First Look: Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns

I’m a firm believer in Indie bands that make it big. But I’m also not blind to the fact that once in the spotlight, Indie bands often reject the diversity and uniqueness of their own “indie-ness” for whatever worked for them to get them to the top.

I think it’s possible that Snow Patrol is approaching that point. They have found what works, and now they’re starting to hit the “copy” button.

Is A Hundred Million Suns good? Yes. No doubt about it. At times, it’s catchy and energetic. It has a great sound, and the usual Snow Patrol base lines and guitar riffs.

Is it new, unique, original? Not so much. If you like Eyes Open’s catchy radio-tunes like Chasing Cars and Hands Open, you’ll like this one. But the more I hear, the more I think: once you’ve heard one Snow Patrol song, you’ve probably heard them all. It’s the thing I hate most about U2. Every song sounds the same.

In fact, the first tracks sound like they were intended for Eyes Open, but kept on the shelf so the band could get some more mileage out of their sound. “If there’s a rocket, tie me to it” and “Crack the Shutters” are some of the worst offenders here. I swear I’ve heard “Engines” guitar riffs on another Snow Patrol song and “Set Down Your Glass” is the token slow and meaningful song, akin to Eyes Open’s “You Could be Happy.”

I will say this, though. Some songs are a complete departure from the Snow Patrol sound. “Lifeboats” and “The Golden Floor” have a distinct Iron & Wine flavor to them, though I doubt they will get much recognition from listeners or critics, and they’ll probably be written off as boring. “Lightning Strikes” is a moving piece with rich, whirling piano, horns, voice melodies and guitar riffs that make the song both deep and diverse. It’s probably one of the best things I’ve heard from Snow Patrol in a long time, and it’s stashed at the end of the CD.

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.