May 2011

Beirut borrows a little bit of music from everywhere--but does that make it their own?

I love Beirut the band.  Their music accompanied my paper writing in college and the break-up of my first relationship; I played it on my iPod during train travels around Europe and on my walks to the coffee shop down the street from my apartment. 

Beirut was created by a now twenty-four year-old, New Mexico native named Zach Condon. Condon plays ukulele, flugelhorn, trumpet, euphonium and mandolin, among other instruments.  His band brings more instruments to the cacophony, adding tuba, trombone, piano and glockenspiel to the ensemble.  The band has released two albums and five EPs.

The Best Lady Vocalists in Indie Music

It's a little bit of a bummer that we even still have to qualify lists like this. In a perfect world I wouldn't be writing this feature, because there would be as many famous lady musicians as gentlemen. The media would give due respect to all artists regardless of gender. An all-female band wouldn't instantly be branded as a "girl group". But such are things in the present day: most of the indie music scene is a sausage-fest where girl musicians are novelties. Thankfully, there are still lady artists beneath the rock mainstream who are doing truly exciting things with music. They're reinvigorating their genres with powerful voices. There are many such ladies but these are my favorites. 

The Three Biggest Ripoffs in Indie Rock

It's easy to rise to success on the shoulders of giants. Popular music history litters itself with artists that dilute the innovations of their influences and go on to ride them to fame. Turns out it's often easier to sell the commercially packaged version of a music movement than the real thing. Bands have been doing this, intentionally or no, since the dawn of rock. In fact, rock as we know it was born out of thievery. Elvis himself was a product of a predatory music industry repackaging the work of black American musicians and selling it to white audiences. Led Zeppelin managed to rip off a good majority of the Blues movement all by themselves. Mimicry and thievery have long been easy routes to commercial success in the music industry.

How Do You Define Alternative Music?

In the sixth grade, Mrs. Johnson, our music teacher (known especially from an epic moment when she tossed her shoulder pads out of her shirt, exasperated with them), went around the class, asking what type of music everyone liked. Living in semi-rural Missouri, most people said, “Country.” Some said rock. I said “Alternative,” and after that, everyone else wanted to say that, too.

The Toadies: The Toast of Texas

A Thinker's Rock Band

    It's true that the first band to create a niche in the music industry tends to be the longest lived in that niche, and it's absolutely true for The Toadies, a grindy rock trio from Fort Worth, Texas. In my brief stint as a member of the Austin, Tx youth detritus I became intimately acquainted with the fanatical following that the Toadies has created among their native Texas. For whatever reason their reach has not quite reached beyond the state (with the exception of a brief foray in the mid-late nineties). This may be a good thing, because if the secret ever got out, I'd hate to see how the record producers would attempt to change this band. Here's why I say it:

New songs for when you're sick of listening to J. Biebs on the radio

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Sometimes you want to listen to some music that you haven’t heard sixty or seventy times on the local pop radio stations.  Some of these are oldies, but I promise that all of them are really good:

 

     1.     “If You Fall” -Azure Ray

The duo of Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink made up Azure Ray, which disbanded quite a few years ago, but came back together temporarily earlier this year.  The group featured their two perfectly blended voices on simple, indie-pop. “If You Fall” is surprisingly upbeat amidst the majority of their mellow, wash-of-sound style tunes.

2.        “Cruel Mistress”—Flogging Molly