Whatever happened to indie-rock? Nick Triani finds five great new examples of the genre despite mainstream proliferation. Whisper it, indie is back.
2016 has set its stall out pretty much like 2015 – too much information, not enough time to engage and digest. Modern life isn’t quite rubbish but there’s a lot of clutter in the out-tray. This possibly explains the narrowing of options I receive through my social media feeds – simply no one has time to cover everything. A collective (boardroom) decision has been made: let’s just aim for what the largess consider the ‘click bait’ options. So despite the constant stream of culture that’s available everyday, online has had to compartmentalise what it (they?) considers the essentials. It’s confusing and limiting. Still, someone is making that choice.
In the music business star power is omnipresent. Superstars of the music world are really beginning to resemble The Avengers (or is it the Justice League?) Each new release that drops out of nowhere from these artists causes a media scramble on who gets the already past-it exclusive. STOP THE PRESS: Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, Radiohead, Frank Ocean and Kanye West have released new albums overnight, and you’re going to read about it everywhere till the end of time (or at least until the end of the week). Everything else is simply irrelevant. Mainstream muscle has spoken and because your thirst for knowledge has been curated for you, you deserve the music you’re given. Big brother works in many ways and who’s got the time to discover for themselves anyway, eh? However much I’ve enjoyed some of this music (and I’ve loved much of it), the long tail grows longer and the elites have taken over my internet.
So, with this in mind, I’m here to tell you there has been some other music released this year. Excitingly for me, it comes from a genre that’s long been seen as almost extinct, at least amongst the news hungry portals. White people playing loud and noisy guitars. Yes, indie-rock is alive and in remarkably rude health. Here’s five albums that have come out recently – or are about to – that sound to my ears refreshing. Whilst not re-inventing the wheel, these releases show some progress within an old formula – perhaps indie-rock is trying on new shoes and throwing different shapes. Whisper it if you like, but things are getting fuzzy again.
Omni – Deluxe (Trouble In Mind)
Featuring an old member of Deerhunter doesn’t really give much indication as to what Omni’s debut album sounds like. This could be a sister album to this year’s Parquet Courts record, where steely, angular post punk brushes shoulder with an innate sense of melodic charm. The buzz on this Atlanta trio is growing.
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador)
Car Seat Headrest have released some super noisy lo-fi fair over the last five years, 12 albums via Bandcamp! In essence the band are Will Toledo – still a mere 24 years old. Teens of Denial presents a full band version of their sound, with some real production giving Car Seat Headrest a clarity not heard until now. The result is an album where Toledo displays a rarely heard subtlety in a pristine sound setting that only brings to life these astute and well delivered songs.
LVL UP – Return To Love (Sub Pop)
LVL UP’s third album, Return To Love, sees the band refine a sound that’s been compared to slacker luminaries such as Pavement, Built To Spill and especially on here – at least to my ears – Neutral Milk Hotel. What makes Return To Love so good is the songwriting, which stands up to the best of those aforementioned bands, whilst LVL UP find their own voice amongst the ragged glory. (Released 23rd Sept).
Ian Sweet- Shapeshifter (Hardly Art)
The oddly named Ian Sweet are a three-piece band out of Brooklyn fronted by Jilian Medford. It’s worth pointing this out, as Medford’s voice adds something new to the mix: it’s a great voice with an original tone and adds an extra layer of special to an album that drips with melancholy, spiky guitar lines. Shapeshifter slowly moves with some of Television‘s perfect dislocation. (Released 9th September).
Japanese Breakfast: Psychopomp (Dead Oceans)
Michelle Zauner’s Japanese Breakfast dip into the pool of pop as much as indie, even though almost every track here is covered in shoegazey guitar tones. But it’s the mix of these polars that makes Psychopomp such an addictive listen – whilst single “Everybody Want’s To Love You” is one of the tracks of 2016.