Tag Archives: Indie Rock

Cate Le Bon’s “Reward” Marks a Turning Point

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Photography by Ivana Kličković

On a recent visit to New York City, Welsh songwriter Cate Le Bon visited an exhibit on the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim Museum. There are some similarities between af Klint’s dramatic abstract paintings and Le Bon’s new album, Reward. For one thing, both operate on a grand scale. Like af Klint, Le Bon works in isolation—Reward was written during a year she spent in solitary conditions in rural England. Although the album is intimate in nature, it incorporates a dynamic new palette of sounds, and lyrics that are decidedly more straightforward. In short, Reward marks a sea change in her career.

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White Noise Records is a Hub for Hong Kong’s DIY Underground

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Tfvsjs

“In Western culture, it’s almost a rite of passage to rebel—to join a band, to be an artist, is generally no big deal. That’s not Hong Kong’s reality,” explains Valentine Nixon, one half of New Zealand dream-pop sister duo Purple Pilgrims. “When it comes to experimental music, there is a general sense that people really mean what they’re saying. They’re living what they’re making, because it’s so far from social norms or acceptance. This often makes the art itself feel political, even when it’s not trying to be.” Nixon is speaking from experience here. Raised between New Zealand and Hong Kong by itinerant parents, some of her formative musical moments took place in Hong Kong’s underground, a landscape worlds removed from the image-obsessed Cantonese pop of the region’s glossy mainstream.

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Album of the Day: Greys, “Age Hasn’t Spoiled You”

Greys frontman Shehzaad Jiwani has always sung like someone uncomfortable in his own skin, whether he was cheekily cataloging his feelings of inadequacy, or giving in to more visceral and violent expressions of self-loathing. That sense of perpetual dissatisfaction has been reflected in the Toronto group’s relentless evolution. Once a caterwauling noise-punk outfit, Greys quickly realized that nihilistic discourse—however good it may feel in the moment—isn’t a long-term solution for life’s woes. As such, the band’s emotional vocabulary has expanded in step with their musical one. After balancing out the stage-dive strikes with shoegazing balladry on 2016’s Outer Heaven and detouring into fuzzy lo-fi indie-pop for the lowkey companion release Warm Shadow, Greys sound like they’re ready to leave the circle pit behind for good.

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Album of the Day: PAWS, “Your Church On My Bonfire”

On their newest release, Your Church On My Bonfire, Glasgow’s PAWS shed their frantic, power-chord driven enthusiasm for a restrained exploration into the human condition. The trio’s fourth LP finds frontman Phillip Taylor examining his life after spending several years battling setbacks—failed relationships, unstable band lineups, personal losses. Here, PAWS galvanize those blows into a reignited sound. Your Church On My Bonfire was produced by Frightened Rabbit guitarist Andy Monaghan, and it arrives on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the loss of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison, whose influence is felt throughout the LP. Continue reading

Album of the Day: Rodan,“The Hat Factory 93”

In the ‘90s, indie rock was a different beast, an ecosystem clearly derived from and still closely connected to punk. Only alt-weeklies and zines covered its artists, and discovery meant scouring liner notes, regularly perusing your local record store, and going to a venue where you trusted the booker’s taste, even if you didn’t know the bands playing. I know this comes up a lot when old jerks like me are talking, but pre-Internet saturation, seeking out the music was just as important a part of the process as actually hearing it. Continue reading

Julia Jacklin’s Latest LP Tackles Growth, Love, and Wanting to Be Alone

Julia Jacklin

Photo by Nick Mckk

Two songs into her sophomore album, Crushing, Julia Jacklin stands up for herself. “I don’t want to be touched all the time,” she sings on the country-ish rocker “Head Alone.” Later in that same song, she powerfully reinforces that sentiment, shouting, “I’ll say it ‘til he understands / You can love somebody without using your hands!”

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Hardcore Punk, Glitch Pop, Indie Rock and More

7 essentials

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums that were released between last Friday and this Friday, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Album of the Day: Sharon Van Etten, “Remind Me Tomorrow”

Remind Me Tomorrow is technically Sharon Van Etten’s first album in four years, although she’s certainly kept herself busy in the interim personally (the birth of her first child last year) and professionally (her recent, unexpected turn to acting, kickstarted by a starring role on the Netflix drama The OA). She also revealed in a recent interview that she demoed over 40 songs for this album, opting to record the most experimental tracks with producer John Congleton to make Remind Me Tomorrow. Here, Van Etten trades the gothic Americana instrumentation of her past records for an assortment of prepossessing synth sounds, the range of which is vast without sounding scattered or without focus. (Nor does she lose the signature darkness that’s shaded her prior work.)

“I Told You Everything” begins with a pulsating hum, contrasted quickly by a striking piano, as Van Etten sings simply, “Sitting at the bar, I told you everything… You said, ‘Holy shit.’” This casually-direct, occasionally-caustic lyrical approach has played an intrinsic role in Van Etten’s art from the start; her most recent effort, 2014’s excellent Are We There, showcased a particularly intimate feel. Remind Me Tomorrow, too, strikes a balancing act between personal pain and universal sentiment, to transcendent effect: on the B-side ballad “Malibu,” she sings of “the little red car that don’t belong to you” with a shaky conviction that is impossibly romantic. Her layered harmonies, something she’s become notable for over her career, weave with particular grace through the piano pop of “Seventeen,” her “love letter to New York,” the video for which features places important to her over the time she’s lived in the city.

Remind Me Tomorrow is a great leap into new territory for Van Etten stylistically, but there isn’t a single moment of distrust in her abilities as a songwriter to be found—nor is there any mistaking her trademark voice.

Allison Crutchfield