Quick Indie guide to Seeing NY


I believe Indie is not just a fine taste for music…it’s a lifestyle.

So, a little while I got an email from a friend announcing he’d be spending a few days in New York City, and he wanted to know what were the coolest sites to see. I spent two months last summer living and working in Manhattan, and I prided myself on getting around and seeing some of the lesser-known, but definitely worth seeing, sites. In fact, after the two months, my co-workers gushed at how I had seen more stuff in NYC in two months than they had in the years they had lived there. Anyway, here’s what I recommended–my Indie guide to seeing NYC.

Note: These are only a few sites, if you have some good suggestions, add your 2 cents below.

1. The site of the 1964 World’s Fair. A sight that maybe only an avid historian would love…this one has particularly cool meaning for They Might Be Giant’s fans. Not only do they mention the fair in a number of their songs, they filmed the video for Don’t Let’s Start (video below) there. Sadly, the site is fairly run down now…half of it has been taken over as a skate park, and the arena behind me in the picture below has been overrun by a local theater company, which uses it as a junk site.

2. Strawberry Field: The immortal memorial to John Lennon still features plenty of flowers and a steady flow of Lennon music. It’s on the outskirts of Central Park and can be kind of hard to find…but once you find it, you get a “daily double” as just across the street is the hotel where John Lennon was shot.

3. Battery Park: Summer Concert Series. Last year, NY had the best Indie music for FREE at Battery park. I blogged about the spoon concert, below, already. I’ve posted a recording of the concert as well (click on Spoon in the side bar). Definitely worth seeing.

4. Go Meet Rupert. My FAVORITE experience while there…the Hello Deli, just around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater where David Letterman is filmed, is actually a great place to eat…and Rupert is one of the nicest guys around. Right in the middle of orders, he’ll take a picture with you and even wish your dad a happy birthday on your cell phone (ok, that’s what he did for me…I cant imagine he’d have done it if it was busy when I went in). You’ve got to get there early though, the place closes at 4.

5. The NY Cathedrals. In the Cathedrals, of New York and Rome, there is a feeling, that you should just go home, and spend a lifetime, finding out just where that is. Ok, so few may know this Jump Little Children classic, but I’ve always held it as one of my favorites…so when I got to NY, I had to find every cathedral I could. St. Patrick’s is easy to find…but this one right in front of the Juliard* (below) was my favorite.

The LDS Temple is a very nice addition to the NY skyline

*Speaking of the Juliard…10 points goes to the reader who knows the Moxy Fruvous song that mentions the
music school.

So, that’s my quick Indie guide to seeing NY. If you want the main sites, you can probably find them on a quick google search.

The 1st Flans N’ Linnell Brooklyn Ambassadors Award

Named after They Might Be Giant’s two Johns…this award goes to the band with the combination of most original sound and the most effective approach to gettting its name out there and building a relationship with indie fans–otherwise known as Public Relations. TMBG revolutionized going against the grain, bucking the notion that you have to be signed by a major label to build a fan base. From “Dial-a-Song” to following fans lifestyle change and breaking into the kiddie music market.

Ok–enough of the explanation. The first Brooklyn Ambassadors award goes to…

Band of Horses

Ok…so there’s nothing extravagant about this…it’s pretty simple. Not only has Band of Horses gotten its sound out there with commercial gigs and other of the usual indie outlets, the band has offered its BEST songs for free download. Funeral. No One’s Going to Love you. The Great Salt Lake. They offered their very best. Most bands offer a paltry slice of what their tunes…Band of Horses let’s you have the best. I expect great things from this band.

Indie Spotlight: Architecture in Helsinki

Question: What do you get when you mix high school ska/alternative with refined indie?

Answer: Architecture in Helsinki

I have been a fan of this oddly-named band for a few years now, and have only heard them outside of my own music collection once, on a local college station. But they’ve got some dark-horse indie classics, even if they are relatively under-known.

The only thing I have against AIH is that they’re the kind of band that can be REALLY good when they’re good, but REALLY strange when they’re strange (and when I mean strange, I mean barely listenable). But they’re worth a listen.

Indie-Ana Smith Picks: Maybe I can Owe you, No need to shout, Hold Music

Test your Indie Acumen! Indie Personality Test v. 1

OK, so this is something that has been in the works for months…taking up my thoughts and replacing what I should be doing–writing my doctoral dissertation. In the end, I gave in and decided to go for it…

Have you ever wondered how “Indie” you are? Are you a grass-grazer, bandwaggoner, or Indie Guru? Maybe you’re a closet Indie fan. Take the Indie Personality Test and find out.

Truth be told, I used to be a ghostwriter for a best-selling author who wrote books on personality, and put together one of those color personality tests. I decided to do something similar, based on Indie as a lifestyle. Visit the page and see how you stack up!

Note: It’s a work in progress, and I plan on updating it as need be.

A defining moment: Iron and Wine

Iron and WineIron and Wine’s newest album: The Shepherd’s Dog can be summed up with one phrase: Folk indie on prozac. This is haunting, moving music that doesn’t lull you to sleep but is oddly energizing like a good movie score. The riffs are fantastic. The melodies are far from the usual static, this-is-what-I-expect-folk-to-sound-like stuff. Unlike my first reactions to Sufjan Stevens and other contemporaries, I didn’t have to listen to this one more than once to know, this is a great album. Perhaps the defining moment of folk indie.

In fact, I’m going to call it now…in 10 years, when we look back on the direction of music, and try to account for influx of the subtle yet infectious folk-meets-Indian-rhythm that has infested music, we’ll inevitably look back to this record. One listen, and I can’t help but exclaim, “Yes. This is what Indie is. This is Indie at its best.”

My only beef with this album is the language. I think dropping foul language in indie music is cliche. On the one hand, the artist is saying, “I can do this, because I’m not mainstream”…on the other, it’s terribly ironic, because, in a music genre that preaches intelligent lyrics, foul language is ironically unoriginal.
Everytime I hear an Indie singer resort to foul language, I can’t help but say to myself, “Can’t you find anything more original than that? Come on.”

Minus the potty-mouth antics on this album, this is one of the top indie albums of all time (and no, I’m not going to add an IMHO/In-My-Humble-Opinion…it’s indisputable).

Viva La Vida OR an Ipod Song and all his friends

Cold PlayJust got the new Coldplay CD. You know, I never thought that Cold Play could do better than the 04 classic – Rush of Blood to the Head…and after I got this new CD, I’m convinced…I’m still right. Even their last release, which was catchy and fun, but was too formulaic for me. This one, though, pales in comparison to even the popsy-put-together that was X&Y.

Viva La Vida isn’t only substandard, it’s like they wrote a cool song for the current Ipod commercial and then said, “Hey, let’s lay down a bunch of tracks we’ve been putting off for a few years and get some run while the commercial is hot.” Really, it’s 9 songs (the first song is a musical intro) and none of them are really noteworthy. In fact, it makes sense that this one was released on Itunes first…they’re trying to save people money on the purchase…get the whole CD for 8.99 (you can skip the first track)…it’s better than buying it for 15+ at the store.

I have to say, I think Coldplay is one of the cutting edge Indie Bands…they’ve built their sound into something mainstream, but haven’t really left it. This one, though, just doesn’t cut it.

Sometimes, you just like the title

I’ve admitted this before, but I have no special access to new music (I’m working on that one…and any PR people interested…send something along), but I find some of the most interesting music at the Indie Library in my area. Now, I call it the Indie Library, because it has some of the most diverse NEW music…yep, new music. I’ve found the more recognized bands like Interpol, They Might Be Giants, Spoon, Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah, and others…and then there’s the little known stuff. My most recent find came because I happened to like the name…

Caribou’s new album, Andorra.

I honestly had never heard of them, but I used to live in Barcelona, Spain, and have visited Andorra, and I quite liked it, so I went ahead and picked it up. RealPlayer tells me it’s a new experience in post-punk type record. I think they’re right…but I’d give Caribou the “Band of Horses” award for being on the verge of breaking through. There are some good tracks on this CD, and what’s more, it’s new and innovative.

You can find a legit-free download for the lead track at download.com here

Overall, half of the short album is insignificant, but Caribou shows some flashes.

Of Djinni’s and Juno’s

Ok, so I’ll make this short…but I’m always amazed at the keywords that draw people to this site*. Here are the most recent keyword:

Djin Bartimaeus: I’m actually the top ranking site in Google for that keyword! Are you thinking what I’m thinking? BRING ON THE AD MONEY!

amazon sucks: On the second page of Google for this one…so either a bunch of people who hate Brazilian tropics are finding my site, or not many people like Amazon.com.

happy shiny fits of rage meaning: And the 2008 award for most eclectic and head-scratching key word referent for my site goes to….SERIOUSLy, I have NO clue what this means.

Scripp Spelling Bee: Yep, page number one on Google again…can I smell a scholarship brewing? Yeah, I’m a doctoral student…I could use the funds.

*As an aside–my other blog, which is dedicated to research and practice in communication and public relations, always has “Hello Kitty” as its top “key word referrer”…I did one blog post on Hello Kitty being used by the Police somewhere in Asia and I’m “branded” for life…oops, the Hello Kitty traffic will all come here now!

Death Cab – A tale of too long and too short OR Amazon out of the dog-house

First, a Kudos to Amazon for rectifying the previous incident reported on this blog…when approached (for the 2nd time) about their faulty policy in shipping items altogether when you do super-saver shipping, they shipped my new Death Cab CD out immediately and swallowed the $2-$3 shipping at the same time.

Now on to my much awaited review. Death Cab’s “Narrow Stairs” is a dichotomy of too long and too short. On the one hand, “I will possess your heart” is fatally too long…8 minutes and then some, with the first four the same 4 riffs and piano measures, it seemed like Ben and company were just trying to satisfy its Indie faithful who wanted something expressly “non-mainstream”. Adding 4 unnecessary minutes to the track didn’t do it for me.

While one track may be too long, other parts of this CD are too short. In an Itunes world, there is simply NO excuse for an album with only 11 tracks. In my mind, for a CD to be a good deal, there should be incentive to buy it in its entirety in hard-copy. Tori Amos’ American Doll Posse had 22 legitimate tracks on it (2 were short musings), and over half of that 22 were fantastic. I think I have listened and re-listened to Narrow Stairs 10x hoping for 1 or 2 secret songs, some live-tracks, or SOMETHING beyond the 1990s album standard of 11 tracks. Some of their songs are fatally short too…No Sunlight and You can do better than me are fantastic tracks…but they’re cut short, the former under 2 minutes.

All this being said, my complaints on this album are mostly on account that I simply wanted MORE. Altogether, the album is fantastic. I think it’s more reflective of traditional Death Cab than Plans (which, for all intents and purposes, seemed written just to get radio-playability, though it was still good on its own merit). The songs are innovative, even catchy, and I can honestly say I’ve been listening to it for 5 hours straight today, without interruption. In short, it’s like an awesome concert you attend that ends with audience demanding 3 encores…only, on this album, Death Cab doesn’t give us any encores…just 11 great tracks and a unquenched thirst for more.