indie scent

Great songs from indie bands and labels that don't mind sharing the occasional song online, in four categories:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

iPod Game

1. What does next year have in store for you? Battle Flag, Lo-Fidelity All Stars
-- Battles can't be good. Maybe I'll take some inspiration from this great line, though: "Got a revolution behind my eyes."

2. What does your love life look like next year? Don't Fake This, Chevelle
-- Wasn't Meg Ryan such a babe in "When Harry Met Sally"? I'm just sayin'.

3. What do you say when life gets hard? Float On, Modest Mouse
-- Surprisingly accurate for me, and the song is actually about rolling with life's punches. One of my favourites, in the perfect slot.

4. Song that reminds you of good times? Been Caught Stealing, Jane's Addiction
-- Oh, I love this one, both for the song itself and the memories. I was listening to this a lot in the early '90s, during a time when I cemented my closest friendships, and many of them were glued together by a shared love of music like this.

5. What do you think when you get up in the morning? Send the Pain Below, Chevelle
-- This is maybe just a little too close to home. I'm not a morning person, I haven't been getting enough sleep, and...yes, this one is exactly right.

6. What song will you dance to at your wedding? Dumb Animals, Handsome Furs
-- I guess a couple of these were bound to make no sense. I don't even know how this mediocre song made it onto my ipod.

7. Song that reminds you of your first kiss? Low Light, Pearl Jam
-- A great nostalgic song for me, and I guess low light is best for kissing...but I'm not seeing the connection.

8. Your favorite saying? The Night, Morphine
-- This is a double bummer because A) it makes no sense and B) listening to Morphine is always bittersweet for me.

9. Favorite place? Prisoners of War, Envy Corps
-- Had no idea this song was on my ipod, and it makes no sense here.

10. Most Missed Memory? And All That Could Have Been, Nine Inch Nails
-- I guess regret depends on memories, so this one kinda fits in a dark way. The way my memories are disappearing these days, I'm missing most of them.

11. What song describes your best friend? Day 1, Explosions in the Sky
-- Instrumental song, so can't read anything into the lyrics. Very steady, grounded, but rising to great heights. Hopeful and thoughtful, optimistic and beautiful.

12. What song describes your ex? Scum of the Earth, Rob Zombie
-- I swear I did not cheat the game to get this tidy little link-up. The last girlfriend I had before Tannis was the infamous Tabitha in Niverville, and she really was a serious piece of work...but this one would have been too harsh for all but the most hated exes.

13. Where would you go on a first date? Lights and Sounds, Yellowcard
-- To see a concert, maybe? Could be worse. Dating seems like a very abstract concept at this point.

14. Drug of choice? Twisted Transistor, Korn
-- Sounds like a decent street name for a top-notch hallucinogenic of some kind.

15. What song describes you? Ideoteque, Radiohead
-- If forced to choose, this might be my favourite Radiohead song, so I appreciate seeing it appear here with any connection to my personality...but it's a dark bugger, grim and claustrophobic.

16. What is the thing you like doing most? Fiddle and the Drum, A Perfect Circle
-- Playing music, perhaps? "Most" would be a stretch, but I do like it a lot.

17. The song that best describes the prime minister? Dragula, Rob Zombie
-- Those sunken eyes, the toothy fake-smile...I can see it. Stephen Harper's always creeped me out.

18. Where will you be in 10 years? Modern Love, Bloc Party
-- Sounds optimistic, future-focused...and love is always good. My favourite Bloc Party song by far, despite (maybe because it sounds exactly like Men at Work and I'm a child of the '80s.

19. Your love life right now? Night Windows, The Weakerthans
-- Such a gorgeous song, and really melancholy, but with a hopeful tone. It's definitely a look back to a better time, which is a temptation in this life stage, but I prefer to look ahead on this one.

20. What is your state of mind like at the moment? Losing My Religion, REM
-- A current spiritual crisis? Nah, but this type of over-analyzing introspection isn't too far off for my usual state of mind.

21. How will you die? The Great Beyond, REM
-- A slow slide into oblivion? Perhaps. "I'm looking for answers from the great beyond".

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Clutch -- Burning Beard

Neil sent me this today, some seriously earnest heavy rockers. Shades of Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger. I love the energy and intensity of this stuff:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

SXSW 2008 -- 20 Songs

Oh, this poor neglected song blog. Since the demise of Webjay, I've lost my mojo for finding great new music and wanting to share it. But somewhere I saw a reference to the new SxSW site being launched, and every year it's got piles of amazing new (and free) music from the bands playing and promoting themselves at the festival. I poked around a bit and found 20 songs I really liked, cutting across some genres, but mostly with good melodies and some interesting experimentation:Oh, and you can just grab the playlist if you want to stream them all online.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pungent Indie Rock

DJ Champion -- No Heaven (3.2mb from the band's page on the newly updated SXSW site)
There's not much in the way of variety, uniqueness or even anything resembling pre-written lyrics in this song. Seriously, the singer seems to just be wandering around belting out cool-sounding shit, mostly variations on the song's title. The same riff is repeated pretty much throughout the entire song as well, with only slight changes in volume and intensity. Boring drum machine loop. But the overall feel of the song is so danceable, so fun and so groovy that these criticisms would just be whining. The singer's sultry, bluesy yowling is the perfect match for the simplicity of the guitar riff -- the sound just works.

This video of a live performance of the song is really worth checking out too, unless you already saw them on the Junos (I missed it). Probably a one hit wonder, but you never know...maybe the band will survive after this bit of musical cotton candy has been consumed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

That's Just Rank

Two Ton Boa -- Cash Machine (4.5mb mp3 from the band's SXSW '07 page)
Another bass-heavy beauty here, with two full minutes of twists and turns -- jazzy, bluesy grooves, odd electronic clicks and beeps, and a singer alternating between lounge singing and spitting yells -- before it builds to a truly wonderful sort of pop-harmony chorus. After 30 seconds of that pure genius, it drops right back down into the cool weirdness of the first two minutes. If it ended there, I probably wouldn't have given it a second listen, but thankfully they gave us a second chorus to hook us forever.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)

This is an old song already, and all the buzz on these guys is about their new album, which I've been really into lately. But there's a sort of unbridled passion and total intensity in this performance that gives me goosebumps: The Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies) on the Much Music Awards.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Heavier Aromas

31Knots -- Man Become Me (5.2mb mp3 from the band's site)
Although not a heavy song in the metal vein, there's an incredible, raw intensity here that can only be called heavy. Fantastic drumming, aggressive bass work that you can actually hear, some cool repeated guitar lines with distortion when it matters, and a seriously angry dude hollering. Fans of Tool will appreciate the mix here, I think.

It's not all rage, though -- the quiet parts of the song are simple and smooth, giving you a breather before you get knocked on your ass again. Then in the last minute, things go totally off the rails. This isn't particularly accessible music, but it's worth sticking with them until you can really appreciate it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

That's Just Rank

Three More Shallows -- Night at the Knight School (3.1mb mp3 from the band's SXSW '07 page)
This is admittedly pretty weird stuff, and I won't pretend that's it for everyone. But if you're looking to be challenged by your listening a bit, I think a Night at the Knight School might be just what you need. It veers from sing-song fairy-tales in the first minute to frantic synth-driven chaos at the halfway point, then mellows out with a great melody and odd lyrics that stick in your head:

at the knight school, knight school
you doodle and you draw
anything, anything
except what you're taught
you got a bad tooth, bad tooth
so you clench your jaw
and you concentrate, concentrate
on the achin'
'cause it's keepin' you awake

Friday, February 02, 2007

We Don't Care About the Young Folks

Sorry, odd post with no mp3 and breaking the usual format, but I've had this song stuck in my head for months. The off-key whistling is the culprit, I think. If you dare, check out the wonderfully simple video for Young Folks from Peter, Bjorn & John. I couldn't get into the rest of the album, but this song is brilliant.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pungent Indie Rock

Snowden -- Anti-Anti (5.3mb mp3 from the band's label page)
While not as interesting as Kill the Power on their earlier EP (which sadly they've taken down from their site), this is still an excellent tune. The crisp drums, sing-songy "oh-oh-oh-oh"s and jangly guitars in the intro make you wonder if it's going to be fluffy pop, but then the slightly distorted bass hints at more intensity to come.

The unique vocal style uses somewhat monotonous melodies (oxymoron?) that end up sounding more pleasing than they should be. After a disjointed break halfway through, the last minute really gets rolling with more distortion and a sort of chanted, repeated, and mostly unintelligible chorus -- nice, focused noise.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Smells Mellow

Laura Veirs - Galaxies (3.3mb mp3 from her SXSW Showcase page, which will likely disappear shortly)
This might sound like straight-up pop at first, but there's a certain depth here that makes it worth paying closer attention. I bet Sheryl Crow wishes she could craft sparse little beauties like this. There's always something interesting going on -- spacey, warbling keyboards, plinking piano bits, or reverbed guitar feedback floating behind the scenes -- but the singer's wonderful voice and a simple, softly distorted guitar line carry things through from beginning.

The na-na-nas in the last minute probably shouldn't work, but they somehow wrap things up just right. After getting hooked on this song, I believe that galaxies really can pour down your cheeks and flood the street.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pungent Indie Rock

Silversun Pickups -- Well Thought Out Twinkles (3.2mb mp3 from the band's label)
This band must get sick of being compared to other bands in the modern rock canon, but I do mean it as a serious compliment when I say that they remind me of earlier Smashing Pumpkins with occasional nods to the Pixies. Not in a copycat way, but with good solid influences and their own twist on them.

Things get started here with a chunky, almost bluesy groove that downshifts into the verse, then returns with a sort of classic-rock vengeance later on. I didn't really warm up to the song until I had heard the excellent break at the half-way point a few times -- such a thick, tight sound with a chugging bass line, a spacey keyboard floating along behind, and then growing intensity and distortion as things get rolling again to finish things up. This is fantastic rock, and I can only imagine how amazing they'd be in concert.

Monday, October 02, 2006

That's Just Rank

S -- Falling (5.5mb mp3 from the band's label page)
This category is reserved for weird songs, ones nobody should really like immediately. Fans of Bjork will probably catch on to this tune pretty quickly, though. The transitions between sections are often abrupt and jarring, going from frantic minor-key intensity to near-silence and techno blips without warning. It's so worth overcoming the listening challenges, though -- at 2:24, you think it's over, but then the last minute builds up to a beautiful, soaring sort of chorus that still gives me goosebumps a year and a half after I first started putting it in playlists. So maybe the category isn't quite right...nothing rank about this.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pungent Indie Rock

Cloud Cult -- Living on the Outside of Your Skin (4.3mb mp3 from the band's site)
With a loose, wandering sound a bit like Wolf Parade, this song might evoke a rawer, more indie version of Radiohead. Great pop hooks lurk beneath, but they don't necessarily reach out and grab you right away. Interesting organ lines and jangly percussion float around almost aimlessly, but the song gets more focused and intense, building up with haunting, distorted guitars and a chorus with loose harmonies that meander through your mind for days afterwards. The vocals are mostly chanted and doubled up, but without the usual overpolished production, as if a few guys are sitting around practicing together. The effect is wonderful -- this is one of the few songs that makes me want to go get the whole album immediately.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pungent Indie Rock -- Catfight

Catlow -- Number One (2.4mb mp3 from Boompa) VS Metric -- Combat Baby (3.2mb mp3 from Better Propaganda)
A new feature here on Indie Scent that I'll probably forget to repeat, but I thought it might be fun. I love both of these songs, so there's no real loser, but I'll admit to rooting for Catlow as the indie underdog(cat?). I'd like to hear more smart, upbeat girl-fronted rock like this.

I'd be surprised if anyone thought Emily Haines wasn't awesome, and I think Combat Baby is a decent representative of Metric's best rollicking indie rock. It's fun and flawless, with enough attitude to keep it from getting old. In the other corner, we've got a relative newcomer from the other side of Canada with a similar sound. With just a touch of the Breeders, and maybe evoking a bit of Luscious Jackson with a driving bass rhythm, Number One thumps its way into your head and refuses to leave.

I leave it to you, loyal reader(s) to decide: who wins this catfight? Give both a listen and leave a comment.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Smells Mellow

Raised by Swans -- Violet Light (2.3mb mp3 from the band's site)
You'd think the slow pace in the intro of this song would have you nodding off before the vocals arrive, but don't give up too soon. The arrangement of the guitars is almost symphonic, blending acoustics and electrics with layered reverb into a rich, contemplative sound.

Just past the halfway point in the tune they strip it down to near silence, with the singer's high, whispery notes keeping things going, and then building it back up to a soaring chorus. This pattern is repeated to wonderful effect, and then they fade it out quietly for almost a minute, showing great patience that challenges us to stick with them to the end. Beautiful.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pungent Indie Rock

The Constantines -- On to You (5.3mb mp3 from the Sub Pop)
I'm not entirely sure why I love this song so much. Piano touches and an a capella chorus usually has me hitting skip in a hurry, but it really works in this mid-tempo rocker. Gruff, blue-collar vocals might remind you of an angrier Bruce Springsteen, and insistent drumming, growling bass and some intense, distorted guitar work create a solid backbone for a gorgeous rock 'n roll love song.

Update: One song of their newer album has also caught my fancy with a similar vibe: Soon Enough (4.6mb mp3 from their label's band page).

Monday, July 31, 2006

Heavier Aromas

Flyleaf -- I'm So Sick (3.4mb mp3 from the band's site)
I suppose that if these guys are opening for Korn, it's a serious stretch to consider them indie. The singer also sounds enough like Avril Lavigne to make any self-respecting indie rock fan reject this blog forever...but hear me out. You'll know in the first 19 seconds whether this rocks your socks or not -- 18 seconds of distorted bass with pretty minor-key female vocals (a la Evanescence), and then suddenly all hell breaks loose when the main guitars and drums kick in with a scream of doom.

This is very slick hard rock, carefully crafted and probably focus-target-market-grouped, but damn it's catchy. I appreciate the fact that they didn't give in to the urge to add some awful Linkin Park rap interludes; the only thing close to that territory is some dudes in the background doing that cheesy overdubbed screamo yell in the last half-minute, but despite their best efforts, it doesn't wreck the song.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pungent Indie Rock

Pinback -- AFK (4.8mb mp3 from Toolshed Media)
This odd mid-tempo tune meanders along thoughtfully, then builds up to a thumping crescendo with quirky chanted vocals. Although I don't hear much bass, I did notice that the drumming is outstanding. Fans of Modest Mouse will be easily hooked, but this is no copycat band -- the sound is unique and varied, holding up after many repeated listens. Difficult to classify, hard to ignore.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Smells Mellow

Nobody & Mystic Chords of Memory -- Coyotes Song (2.7mb mp3 from lovable label Mush Records)
The folksy-country shuffle and repeated Elliott Smith harmonies of the first couple of verses could easily carry this song through to the end with style, but then in the last minute things get truly brilliant. The shift is subtle, but the main vocal line changes and more instruments join the fun -- chiming reverb on the guitars, some sweeping strings -- all without overwhelming the genius of the simple melody. This is beautiful, smart musical joy.