Category Archives: Indie

The Submarines

submarines
Courtesy of Jon Bergman/Nettwerk Publicity

Generally speaking, I’m not a particularly sensitive person. I laughed my way through “P.S. I Love You,” only a handful of people has ever seen me cry and, in my opinion, the only redeeming quality of Valentine’s Day is the extraordinary amount of chocolate consumption. And as a rule, I prefer that the music I listen to reflects this side of me. It doesn’t need to be an extreme representation of this — screamo and death metal don’t really float my boat — but something a little on the dark side usually catches my attention. Some minor chords and lyrics that reflect disdain of any kind — for love, capitalism or whatever the complaint du jour seems to be — fit the bill.

And this is why I find it so bizarre that I have such a soft spot for the Submarines. The majority of the songs by married couple John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard are as sweet as the title of their sophomore album, Honeysuckle Weeks, would indicate.

Musically, the songs are sometimes bouncy (“Submarine Symphonika” and “Swimming Pool,” for example) and sometimes dream-like (“Xavia”), but they are always bright, with basic, steady beats that could easily sound at home on a children’s record if they were paired with lyrics about fairy tale characters.

And admittedly, many of the Submarines’ lyrics, mostly delivered by Hazard’s pure, clear voice, are simple and innocent. But the duo also boasts clever songwriting that gives its songs a distinctly adult feel. “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie,” with its juxtaposition of manufactured and pure love, would impress any Marx scholar.

Even on “Swimming Pool,” one of the duo’s sweetest and most playful tunes, Hazard and Dragonetti show off their writing chops with creative imagery (“When I asked you to throw me a line / That’s when you pulled me out by the heart strings”) and personification (“Never mind what logic says / I say logic’s a guy who oughta empty his pockets”).

By making music that is both smart and a peppy guilty pleasure, the Submarines can brighten up pretty much anyone’s day. Who knows — I might even give “P.S. I Love You” another chance one of these days.

–By Entertainment Editor Ani Vrabel

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Róisín Murphy

roisin
Courtesy of Jose Goulao

Róisín Murphy’s Myspace

When Róisín Murphy, formerly of the popular European electronic duo Moloko, produced her first solo album, Ruby Blue, it was a titanic flop. It unraveled into an ugly mess of glitches, beeps and strange noises. Her misguided attempt to create an “experimental” album produced one that was serious, cerebral and drab — not exactly the qualities that you look for in a electro-pop album.

But Murphy rebounded on a grand scale in her most recent release, Overpowered, by adding the most essential element of electro-pop : fun. While Ruby Blue evoked a sense of suffering in robot purgatory, the bright synths and funk-inspired beats of Overpowered are sure to invoke uncontrolled bouts of excited dancing.

On the track “Checkin’ on Me,” Murphy departs from the uniform four-to-the-floor beat, a standard of dance music, favoring a doo-wop swung beat that sets the lively tone of the song. Above the beat, she layers bright, brassy horns, sweetly swelling violins and frenetically oscillating guitars. Despite the number of diverse instruments doing drastically different things, her expert musical arrangement makes the song sound textured and full rather than cluttered. In fact, the song is mixed so well that Murphy is easily heard as she delivers her lyrics softly, coolly and with a pinch of attitude.

Even the more subdued and serious songs are tinged with an air of playfulness absent from Ruby Blue. On “Primitive,” Murphy sings with somber determination over spectral humming synths but brightly dinging electronic bells lighten the gloomy tone of the song. Similarly, the standout track “Dear Miami” lambasts the extreme decadence of Vice City. The guitar distortion, synth blasts, violin string picking and intermittent beeping infuse the song with a strong rhythmic energy.

By pumping even her softer and more solemn songs with a manic energy, Róisín Murphy created an album that is powerful and engaging from the first track to last. Taking herself less seriously and having more fun with her music she has risen from the ashes of her failed debut a funky, dancing electro-pop phoenix.

—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum

Bishop Allen

ba
Courtesy of Bishop Allen

Bishop Allen – “The Ancient Commonsense of Things”

Some suave, preppy, sweater vest-wearing students – recently graduated from an Ivy League university – decide to form an indie-rock band based in New York City with a name conceived by a little-known film director. You probably think you know how this band’s story ends (or Week-ends, in this case).

But the true band in question, Bishop Allen, is not Vampire Weekend, even if it might share an extraordinarily eerie number of similarities.  The Brooklyn, New York act started when the two key members, singer Justin Rice and guitarist Christian Rudder, met on WHRB, Harvard’s college radio station nearly a decade ago.

Since 2003, Bishop Allen has released three full albums and a staggering 12 EPs, of which they wrote and recorded during an ambitious 12-month period in 2006.  Its most recent full-length album, Grrr… is due out March 10.

While Bishop Allen certainly has a fair share of typical indie qualities (the band members appeared as characters in “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist” last year and contributed tunes to said “playlist”), they also have a distinguished songwriting style that separates them from the rest of their scenester peers. By implementing a wide assortment of colorful instruments and many layers of melody, Bishop Allen songwriting feels both scatterbrained and focused at the same time.

On “The Ancient Commonsense of Things,” Rice sings with staccato over pizzicato strings, exotic marimbas and hook-filled guitars.  With a simple chorus and sing-along “oohs” and “aahs,” Bishop Allen finds an appropriate balance of pop and weird.  In the song “Dimmer,” Rice combines nonsensical lyrics that set a playful tone with Rudder’s bouncy bass and violins.

On the whole, Bishop Allen packs just as much bite as Vampire Weekend and has a unique pop quality that will likely develop a congregation of its own.

by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Lissy Trullie

lissy trullie
Courtesy Big Hassle Media

Lissy Trullie’s Myspace

She’s graced the fashion spreads of ELLE, posed for hip New York photographer Ryan McGinley, spun tracks at Big Apple hot spot Beatrice Inn and used the skills she honed at Parsons School for Design to create the cover of her soon-to-be-released EP Self-Taught Learner, out Feb. 17. She’s Lissy Trullie and she’s a tour de force in the world of up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll.

With super-short strawberry blonde hair, mile-high cheek bones and a fashion sense based around leather jackets, bowler hats and cigarettes, Trullie looks like the lovechild of Edie Sedgwick and Bob Dylan -— and her folksy pop-rock is perfectly befitting of her runway-ready style.

The rising rocker’s debut EP boasts five original tracks and an infectious cover of Hot Chip’s “Ready for the Floor” that puts the robotic original to shame. Although anchored by basic chords and simple lyrics, Trullie’s tunes captivate with a soft and stylized new wave sound that is simultaneously fresh and vintage.

On the EP’s title track, Trullie’s voice alternates between a delicate falsetto and a raspy androgynous tone that drawls, “Are you watching me? / Am I different or am I the same? / You don’t have to say I love you too / It’s not what I want to hear from you.” Other standout songs include the upbeat opening track “Boy Boy” and the danceable “She Said.” Not found on the EP but worth the trek to her band’s Myspace is Trullie’s “You Bleed You,” a mellow, lyric-driven folk gem that croons, “I’m sick and tired, tired and sick” with enthralling vulnerability.
With a boyish charm that radiates in both her music and her Fashion Week-worthy style, Trullie might just be the hippest chick to come out of New York since Lady Liberty — not that she’s ever actually left the Harbor or strummed a Fender with quite the same pizzazz.

—By Asst Entertainment Editor Franchesca Winters

The Spinto Band

spinto
Courtesy of Elizabeth Weinberg

The Spinto Band – “Summer Grof”

Any young start-up band that still needs a role model should look no further than the Spinto Band. The group originally formed as Free Beer – the six bored pre-teens who made up the group thought the name was simply hilarious – in a Wilmington, Del. basement. Now, the group’s fresh take on indie rock makes the Spinto Band’s humble – and immature – beginnings almost unthinkable.

Although most of the group’s songs could be boiled down to the steady-rock-background-and-slightly-bizarre-lyrics combination, each song incorporates various instrumental and vocal techniques that make it unique and creative. Despite this similar foundation, every track on the group’s 2006 release, Nice and Nicely Done, has something distinctive, and the individual songs works together to create an intricate and quirky musical tableau.

On “Japan is an Island,” the Spinto Band pairs electronic beeping noises with heavy rock ‘n’ roll guitar riffs; “Brown Boxes” opens with a static-y chord progression before the music gives way to the tinny sound of a xylophone. Lead singer Nick Krill delivers most of the seemingly nonsensical lyrics of “So Kind, Stacy” in a staccato, almost breathless fashion, reminiscent of a secret whispered conversation made up of inside jokes. On other tracks, his voice ranges from borderline-whiney (“Oh Mandy”) to borderline-gravelly (“Late”).

The Spinto Band keeps up the trend of innovation on its most recent album, Moonwink, released in September. Consequently, the group’s listeners are kept on their toes, and are always rewarded with some distinctive tunes. It might not be the free alcohol that the band seemed to promise at its inception, but it’s still a damn good deal.

–By Entertainment Editor Ani Vrabel

Why?

why?
Courtesy of Anticon

Why? – The Hollows
http://rcrdlbl.com/artists/WHY/track/The_Hollows

Rapper Young Churf, best known for his brief spot in Ratatat’s “Seventeen Years,” is in the song saying: “ I don’t write my stuff anymore — I just kick it from my head.” For avant-garde hip-hop artist Why?, a band that sings about masturbating in museums, gypsies with knives and men fornicating at sporting events, listeners may wonder if the group had to kick all that from its head.

However, lyricist Yoni Wolf’s stream-of-consciousness verses and obscure, personal and often polarizing references are as poignant and delicate as reading a diary. His lyrics are beautifully dressed over poppy instrumentals in Alopecia, Why?’s acclaimed 2008 album.

Why?, originally the stage name for Wolf’s solo work, has evolved into a full band, complete with keyboards, bass and electronics. The group combines elements of indie-rock, hip-hop and even folk with an overtly expressionistic and ceaselessly candid tone. The result sounds like the inner thought processes of an adult male in perpetual puberty — confused about the emotional and bodily changes he is facing.

One instance of this is on “Good Friday,” where Wolf explores notions of death, race and sexual fantasy in a way that is mysteriously dark and unquestionably unique. The song opens with a simple bass line and high hat drums, coupled with Wolf’s drawling vocals.

Throughout many of the songs, Wolf’s tone of voice borders somewhere between bored and pleading, as if unsure if he is passionate, narrative or emphatic with his lyrical storytelling. In tracks such as “Fatalist Palmistry,” Wolf accomplishes a more diverse vocal range through multiple vocal tracks, both melodic and monotonous, layered together.

Yet Why? is never too morbid. It might be overly descriptive and sexually experimental, yet it keeps listeners around with well-placed hooks and attention-grabbing lines.

While Wolf may kick things out of his head that are controversial, confusing and all together strange, Why? retains its edge by keeping their ideas linear, exciting and always in-your-face.

by Asst. Entertainment Editor Geoff Schorkopf

Bearsuit

bearsuit
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Bearsuit’s Myspace

At first listen, the British indie sextet Bearsuit sounds like a cacophonous mess. There are electronic beeps, synthesizers, guitars, trumpets, accordions, strings, flutes and clips of spoken word all jumbled into the songs on its 2007 release oh:io. But engaging in a more careful listen of the album sheds light on the fact that the electronic beats seem to line up with the guitars and percussion and the flutes, strings and accordions complement the vocals. Even the spoken word samples seem to fit in the right place.

The track “Foxy Boxer” relies heavily on electronic sounds for percussion but avoids the migraine-inducing thumping beat of a techno song. Functionally, the electronic beeps hit the notes that the guitar in the song wavers between, accenting the high and low notes. The lo-fi distant quality of the male and female singer’s voices on the track create a unique ethereal quality that gives the song an otherworldly and almost spooky sound.

On the single “Steven F—king Spielberg” orchestral strings and cymbal crashes cue in the drums and flute that set the lightning-fast pace of the song. During the first verse the strings thrash violently as the flute glissandos above and below competing for attention. The soft ghostly voices of the singers are pushed almost to the background. In one verse the flute moves with such speed and vigor to rival Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble-bee.”

Throughout their third album, oh:io:, Bearsuit creates a pleasant and interesting organized mess. Listening to the album is kind of like being in an actual Bearsuit. It’s a little uncomfortable, but you can have a lot of fun with it.

—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum