in the documentary below, their bars “are full of cigarette smoke and everybody carries guns.”  It’s funny, because this is very far from my kind of “thing,” but they are just so damn cool I can’t get over it.  As far as genre, they call themselves midwest Americana, but I definitely get a grunge/rockabilly/blues kind of feel from them as well, and I love their fusion of these classic sounds.

This weekend I was listening to Iggy Pop, who I usually associate with David Bowie, my idol.  I love how Bowie was so obsessed with creating a persona…before Bowie played on some TV show (I posted the video in my classic songs of all time list and I’m not looking for it again), the announcer called him a “self-constructed freak”–and I’m convinced he didn’t even mean it to be negative.  I guess I picture Iggy Pop in a similar vein, and I find it really interesting that Gun claims Iggy Pop as an influence because I don’t think I would have drawn that comparison had he not just flat out said it in this video.  Anyway, what Gun is doing is cool, if I have the right idea of it anyway…it’s like they’re taking their roots–the lovely midwest, or specifically Indiana–and exaggerating it, making it their own little self-constructed stage identity.  But okay, I’m tired of talking about this, and I’m tired in general, so it probably sounds like I’m digging.

Mostly their accents are cool and the voice distortions are cool and their guitar riffs are cool and the noise they make is cool and you should just listen to it now.  And watch this video.  Yeah.  Also my favorite song is “Evel Is As Evel Do” because…that’s just freaking hilarious.

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!