Introducing the Nine

One thing I hate about top 10 lists, is that there’s always that one item on the top 10 that you can tell was simply a place-holder, a stupid and less than original point that they used because they couldn’t find anything better to say. For example,Top 10 Reasons to Wear Clean Underwear:

10. Because your mom said so (because, you know, you could be injured and may need it).

Either that or the grand master list makers just threw it in there to make someone happy. For example, Top 10 Reasons to Wear Clean Underwear:

10. Because your mom said so (because, you know, you could be injured and may need it) (don’t forget to call the Law offices of Mather and Mather if you’re injured!).

So, I’m putting my foot down on top 10 lists. No more TOP 10! It’s time to seize power from these faceless list makers and give it to those who deserve it: ME…ok, and you can have some too. Let’s share: I’ll take the top 9, you add one to make it an even 10.

Behold, the Nine.

First up: 9 Bands You May Not Know Now (but you should).

1. Rogue Wave: After years of fringe popularity, including a few song cameos on one of those over-dramatized teenage life TV dramas based somewhere in Southern California, it is now time to give Zach Rogue his due. Forget for a moment that he has had incredible odds to overcome, including tragic losses and even a doctor warning that playing music would lead to paralysis…Rogue Wave’s latest album is pure brilliance on its own merit. Chris and the gang have effectively seized the classic R.E.M. sound (that Stipe and the boys left behind in 1994) and merged it with an uncharacteristic catchiness that often escapes Indie music. With a forthcoming marquee at Lollapalooza, Rogue Wave will not suffer Indie obscurity for long. Album: Permalight. Song: Solitary Gun.

2. Mates of State: Frequenters of this blog will know my personal bias for Mates of State. And I believe, by now, they have a big enough following that you may already know them. But if you don’t, get on the proverbial train. The best girl-guy mixed band since X and The Goodwin Club. Their music has already infiltrated TV commercials (Carnival Cruise)…which is step 1 in securing Indie greatness. Bonus points for raising a family while touring and blogging about it! Their latest album is one of the best of the last 10 years. Album: Re-Arrange Us. Song: Re-Arranger

3. Slow Club. Odd name considering there’s nothing slow about this band. Probably the most uppity, can’t help but play along band I’ve ever heard. They merge an infectious immaturity with the attitude of a one-hit wonder. Album: Yeah So. Song: It Doesn’t Have to be Beautiful

4. Rodrigo and Gabriela. Yes, I’ve hyped them before, but good Spanish Flamenco with an Indie edge to it? It’s a hard combination to ignore. The astute observer will recognize their song “Tamacun” which is played every 15 minutes in the Hispanic Heart of Disney’s California Adventure (see: Tortilla Factory). Album: 11:11, Song: Hanuman.

5. The Annuals. Young and raw, not to mention un-contaminated by the glitzy world of pop and un-tantalized by the lure of grunge (but mixing the best of both those worlds), the Annuals have a sound that I can only describe as a mountain fresh air with a hint of gritty twang and raw exuberance. Love everything about them. Album: Such Fun. Song: Wake.

6. Iron and Wine. I may be 2 weeks too late in declaring this one. Iron and Wine fans will have caught the song cameo in NBC’s Parenthood a few weeks ago (see: baseball scene), which followed up a highlight in an M&Ms commercial (see: Cover, Such Great Heights). Others may just mistake Iron and Wine for Sufjan Stevens. But that would be a mistake. Stevens is melancholy to Iron and Wine’s infinite rhythm.

7.Great Northern. It only took one song to sell me on this band (see recommended song at end of paragraph). The power of Paramore without the teenage angst (or punk princess tantrums for that matter).  Album: Remind me where the light is. Song: Story

8. Matt Pond PA. Mix the mystery of Iron and Wine with the groove of Matthew Sweet, and you have Austin’s favorite son: Matt Pond. Only a matter of time before he’s featured in some sappy prime time hospital drama. Album: The Dark Leaves. Song: Stranger.

9. April Smith and the Great Picture Show: Sultry voice, rythmic entrancement, incredible beef to pick with any guy who has ever crossed her. Throw in the fun of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Perfect indie equation. Album: Songs for a Sinking Ship. Song: Terrible Things.

10. [Input Band Name Here]: Now, it’s your turn. Fill in the blank.

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).