Due to the glut of exceptionally made indie rock and indie rock influenced music this year I have decided to highlight some of these albums for a mid-year roundup. One thing these albums have most in common is they wear their influences very well. This is not to say these artists are ripping off the music that came before them, rather, they are furthering the art form and presenting something slightly new that feels comfortable and honors the formative artists that possibly helped shape the sound of these albums. Now I can't say for certain if these people were directly influenced and this is just my honest opinion, but if so, I feel they are doing a very respectful job and these albums need to have a spotlight shown on them. Hope you enjoy what you see here. Without further ado and in alphabetical order, here is the list!!!
Easily one of this year's best rock records. This guy is pulling from pretty much every single amazing 90s and early 2000s indie rock album you can think of. Pavement? Check. Weezer? Check. Guided By Voices? Check. His mumble mouth delivery are some of the freshest observations I have heard in a while coupled with the amazing music that touches on pretty much every great influence are what makes this album special. Hey it doesn't even need that Cars sample that Ric Ocasik so graciously ripped out of the album.
Recommended if you like: Every single classic indie rock album put out in the 90s
Guy from Louisiana has his heart broken, moves to Portland, writes this album, returns to Louisiana and records all of the music in his friends' laundry room then returns to Portland with the tapes and has the members of Helio Sequence mix and master the thing. This thing turned out to be one of the best debut albums I have ever heard. A perfect mix of 70s rock, glam rock and bits of indie rock. I have seen him twice and was blown away both times, this guy deserves to be huge!
RIYL: T. Rex, Bob Dylan, Sparks, Meatloaf
This is the debut album from Animal Collective's Josh Deakin. It is a very concentrated psychedelic effort which pulls from great sources across the psychedelic landscape. The album's flow is excellent and not a single second is wasted or overused. To me this album was much better than most of Animal Collective's new album(which he was not on) and also better than Panda Bear's last offering. This is just a good solid psychedelic album worth checking out!
RIYL: Animal Collective(the slower less manic stuff) Morgan Delt
Lyrically the most offensive and in your face on this list. This band is pissed off about the current state of affairs and they want you to hear about it(and they aren't even from America!) The music is like a muckier less refined version of Liars circa Drum's not Dead. With more strong structure yet also a more unhinged sensibility. This album is dark, funny and dangerous. Plus, it never hurts to write a song about Tamam Shud(look him up!)
RIYL: Liars, Pop 1280, Grinderman
The closest thing we are going to get to a full fledged Comets on Fire album these days. This is basically Comets on Fire with Megan Baird of Espers replacing Ethan Miller of Howlin Rain. The music is less unhinged and crazy than Comets but still has that loud noisy flair to it. The vocals are very reminiscent of the early 70s english medieval folk scene(Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, Steeleye Span) which lends the music a very mystical air. Highly recomended.
RIYL: Comets On Fire, Espers, Megan Baird solo
Some of the most honest lyrics and emotive delivery of said lyrics I have heard in a long time. This is very much in the vein of artists like St. Vincent. Indie rock but with a nice hint of experimenting with samples and electronics. This album has crushing guitar parts that harken back to Pinkerton era Weezer, which is a nice touch. She plays with the quiet loud dynamic almost better than the Pixies did in the 80s. The lyrics are mostly biting social observations or relationship observations. Very clear in their message. This should appeal to all fans of female fronted solo indie rock projects.
RIYL: St. Vincent, Pinkerton era Weezer, Rilo Kiley(but much harder)
Speaking of Rilo Kiley, this is a Jenny Lewis led band with members of the Like and Au revoir Simone. I wrote a review a few weeks ago on this album, so for a more in depth analysis i would go check that out! In short, this is Jenny and her crew laying it down in a dubby post punk dancy style. The album is short and sweet and gets in and out quick.
RIYL: ESG, Pylon
A nice return to the highlights of Light Up Gold, after what I thought was a disappointing album in Sunbathing Animal. I feel this band is great when it sounds like they arent trying too hard to write "good" songs. The effortlessness shines through on this album. I am sure they spent a lot of time writing these songs, they just don't sound too overthought. Which is great. This is the perfect album to listen to on a lazy summer day. They touch on everything in the SST catalog pretty much and things like the Breeders. Highly recommended to rock out to with a nice drink in the park or your own backyard.
RIYL: The first Parquet Courts album, Minutemen, Meat Puppets
I shouldn't like this, I really shouldn't. For all intents and purposes this is an emo/pop punk record. It has the whiny vocals, it has the chanting group vocals, but damn it if this shit isn't exceptionally well written. This brings to mind less the horrid pop punk of alternative radio and more so the craziness of the Dismemberment Plan in their prime. This also reminds me of stuff like Jawbreaker, Braid; basically the high end of the indie/emo crossover. The lyrics are often times hilarious, the music is stop on a dime ridiculous at times. The melodies are abundent. It's great because it always veers incredibly close to the precipace of cornball cheesiness without ever going over into that zone, and for that, I have to salute this album.
RIYL: Dismemberment Plan, Les Savy Fav, Blink 182
This music floats by. It feels effortless. The melodies subdued yet apparent. This is chilled out slacker indie rock made to perfection. All of Greta Kline's albums up to and including this one have felt like an extension of someone's brain. It just feels right, like this is what she could make and she made it and continues to write wonderful short songs full of lightness and substance in equal measure.
RIYL: The Raincoats, The Breeders, Beat Happening
Taking a page right out of the Nirvana songbook these guys mine the days of Bleach and In Utero. The sound has a nice metallic tinge to it also. This album is all goofy meaty riffing and devo/chrome style vocals. I like that these guys subverted the crappy 80s goth rock revival by aping the exact bands that railed against that shit in the 80s. Bands like Chrome and Flipper who were the antithesis to the mopey wallflower morose goth stuff. Chrome had pride in being forward thinking, reaching back to bands like Throbbing Gristle for inspiration instead of the Cure or the Smiths is a refreshing drink i'll take all day in this current musical climate. These guys sound mean and to me that's very very nice.
RIYL: Chrome, Nirvana, Devo, Flipper
I never thought much of this artist until this album. She made decent but unimpressive indie rock by the numbers before this. I feel the main change in her sound definitely comes from her involving Merrill Garbus from TuneYards behind the mixing booth. Merrill's cut and paste recording and editing style is all over this record. She also does a nice job with isolating each instrument so you can really feel each individual piece as its coming out of the speakers. The songwriting this time around is more idiosyncratic and the music benefits greatly from the time changes and catchy yet weird choruses. The closest touchpoint to something that came before her would definitely be Deerhoof circa Reville or Apple O. Thao got herself some teeth and a weird editor and made her best album yet.
RIYL: Deerhoof, St. Vincent, TuneYards
Sounding like a wonderful mix of Ween, Mac Demarco and something from the 70s along the lines of the Band. The vocals can come across as a little hard to take, they are this weirdo falsetto that's double tracked, so it has this weird ethereal little kid type quality to it. I feel this adds to the weird laid back vibe of the record. On first listen, this album seems really simple but then you realize there are string instruments that fade in and out, horns that propel seemingly normal indie rock songs to much higher heights. These guys used to be in the band Smith Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra and I feel trump both those bands tenfold. This is another one of those chilled out summer backyard albums, but you know when the time is right and you just want to chill out, pop this sucker on and drift out into oblivion.
RIYL: Ween, 70s am rock, Mac Demarco, Grizzly Bear