Something a little different this week since a) nobody actually reads this which leads us to b) who fucking cares? “If You Go Away” is actually somewhat of a cover of a cover. The song was originally written in French by Belgian Jacques Brel under the title “Ne me quitte pas” (“Don’t Leave Me”). The English version based on “Ne me quitte pas” was written by Rod McKuen. The song has been recorded by Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, among many others. All of this you may know.
What Ambulette is able to bring to their version of the song that the other legendary artists weren’t (all of which I listened to) is a haunting weight to the despair. And it really isn’t fair because Ambulette is armed with the gently wailing apparition that is Maura Davis (Denali, Glös). Her voice glides through and hits you with such honest sadness that it feels as if she wrote the song herself. As Maura strums through the first few versus on her own the rest of Ambulette quietly starts their crescendo adding a certain heaviness (of the indie rock variety) to “If You Go Away.” A few “Oooooo’s” and “Whoa’s” to close the song out and you’re left with a penetrating plea that would be pretty hard to turn away from if she was on your dimly lit porch singing it straight to you. Unfortunately, Ambulette (originally dubbed Bella Lea) had a very short existence only releasing one EP, The Lottery, with Astralwerks.
Essential Song (probably because it’s the very song I’m talking about):
Fun facts: Poison the Well’s song “For a Bandaged Iris” is about Maura’s voice. She is the sister of Engine Down vocalist/guitarist Keeley Davis. The two have collaborated on a few different projects which brings me to this:
"I’d really like Minus the Bear if their songs were slower, more drawn out, and had less vocals." If any of those sentiments sound good to you, then Sharks Keep Moving is your band. Before Jake Snider sped up his somber vocals and brought even more finger tapping gymnastics, ala Dave Knudson (thus assisting, I believe, to a seminal hardcore band’s demise) forming Minus the Bear, he was already experimenting with a more subdued version of technical indie music. Right around the time bands like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday, anyone with a day in their band name, really, were about to rape the word "screamo," bands that sought to be a little less cookie-cutter took on a jazzier kind of math rock style. Like I stated before, Sharks Keep Moving is a slower, yet complicated form of indie rock. It’s the kind of music you’d listen to right at dusk or dawn over some picturesque back drop. Snider’s vocals are sparse, but you will find a lot of the same subject matter as Minus the Bear: drinking, girls, cigarettes, etc. Unlike MTB, Sharks… aren’t too keen on choruses so most of your repetition will be found in 3+ minute instrumentals.
If band’s were Snider’s children then State Route 522 is the older son who grew up on punk, but watched a lot of 120 Minutes; Sharks Keep Moving is the middle child who looked up to his older brother, but was a little bit more nerdy and listened to a lot of Don Caballero; and Minus the Bear is the younger, good looking, socially adept child. MTB does feel like an extension of Sharks Keep Moving, much like Daughters just feels like an extension of As the Sun Sets (yep, I just referenced As the Sun Sets in a Sharks Keep Moving piece). So if you are a fan of early Minus the Bear then definitely check out SKM. If you heard early Minus the Bear and kind of gave up on them, thinking “I’d really like Minus the Bear if their songs fucking sucked,” then check out their latest album OMNI.
Where they started: 1998 Split 7” with The Kentucky Pistol
Where you should start: Their first EP Desert Strings and Drifters boasts my favorite songs and the other EP, as well as final release, Pause and Clause is a good follow up. The self titled full length isn’t bad, but it’s slightly overproduced which is why I’d recommend checking it out last. To be honest, you won’t find much variance in the releases, which would suck if there were more than 15 songs (not counting compilations) among them, but there isn’t so enjoy it.
Essential Live Video: Can’t find one, so here’s another song.
Other bands members from Sharks Keep Moving have been involved in: The Blood Brothers, Minus the Bear (obviously), State Route 522, Kill Sadie, and Pretty Girls Make Graves
I’m not familiar with The Paper Chase, but rather than be completely ignorant as to John Congleton’s output prior to seeing The Nighty Nite on tour with This Will Destroy You, I decided to check out a few songs. Violins, standup bass, keys, all banged upon as if they were drum kits as a the frontman guitarist belts out his wavering vocal style that sounds like a combination of Tim Kasher of Cursive and The Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison? I wonder why John even bothered changing the band name.
Compared to what I saw live and what I’ve recently listened to, The Nighty Nite isn’t unlike The Paper Chase… at all. Maybe there’s some subtleties I’m missing out on. Whichever, obviously not being a TPC fan before, I wasn’t there to see The Nighty Nite, but they caught my attention anyway. Seeing as how I would be a huge fan of anyone who makes the conscious effort to not sound like Tim Kasher I was ignoring the This Will Destroy You opening band. Ordering a drink and pulling my eyes away from the cute bartender who was being chatted up by two middle aged businessmen (at a TWDY show?) I started to watch the drummer who was standing up as he played. Looked like he had 2 snares and 2 floor toms from my perspective, but I was also hearing a kick drum. There was no way this could be happening. As I moved forward to see if he was merely using one of his floor toms to make the kick sound I realized he was in fact standing while using a kick. By now, I was too close not to be sucked in by this cacophonous indie noise rock.
I once used the analogy of picking up every kitchen appliance and slamming it on a concrete floor to describe a metalcore band. The Nighty Night gives Duck Duck Goose a worthy adversary when it comes to creating destructive noise, yet they’re doing it with a strings section. Combine that with most of the band dressed like they had just started Rumspringa and a drummer whose right arm tattoos seem to be inspired by mid-90’s nu-metal (or traditional Hawaiian tattoos, I wasn’t close enough to tell) and it was quite an interesting sight. I believe the This Will Destroy You tour only has a couple of days left so you probably missed them this go around, but if you were already a fan of the pAper chAse or like your indie rock noisy and pretentious (you’re already listening to underground indie rock so just embrace the pretentiousness of it all) then check out the Nighty Nite when they roll through. I guess their EP is coming out soon, too. Look into it.
Pygmy - Jazzy, mathy, under-appreciated indie rock from Miami, FL. Almost as technical as The Dillinger Escape Plan, but lighthearted and avant-garde enough to be compared to The Flaming Lips. Maybe like a more quirky Faraquet. It just has to be heard. Leaving very little space for classic patterns, the vocalist creates well thought out verses for the technical parts and doesn’t waste an opportunity when the music finally does straighten out to belt out catchy melodies. A lot of songs contain an interesting instrumental emotional dive into jazz influenced indie rock before frolicking back into the more upbeat moments. Although an indie band, the live show did contain a DEP or even At the Drive-In intensity to it.
Members have gone on to form the bands The Down Home Southernaires and Animal Tropical as well as solo projects Can’t Stop and Adames.
It doesn’t often show itself, but I do have a soft side. Very rarely is it ignited when I’m venturing out to find a few friends at our favorite local bar. Sometimes they did have bands playing which was usually more of an annoyance than an evening enhancer. One night, though, while some of my friends were choosing to stand outside with their drinks, I was paralyzed by airy lightly picked guitar chords floating across the room. The rhythm section began to fill the space with their crescendo as the softly sung vocals started their drift. Quickly, this seemingly nonthreatening trio had transformed into a loud, emotionally heavy, yet gentle, giant.
Accidentally stumbling onto a band is just as rewarding, if not more so, than sifting through countless recommendations or genre spot checks. It becomes extremely personal. Gray Young could be easily classified as indie rock, but certainly wouldn’t have any difficulty fitting in with any post-rock outfit. The music is very comparable to the layered sound of Explosions in the Sky with some guitar picked moments of Engine Down and a little bit of pop sensibilities ala Sparta. The bass is actually quite thick for an indie/post-whatever band, and the drums are viciously hit with tight precision. Their is also a Sigur Rós vibe, particularly in the sparsely used echoed vocals. Though captured well on recordings, the sound and emotion (especially that of singer/guitarist Chas McKeown) are showcased best in a live setting.
Where You Should Start: I’ve stated before that it’s harder to recommend an EP over a full length so I would go with their first full length Firmament. The first EP and second full length, Staysail, are good listens, too, but Firmament is definitely the stand out release.
My list has been put up over at www.mezzic.com 10 top records and 10 honrable mentions that could have all easily been number 11. If you’ve kept up with this blog at all, a lot of these will not be particularly shocking.
Let’s try going with impulsive. If I can’t immediately overreact with music that’s new to me then I feel like what’s left of my impetuous anticynical youth will perish and my transformation to bitter old man will be complete. Seriously, new music is like my brand new toy on Christmas day or, if I were a credulous college co-ed, my new set of Hello Kitty key chains. I’ll play (with) it for days, but, in my advanced years, by the time I’m ready to show it off to my friends I’m either over it or worried that they have had that toy for months or even years. Then I’m just the nerdy poor kid bringing a bucket to the sandbox while everyone else is playing with their Star Wars figurines. Or worse, I make a reference to my 80’s childhood Star Wars toys when everyone else is globally interconnected playing The Old Republic. So we’re gonna stop with the second guessing, the over analyzing, and the “will this be relevant?” Fuck it. It’s tumblr. I’ll be like the rest of you who post another person’s thoughts or images and reblog faster than a lonely match.com spinster refreshing her inbox (yeah, you can take it that way, too). I’ll be impulsive.
So, let’s get impulsive with Shapes. From Birmingham, UK, Shapes started off as an aggressive math rock band with quite of bit of shout-alongs mixed in among the buried, and most of the time absent, singing. They focused more on the loud and sometimes disjointed rhythms of technical indie music. They had that kind of Dischord Records feel going with the tones of Fugazi and the technicality of Faraquet.
On their second record, The Pasture, The Oil, Shapes looked to beef it up and tech it out some more even taking a page right out of The Fall of Troy’s playbook. Actually, the slightly ugly truth about Shapes is I could exhaustively list bands that they sound like, but they never let any of their influences fester around long enough to allow themselves to be deemed copy-cats. They’re more of an amalgamation of technical aggression that sounds strangely familiar while still maintaining some freshness. It’s never quite clear what direction they’re about to swerve towards so if their music doesn’t allow you to tap your foot or nod your head for an extended period of time then at least Shapes keeps the listener guessing. With this release, they also moved the vocals up in the mix though they are still sparsely used.
With their latest effort, Monotony Chic, they take a more conventional approach to heavy rock music. The technicality and speedy spastic changes are still there, but they also play with a little bit of space. On this record, Shapes sound like they are dragging their guitars through the mud creating a dirtier and slower version of themselves. It’s similar to that underground Louisville rock sound, specifically Young Widows. This style allows for more layers and fleshed out songwriting ideas rather than sledding down the Matterhorn hoping the next line they jump to continues the flailing journey rather than bringing it to a messy and abrupt ending. Another interesting addition are the lower cleanly sung vocals which add even more depth to their new rock ‘n roll leanings.
Where You Should Start:The Pasture, The Oil is probably the most interesting musically, especially technically, but Monotony Chic shows a lot of growth and is the most accessible. It’d be a coin flip if all of their material wasn’t available for streaming on bandcamp.
My ex used to always say that Pinback was great road trip music. I’m not necessarily sure she meant this song in particular since it’s kind of a sleepy one, but I am kind of bummed I just went on a road trip and there wasn’t any Pinback on the stereo.
As a kid that was big into grunge and death metal I don’t know how seeing “Cut Your Hair” on 120 Minutes had such a profound impact on me that I just had to get Crooked Rain Crooked Rain. Maybe it was hearing Stephen Malkmus’s voice that made me think if he could be the singer of a band with his off key vocals then maybe I could, too. While I have my absolute favorites on that record, this track is definitely one that I don’t skip very often.
With a library filled with tech metal, technical indie rock made it easier for me to transition into becoming softer as I grew older. I’m not a fan of Tubelord’s last album as I think it was a weak attempt to become more palatable, but just about everything before, including this song, is an enjoyable angular ride.
Q and Not U is one of those indie bands who just kept getting weirder and weirder. I appreciate their creativity, but this first album is easily my favorite by them. This is just an average track off of No Kill No Beep Beep, but demonstrates the band’s earlier rock leanings before they got all experimental. I will say that the one time I did see them was while they were on tour for another record and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.
Speaking of masterpieces (you’d have to see yesterday’s random start for this to make sense), here’s a track off of Elliott’s. I guess this is an emo band? I don’t know, I just consider this one of my favorite indie rock records and this track is a pretty decent representation of False Cathedrals.
Starting late because it’s a half day. Anyway, Jeniferever was suggested to me by the internet because I like Logh. Makes sense. Light ambient indie rock, both from Sweden, and their vocalists are very similar. I guess they got their name from a Smashing Pumpkins song? I don’t know, I don’t listen to that them. I wouldn’t say that this would be a good starting point if you’re new to this band, but if Logh doesn’t have enough material for you then, yeah, listen to some Jeniferever.