The Kings of Indie?

History has yet to conclusively decide who is the undisputed the king of rock and roll (hint: It’s the Beatles), but the race for the king of Indie may already be won (yes, I know I mixed my metaphors, just stay with me here). The last decade and a half has been the age of Indie. There’s indie everything: Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Bluegrass, lo-fi Indie, hi-fi Indie, and an indie designation for nearly every country and language. Such is the grandeur of the movement toward rejecting the degradation of society from bane and vacuous mainstream pop music–which I call the “Indie Movement”.

But here’s the rub, with so many different types of Indie, is it possible to crown just one band king? Yes, yes it is.

There are plenty of worthy heirs for the kingship. But if we’re going to name one, it has to be:

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Arcade Fire.

Here’s why:

Arcade Fire is a singular “Indie” talent because with every album they redefine what it means to be Indie. They’re not just writing low-fi songs that are an “acquired taste” (read: Categorical music that has dubbed Indie “boring”). They’re also not straddling the pop line–selling out a little to get radio playability while reserving their deeper tracks for the Indie enthusiast (The Black Keys flirted with this on their last album). And most importantly, they’re not just writing songs that inevitably have to do with overdone themes (i.e. lost love, lost happiness, new love, new happiness).

No, Arcade Fire is substance. They’re meaning and melody, without one overpowering the other. Their music carries an air that says, “We don’t care if you like this stuff. We like it. If you don’t, get out of the way and let us play”. Case in point: their Grammy performance in which they played Month of May as the credits rolled and producers cut transmission.

I found Arcade Fire with 2007’s Neon Bible. Black Mirror, Intervention, Ocean of Noise. They pushed “alternative music” further than any music I had ever heard. I dug into Funeral and was convinced, this band was unique. Three years later, I heard the Suburbs and I was converted.  Three years after their Best Album Grammy win, their newest album, Reflektor, only pushes the dimensions of “alternative” music further. They’re so far ahead of the pack with their musical innovation, it’s not even close.

To be honest, though, I wasn’t sold on Reflektor on the first and second listens. My first time through, I actually thought it was bland and unmemorable. And then I heard After Life and Joan of Arc, and I started coming around. The title track “Reflektor”–a song that originally disappointed me–turned me around completely. (Download it from IndieRockCafe.com for free here)

That’s the magic of Arcade Fire, and what makes them the kings of indie. They don’t monotonous mass produce radio-friendly hits that inevitably wear on you nerves after a few listens and end up driving you mad after a week. Their music is deep, enigmatic, and intense. It stays with you a fleeting memory and resurfaces like a forgotten memory. On Reflektor, none of the songs appear, at first listen, to be phenomenal, but each grabs you and pulls you in, until, without warning, you find the subdued beats and melodies echoing in your subconscious. Unlike overplayed pop songs you can’t get out of your head, it’s a pleasant experience. And the effect is not age discriminant. My pre-K son will often spontaneously start chanting the French echo chorus of Joan of Arc: Jeanne d’Arc even if it’s been days since he heard the song.

Reflektor is further proof that Arcade Fire push the boundaries of alternative music with their lyrical depth and mastery of melody (alliteration is awesome). No doubt, we’ll be seeing an encore performance at the Grammy Awards. Let’s hope this time the producers don’t cut transmission this time.

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A Suburban Deal!

Welcome to the show. I’m your Indie Network Shopping host. You know why you’re here. You want good music that’s cheap. You want good music that’s free. You want good music that I’ll pay you to listen to!!!

Well friends, up on today’s Wheel of Fish is an Indie band you know and love. No, they’re not just a good Indie Band, they’re a GREAT Indie Band. And what’s more, they hail from the Great White North, the same wonderful country that brought us Rick Moranis and Michael J. Fox! The same nation that brought us Bullwinkle J. Moose and Dudley Do-Right (and not to mention, one in a long line of forgettable movies featuring Brendan Fraser)! They are Arcade Fire! And their latest album, the Suburbs, a masterful work of the type of Indie mellowdrama that you have come to cherish, has just been released. More than just another set of Indie songs you know your Ipod wants, this album is incredibly deep, with tunes that border “radio-friendliness” (The Suburbs), lyrics that mix themes in modern warfare with suburban innocence, and tunes that even feature roman numerals! This, my friends, is an album that you’ll leave playing all day–at work, at school, in your house while the kiddies play!

Now, friends, how much would you pay for this delectable dish of divine indie…delectability? $19.99? $15.99? $9.99?

How about: $7.99?

That’s right friends, Arcade Fire’s newest album is $7.99 at Target* (o.k., at least it is in the Houston area).

*No, this is not a commercial for target. No Target is not paying me to endorse their sale. Yes, I would like it if they would.

Malfoy for an Oscar? and Arcade Fire Goes Wild

2679_3511407821The Indie Girl and I saw The Half-Blood Prince today, and not to sound cliche, it’s the best Potter movie yet. Even the Indie Girl liked it, and she’s hated the last 3 movies because they’re too dark.

We all know how the movie ends, I’m sure, but I won’t spoil it either way. In fact, Harry Potter movies have gotten to the point that the ending doesn’t really matter anymore, much less the storyline. It’s all about the way the story is produced–the presentation–and so far, we’ve been let down…until now.

The Half-Blood Prince is cinematographic genius (yes, I spelled that right). It’s an amazing work of art in its own right. Even the Indie Girl noticed how amazing the scenes and special effects are. We’ve gone from silly and nice Sorcerer’s Stone to serious, riveting, and what I think should be legitimate Academy Award material in the Half-Blood Prince.  The set up and delivery of every scene is brilliant. Each elicits such emotion. The highs and the lows, the comedy, and the sadness all come with such perfect ebb and flow. And what is more, the acting weaves so perfectly into the feel of the picture–each of the actors down to the girl who plays Luna Lovegood deliver such staggering performances.

Especially Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy. A simply riveting performance. I used to watch the movies for Alan Rickman’s performance, but in this movie, Felton steals it. His inner turmoil, which seemed a little underplayed in the books, comes out in perfect dramatic form. I know it’s cliche that we all want to see that the bad guy isn’t all that bad after all, but Felton does nothing short of reinvent that classic dichotomy of good and bad within an individual.

Yes, I’m saying it, the Half-Blood Prince deserves serious consideration for an Oscar, and Felton deserves a best-actor nod.  And No, I don’t care if I’m alone in that opinion. It’s a brilliant movie.

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As much as I’m excited about Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are coming to theaters this Fall, I think I’m even more excited about the soundtrack. Arcade Fire re-recorded “Wake Up” for the trailer, and here’s hoping we hear a few more choice accoust selections

10 Albums better than Viva La Vida

Ok, I’ve blogged my discontent with Viva La Vida already, but as I delve into new or recent offerings by Indie bands, I can’t help but think that in spite of the lack of name recognition, they’re better than the new Coldplay album.

Perhaps this is the mark of a band that has officially shed it’s “indie-ness” that it can produce music on the basis of its name rather than on the basis of its talent (I can be harsh here because prior to Viva La Vida, I was smitten with the brilliance of Coldplay’s music…especially their last two albums).

So, in that vein here, in no particular order, is my list of Indie albums that are far more worth the $10 or so than Coldplay’s album (You might call this the 10 CDs I wish I would have bought instead of Viva la Vida):

1. Barcelona – Absolutes: I don’t care that this album was released a year ago, it’s only now that it seems they’ve started really marketing it on the Indie circuit. Fantastic album. Haunting harmonies. Singable melodies. And a freshness that defies the copy-cat-dom of mainstream music

2. Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs. It’s like they didn’t even miss a beat from Plans. It’s contagious, to say the least.

3. Weezer – Red Album: I know what you’re saying, it doesn’t belong on this list, might even be a slightly different genre of music. Well, not Weezer’s latest. It has incredible depth, both musically and lyrically. Check out “Miss Sweeney”…fantastic emotion for a song.

4. Polyphonic Spree – Fragile Army: I am usually loathe to say anything good about this band, because their style is so overwhelming that it bowls me over and makes me never want to listen to music again. Not this one. It’s diverse…at least, to the extent that Happy-Shiny 60s Power pop can be.

5. Iron & Wine – the Shepherd’s Dog: I’ve already blogged that this album is a major breakthrough. It’s infectious, and it’s better than the coldplay album.

6. The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter – A cheeky pick by me here…but still, not a bad album…

7. Wolf Parade- At Mount Zoomer: I don’t know what it is about Wolf Parade. It might be their spacey tunes mixed with classic Oingo Boingo guitars but I like it.

8. Ferraby Lionheart – Catch the Brass Ring. If you’ve never heard of Ferraby Lionheart, they have a breezy Beatles sound, with a lead singer who has a down to Earth but memorable voice. For a really nice selection of downloads, check them out on music.download.com. “The Ballad of Gus and Sam” is Indie Perfection.

9. A Fine Frenzy – One Cell In the Sea: I’m a sucker for a good piano piece, this one has plenty…and this mention is in spite of the copy-cat “airy” voice she sings with.

10. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible: Yeah, I know this one came out last year, but it’s still one of my favorite Indie albums. I’ve been listening to it for a year, and I’m still not tired of the haunting rhythms, the moving melodies, and the downright perplexing lyrics.