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:

Image

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.

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.