Intimate Indie, or Tweeting with your friendly neighborhood Indie Band

I’m not the first to claim that the last decade has been the Indie decade. And it’s not just because companies are increasingly using Indie songs in their commercials. Nor is it the Indie sound (though both are arguably driving forces). No, the hallmark of the rise of Indie is the connection. Call me sappy, but Indie bands know that their popularity starts with their audience. It’s the intimacy of the small venue that puts them on the level with their fans. However, until the last 5-10 years, that intimacy was limited to the the small venue, the record store, or the zealous band member who builds popularity one fan at a time.

Where am I going with this? (There is a point, promise). If intimacy with its fans drives Indie, then the rise of Indie should be attributed to the ever-incrasing opportunity digital media provides for the fan-band connection. I had one such experience this weekend. A band with sounds similar to the ones I commonly laud on Twitter named “Pawns or Kings” reached out to me and offered me their music for my personal delectation and critique. Sure, this is similar to basic media relations, but this was anything but the basic press package one would expect. No, It was selective and personal. It was a conversation, and one that turned me on to their music:

Now, one Twitter contact won’t build anyone a fan base, but knowing HOW to use social media will. And Pawns or Kings is only the latest in a line of Indie bands I’ve interacted with that take advantage of social media to show their fans of their fans, including Sugar and the Hi-LowsTen Out of Tenn, Vinyl Thief, Nick Waterhouse, and Pepper Rabbit.

And you know what helps? That their music is innovative and enjoyable. And to their credit, Pawns or Kings’ music is just that. At times frivolous and others deeply meaningful and moving, I’ve quite taken to their music. I’m particularly smitten with “Sister of the Sun”.

So, check out Pawns or Kings, and then Tweet your favorite Indie Band and see how they do in building a connection with you.

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Please! No More Series Books

The Indie Girl has been trying to get me to read a new book series she’s gotten into: Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. This is the same Indie Girl who introduced me to Harry Potter over 10 years ago, and who’s book choices have always been superb. So why I have been hesitant to start the series? I have to say, I’m a little series’d out right now. And, in the end, I’m probably going to give in and read the darned Fablehaven series, because, the Indie Girl is usually right, but here’s a few reasons I’m dragging my feet:

1. Book series books are so overdone. I remember growing up reading one-and-done books like Cricket in Times Square. Simple little, one-dimensional stories that were reflective of the kiddie audience they were written for. Then comes Harry Potter (ok, Potter wasn’t the first in-depth kiddie series, some forget The Dark is Rising series and others). Jo Rowling introduced to the reading world that kid books could actually be good. Now there’s an idea. Deep plots with classic literary themes, the works. So why do I deride book series now? Everyone thinks it’s the format, the multiple books telling the same story, thing. So now instead of one-dimensional, one and done books, we now have one-dimensional one-and-done books spread out into more than one book, just to sell it. Not good.

2. A good story should be concise. I have a friend who is writing a book series. He asked me to review his plot line, characters, etc., and I found them to be quite enigmatic and engaging. When he told me it was going to be a book series, I told him: “Sure, it can be a book series, but why don’t you just write the story as one book?” The thing is, too many authors are thinking multiple books in a story line, when they should be looking at multiple story lines in one book. A good story should be as long as it needs to be. Harry Potter fits the bill, though she could have left out a few subplots. Percy Jackson and the Olympians? ENTIRELY too long. I think we could do without books 2 and 3 frankly. The problem? Book series tend to either have too many unrelated plotlines, making the series just a ploy to make more money, or they’re just one plot line stretched out over too many books. And for all those people who think they’re selling a great idea to publishers, think again. Most publishers don’t want someone who proposes a book series, because for them it doesn’t mean multiple book profits, it means multiple books they have to worry about marketing for.

3. Copy cats are never innovators. Now, don’t misunderstand me. There are a lot of good series books out there, and there will be many to come, but most authors who write a book series now seem to be trying to re-create what Jo Rowling and other authors have done. Peruse the kiddie section of the library and book series books are being done like it’s going out of style. I think it’s time to try something new. Write a story that begins on page one and ends when you close the book. I think the one-and-done book is the NEW book series book. It’s the new black too. And the new novel. Case in point. I love Eoin Colfer books. He’s a fantastic writer. One of my favorite junior lit authors actually. But I could never get into Artemis Fowl. Why? I hated the story. I know, it’s odd. Artemis Fowl is his Harry Potter. In my opinion though, his one-and-done books are much, much better. I particularly love Half Moon Investigations. I found it at a school book sale for like $2. It’s one of my favorite books I think I’ve ever read. So well-written. Such a great story line. And the ending is superb. One of my other favorite books, Airman. Yes, another Colfer one-and-doner. AMAZING story line. He effectively captures the Count of Monte Cristo theme, innovates it, and produces something special. Both books are supremely better than his book series.

All in all, am I condemning book series? No. In fact, I picked up Rick “Percy Jackson” Riordan’s newest book 1, the Red Pyramid (in which he does the same thing he did in Percy Jackson, but with Egyptian Mythology instead of Greek Mythology). The thing is, though, just writing a book series does not make it better than the one-and-done book. In fact, more often than not, we’re seeing it go the other way around.

In the end, I’m probably going to end up reading the Indie Girl’s new favorite: Fablehaven. And you know what, I’m probably going to love it, and the next blog post is probably going to be a gushing review of it, with all the usual pictures, links, pomp, and circumstance. But that’s going to be my last book series. Of course, until Indie Girl finds another good read.

What no Indie? Itunes new Ping not Indie friendly.

Much ado has been said about ITunes 10, as it launches itself from music software to social media hub. I for one was quite excited about the prospect of a social media realm dedicated entirely to music, but unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived. On the list of media genres with which one can associate oneself, Indie is curiously absent. This is particularly odd, considering that ITunes seems to be a crusader for the Indie genre. Case 1: Ipod commercials have often featured Indie songs and bands, virtually inviting users to explore new, undiscovered Indie talent. Case 2: The free single of the week often features Indie-type music. Case 3: I’ve downloaded lots of Indie from ITunes, and don’t they care about what I like? (Ok, so number 3 probably isn’t valid).

Either way, it’s like I’m in 1995 again. Instead of listing oneself as an Indie fan, users have to select from categorizations like: Alternative, Singer/Songwriter, and Rock. No Indie. No Indie-pop. Not even Indie-Alternative. I mean, how would “one” associate oneself with music similar to Rodrigo Y Gabriela? It’s certainly not “World” music. What about Mates of State? They’re anything but “Alternative”. And I don’t even have a clue where to put They Might Be Giants…

Honestly Mr. Jobs, aren’t we farther than this in the sphere of online music?

Indie Music not for Jocks or Pretty Girls?

I always like to get your opinions on what Indie Music is and means to you…but, it’s nice to get opinions from the trenches, the people that are defining this new music revolution. I asked Andy Clockwise, whose free download I featured a few weeks ago,  on what Indie means to him, and  here’s what he told me:

1. What does Indie mean to you and where do you see yourself in the evolution of this amazing musical revolution?
Well I suppose it means everything. People finally don’t have to tow the line of the phenomenon of whats happening now, they can create whatever. Anarchy in art is to be embraced and rules are meant to be shunned….. I mean, I can see that sometimes the essence of the term could be bastardized by the powers that be, but the brilliance of the situation is that someone can come along and break it all down once again, thats the beauty of it, we have the tools, the means, the time, the avenues of which people can finally hear something that relates to them, not something that makes the jock or the pretty girls at school feel good on a Friday night. I also love that indie bands are covering such a huge musical and lyrical landscape…. they’re  doing everything that they want to hear…… & it rules!!!!

2. How do you define Indie music and your place in the “Indie sphere.”

Well I think we are delving deep into the arbitrary idea of indie music maybe in the way that they hijacked the term “alternative” in the 90’s. I mean, I suppose what indie has been defined to me over the years reflects me at 13 yrs old, lining up at Waterfront Records in Sydney before it opened trying to get a limited pressing of a 12 inch by some unknown hardcore band. Or sneaking out to festivals, dying my hair that morning and having blue hair dye all over my face. I suppose what we are trying to define is somewhat already done– a DIY attitude to what you are doing, not an obsession with the normal musical landscape but not an entire rejection of it either. Take a pinch of rejection and social awkwardness mix it with some honesty, add a half a cup of irony and sarcasm and mix it around in a bowl of amazing awesomeness…..I’m not sure if I am trying to make a recipe for us all, so we all know what the fuck we are doing!!!?

to the the posed question of where I think I fit in the indie sphere I would have to say I’ve never been much of a sphere guy i’m more into cubist stuff or even a dodechahedranist. 🙂



Good stuff, Andy, you make dodechahedranists everywhere proud!

How to feel like English is your second language

This wondrous and mind-vexing Italian video from the 1970’s is pure gibberish, made out to sound like English. The thing about this that gets me is every so often, I swear I can tell what they’re saying…there’s probably a linguistics lesson somewhere in there, but honestly, I’m not the one to give it. Fact of the matter is, I’m equally confused by his dancing as I am by his linguistics..

Thanks to Are You My Rik for forwarding it along!

Reason # 423 Why I like Facebook

423. Friend Farming.

It’s a simple concept really. It’s not just who you know, but who your friends know. With each new connection, you have new opportunities to find people you forgot about.

You see, the problem with looking for friends is that when you click on that “Find Friends” link, it’s like an automatic mind freeze. You forget every name you thought of looking up.  Hours later, you’ll be doing something completely different when all of a sudden you’ll think, “Oh! I wonder if [insert name here] is on Facebook. Mental note to check when I’m back online.” Of course, the thought vanishes the second you try to look for Insert Name Here.

Enter Friend Farming: Forget the friend search altogether, piggy back and your friends’ friend lists and memory problems are nill. What’s more, Facebook facilitates friend farming, with their dozens of friend suggestions.

I’m on a mission to connect with every last person I have ever known. That one kid who…um…well, there was that one person who….well, either way, thank you Facebook, for making my dreams come true.

Take up the Indie cause – It’s for the children!

We the Indie Music fans of the world have a duty.  The world we’re leaving for our children is in terrible peril! While the media has pumped us full of Save he Whales, Save the O-Zone, and Save the world from the likes of John and Kate, there is a much more threatening evil on our doorstep.

Yes Indie Citizens…I’m talking about carbon copy, teeny-bop, pop.

I’m talking about the Jonas Brothers. I’m talking about Hannah Montana…or Miley Cyrus…or Hannah Montana…oh whatever. I’m talking about The Cheetah Girls! Yes. It’s horrible. And it’s threatening to lead our children down the path of musical starvation, turning them into Star whatever point whatever and KIIS FM  zombies who won’t know the difference between a good song and a radio jingle!

In the same way that my father saved me from Debbie Gibson, Maddonna, Tiffany, Milli Vanilli, and Vanilla Ice with the Beatles…I believe we should all fight the mainstream music maleficence take and introduce our kids to good music. Music that doesn’t feature just 3 power chords. Music that doesn’t feature “jaded” in the lyrics . Yes, music that doesn’t suck.

Let me help get you started. Here are some songs that have gone over like the Berlin Wall on my kids:

  • Mates of State – My Only Offer. My kids love this song. EVERY one of them, ranging from 8 years old to 4, even the 6 month old likes it.
  • Architecture in Helsinki: That Beep: This song has been so requested at our house that I’ve almost had to hide the CD.
  • Of Montreal: Brush, Brush, Brush. Ok, I don’t care that this song is off the soundtrack for the weirdest kids show on TV. Yo Gabba Gabba has the Teletubbies and Poobah beat for psychotic mental trip, and truth be told, I really can’t stomache the show, but this song is cool. And Of Montreal is one of the indie-est Indie bands on the planet.
  • They Might Be Giants. (see video below). You can pick just about anything from John and John. Their music is fun and wacky, and they even do kid music. I’ve actually been listening to their kid stuff for years with my kids, and let me tell you: they sure beat Raffi! In fact, you don’t even have to buy a CD to get your kids started. Go right over to Itunes and subscribe to the Friday Night Family Podcast (or click here to watch it in “syndicate”). Other great TMBG hits your kids will love: “Experimental Film,” “The Mesopotamians,” “Man It’s So Loud in Here,” and even the classic “Birdhouse in Your Soul”. Below is a ditty from their new Kiddie Album.
  • Dan Zane and Friends – Hello. Ok, this guy really IS a kiddie musician, but this song was featured in a recent Coke Ad, and it’s very cool. (sorry, no download link).
  • Dogs Die in Hot Cars – Godhopping. Just a cool song all around. Fast paced, and it talks about children in poor countries…so bonus points for teaching kids social responsibility.
  • 8 1/2 Souvenirs – Happy Feet. This is a great swing outfit. Their stuff is…well…happy.
  • Forro in the Dark – Asa Branca (Featuring David Byrne). Brillian brazilian beats. Used to be a legit free download on music.download.com, I’m sure it still is somewhere.
  • Guster – Amsterdam. Pretty much anything of this album (Let’s Keep it Together), is great. In fact, I think this album is one of the best (if not THE best) indie albums of all time. Yes. I just said that.
  • Oingo Boingo – We Close Our Eyes. Come on, it’s Halloween. I had to include something from Boingo.

British Beatle Mania

20090908beatlesEvery 10 years or so, the Beatles do something to make themselves relevant again (It’s not enough that Lennon and McCartney are the singular most prolific and successful song writers of all time). In the 90s, it was the Anthology CDs. In 2000, it was the 27 number 1 hits CD…now…it’s Beatles Rock Band.

Now, this post isn’t about Beatles Rock Band…It’s actually more about Beatles buzz…

I’ve got to say, I like the renewed buzz–before I was an Indie fan, I was a Beatles fan. I was raised on Seargent Pepper, Sexy Sadie, and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.  Which is why I particularly liked what I found on Spinner.com today — a Beatle’s personality test

Which Beatle Are You? – Spinner

Incidentally…I’m NOT the Walrus…

U2’s Forgettable Fire or How to become a pop heretic in just one easy blog post

I don’t like U2. Truth be told, I never really have. Maybe it’s because I spent far too much time living in Utah, where I’ve discovered that it must be an FCC regulation that a U2 song must be playing at all times, on at least one station. Maybe it’s because Zooropa really left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not sure. I just know I really don’t think U2 is that good.

One thing I do know, though, is that U2 has been riding Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby for over 20 years, and every time you hear a U2 song on the radio made after those albums, it’s only because:
It’s U2–and they’re supposed to be best band in the world. They wrote a hand full of hit songs in the 80s and 90s
Call them the best branded rock band since the Beatles. But I digress…

I finally have proof that U2 has been riding its own shirt tails. Forget Discoteque. Forget that Batman Soundtrack Song. Their latest “hit single” is bad. As in “those annoying Yoplait Yogurt girls sitting around talking about how good the yogurt is” BAD.

I’m sure you’ve heard “Magnificent” off their latest album. Radio stations, if you still believe in them, have probably been force-feeding it to you. I haven’t listened to any of the rest of their latest album, and thankfully, I don’t have to. If the hit single is this bad, there’s no sense in listening to the rest. Magnificent is like U2 Unforgettable Fire-Lite. Take all the usual U2 style (the Bono wail, the echoing guitars), and then make it boring. No, make it elevator music. And you’ve got Magnificent. There’s nothing good about this music–it’s rehashed and photocopied, but using a copier that’s on its last leg and running out of ink.

Now, I know this is harsh…and I know that there will be plenty who will call me a heretic (what, insult the gods of the pop pantheon?!). At least by Itunes, it’s off the chart in popularity…

But then again, maybe I’m being too harsh on Bono and the guys. I mean, they HAVE been around a while, and most bands ride their own shirt tails after a good music run. REM lost it when they released Monster, and then somewhere a long the line, we had to endure a nauseating trip to Reno to become a Star. Coldplay just did it with that Ipod song album (yes, I know the title, but I prefer to refer to it in the same way we all refer to that Harry Potter nemesis). Either way, I think it’s time to admit it – U2 is done, or at least, should have been, a long time ago.