Indie rock, c'est moi!

Stacking up the latest releases from the pop underground.

AMERICAN INDIE ROCK has fallen to an unfashionable low, been deemed untouchable, banished to the steppes of the media-mapped pop-culture landscape. Hip-hop, rock-rap, Britney and Christina, boy bands, and even a silly song about wayward dogs, all supersede any thoughtful bedroom or basement recording by some bunch of overeducated underachievers from Ohio or Seattle. But these miscreants haven't switched off their four-tracks just yet. They continue pouring their hearts out onto record, albeit almost in a vacuum. Well, we think it's time to give these kids some attention. We've rated 10 of the more intriguing new underground releases, awarding academic degrees for lyrical content and establishing a rating system based on that de rigueur item of clothing for the indie set, the cardigan.

BAND AND ALBUM

CRED PLOY

IRONY FACTOR

LYRICAL DEGREE

ON A MIX TAPE BETWEEN

RATING

DOLEFUL LIONS

Song Cyclops Volume One

(Parasol)

Part one of a two-CD, 44-song indie-pop opera; more lo-fi than Guided by Voices

The song "Red Top Lounge Flesheaters" steals the melody from "Like a Rolling Stone." (At least, we hope it's ironic.)

MA in abstract belief system—Sasquatch, ghosts, genies, demons, and witches populate the Chapel Hill fivesome's songs.

Neutral Milk Hotel and Sentridoh

A sprawling, tuneful record from left field.

THE GOOD LIFE

Novena on a Nocturn

(Better Looking)

Front man Tim Kasher was in Commander Venus with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and is the singer/guitarist for Cursive.

There's not much good in the lives Kasher writes about.

MFA in straight shooting—"Son, love is a punch in the eye/It's a sudden and swift surprise."

Modest Mouse and Sparklehorse

A walk on the darker side of indie pop.

THE JIGSAW SEEN

Zenith

(Vibro-phonic)

Features members of Ann Magnuson and Rufus Wainright's bands; guests include X's DJ Bonebrake.

Band professes love of early Bee Gees.

BA in pop culture—"Celebrity interview/Now I know a little more about you/Celebrity interview/Ever so probing, life is just one big show."

Big Star and the Sugarplastic

Eccentric, electric pop that's alternately whimsical and walloping.

TED LEO/PHARMACISTS

Treble In

(Ace Fu)

Liner notes name-drop member James Canty (also of the Make-Up) and engineer Brendan Canty (of Fugazi).

Sardonically reverent cover of Thin Lizzy's "Little Girl in Bloom"

BA in political punk—"How many rounds will they get off/before you get up your hands" (from "Abner Louima vs. Gov. Pete Wilson").

early Jam and anything by Shellac

The post-punk boys (and girls) are back in town.

MOUNTAIN GOATS

The Coroner's Gambit

(Absolutely Kosher)

A specially packaged, limited edition white vinyl LP version of The Coroner's Gambit is actually edible. And kosher. Yum!

A specially packaged, limited edition white vinyl LP version of The Coroner's Gambit is actually edible. And kosher. Yum!

MFA in abstract cynicism—"If I ever want to drive myself insane all I have to do is watch you breathing."

Guided by Voices and Vic Chesnutt

Pure and brooding lo-fi genius.

THE PLACES

The Autopilot Knows You Best

(Absolutely Kosher)

Portlander Amy Annelle covered an obscure Elliott Smith song on a solo release; her band covers an equally obscure Syd Barrett song here.

An absurdly nonsensical yet endearing warning graphic on the CD reads, "If the bird does not move or speak, please replace the batteries."

MFA in female-fronted agony— "I can't touch anything without it breaking."

Mary Timony and Kind of Like Spitting

You'll want Amy for your very best friend.

Starter Kit

Starter Kit

(M-Theory)

Cite Heatmiser as an influence

Sound like Heatmiser

BA in postadolescent reflection—"She went from taking notes to writing explanations/until her pens had all run dry/Got in the habit of returning invitations/and putting up with kick-me signs."

Number 2 and Death Cab for Cutie

A promising power-pop debut from Portland.

THE TROUBLE WITH SWEENEY

The Trouble with Sweeney EP

(Burnt Toast)

Joey Sweeney played in early SpinArt band the Barnabys; EP features an obscure Buffalo Springfield cover ("Flying on the Ground Is Wrong").

Sweeney is surprisingly trouble-free.

MA in alienation—"Sometimes I feel like calling everyone and saying, 'Do you miss me?' when I haven't been gone."

Nick Drake and Will Oldham

A witty collection of unplugged indie-country snapshots.

VANCOUVER NIGHTS

Vancouver Nights

(Endearing)

Features Destroyer's Daniel Bejar, who's sort of like Canada's Badly Drawn Boy and fronted by sweet-voiced Sara Lapsley, formerly with the angry grrl band Kreviss

N/A—They're Canadian.

MA in romantic existentialism—"When my time to pass away from life is near/I hope you'll be there, dear/to ease my crossing."

Blake Babies and Julie Doiron

A nice, quaint record that's a tad too twee.

DEANNA VARAGONA

Tangled Messages

(Star Star Stereo)

Collaborated with Yo La Tengo and Neutral Milk Hotel and is in alt-country outfit Lambchop. Varagona don't need no ploy.

In an oddly Cristina Martinez- like move, Varagona poses nude but for her combat boots inside the back cover.

BA in Appalachian heartbreak—"In a note hung clearly for anyone to see/Take my shovel lie me safely in my grave."

Dusty Springfield and vintage Dolly Parton

How sweet it is, how sweet it is.

 
comments powered by Disqus