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best indie albums 2008
Benjamin Romvari is one of the most talented one-man band artists we have heard in the past year. His one-man music project, ironically named Ben's Imaginary Band, sets the tone for songs that are lyrically ironic, morbid and hopeful, but musically soft, dreamy and mellow.
"The band, not being a real band, consequently never formed," Romvari said. "And so, there is little to tell about its history. I’ll say I came up with the name...after going through many other names."
At the age of six, Romvari's parent bought him a violin from a thrift store and enrolled him in lessons. But Romvari stopped taking lessons after a year. Years later, at the age of 15, he rediscovered his musical interests by practicing on an acoustic guitar "with the same intention any 15-year-old boy [who] picks up a guitar [has]...to impress a girl."
Eventually, Romvari began singing and playing an electric guitar as a teen and was encouraged by friends and family. He began to acquire "low-end" recording equipment and writing songs.
In 2007, Romvari selected some of his favorite songs and put them on his DIY LP debut, Nocturnal Fables and Illusions. Last, year he followed up Nocturnal with a debut EP, where his music really stood out, especially after listening to the EP a number of times. And of course, the credits for achieving such a memorable set of songs goes up when you consider that one person did all of the writing, singing, playing of instruments, recording, mixing and promotion himself.
"The Magical Floating Bed" - Ben's Imaginary Band from Trust EP (2009)
Romvari's talent is undeniable, even eye-opening. His songs are lush with dreamy melodies, mellowed out, sluggish glaze, heart-felt lyrics, and even melancholy (on the song "Emerald Dream Thief," which somehow reminds us a bit of Melpo Mene), but in a beautiful way, like artists such as Nick Drake and Elliott Smith were so good at.
The artists that influenced Romvari's music the most are diverse from Frank Sinatra to Harry Nilsson, The Beach Boys and The Beatles to The Pixies, Radiohead, Nirvana and Aphex Twin.
"Emerald Dream Thief" - Ben's Imaginary Band from Trust EP (2009)
Some of the lyrics are light, and some are head-scratchers (or just ironic?): - "I'm in love/with a girl/Who sometimes leaves this world/Cause I can't find her some days" (from the song "Emerald Dream Thief") - and some songs are fairly gruesome: "When I was four years old/We had a burnt black pellet stove/And one day I found a frail female mosquito/And I don't know if she knew but I thought/she could do with a little more warmth/So I let her go on top that old black stove/And I watched her dance her life away" (from the song "Perspective of a Mosquito").
"Perspective of a Mosquito" - Ben's Imaginary Band from Trust EP (2009)
"Slapback" - Ben's Imaginary Band from Trust EP (2009)
Here is a pair of two of our favorite songs from Ben's debut DIY LP, Nocturnal Fables and Illusions.
"Underwater Waltz" - Ben's Imaginary Band from Nocturnal Fables and Illusions (2007)
"The Last Living Man" - Ben's Imaginary Band from Nocturnal Fables and Illusions (2007)
Ben's Imaginary Band on MySpace
The 200 Lurkers is the moniker of Cologne, Germany musician Philip Hoffman. His music has a wistful, melancholy feel, but is buoyed by an innate sense of whimsicality that is reflected in the delicate instrumentation and Hofmann's unique voice.
Charmingly off-kilter melodies carry along lyrics full of exceptional imagery: with all manner of references to exploding beehives, celestial bodies, and birds with nacreous wings, they often depict a duality of the ordinary miraculousness of life wrapping around a pearl of bitterness and loss.
Hoffman, who records in his home studio, counts among his musical influences Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Leonard Cohen, Loney Dear, Phoenix, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Laura Veirs, James Yorkston, among others.
He has garnered a small, but dedicated, fan base worldwide in the past three years. Musically, the 200 lurkers straddle several genres from twee pop to new folk to alt-country; Hofmann is fond of incorporating unconventional musical instruments and technologies (such as water glasses, children's toys, distorted recordings of his or his friends' voices, or archaic drum machines), and each song is of its own character and temperament, defying easy classification. We are really loving his music; check out the free tracks below, and tell your friends.
"The Last Guest" - 200 Lurkers from s/t debut
"Dialogues" - 200 Lurkers from s/t debut
"Spacewalk (Live)" - 200 Lurkers from live show
200 Lurkers official website
We're going to go back to late last summer to tell you about a musician, who at that time released a batch of songs with the moniker Brad P and the Son of Sam. We were really impressed with the songs, but just never got around to featuring his music. He is Brad Petering, a college student and musician from Davis, California.
After the dissolution of The Gingersnaps in 2009, Petering sent out on his own and to create and produce a number of songs he had worked on personally. And like most one-man (or woman) 'bands,' Petering played all of the instruments, including guitar, bass, keys, drums, in addition to programming, editing and mastering the tracks.
Because of the reaction from many people, including his parents, to the "Son of Sam" (a notorious New York City serial killer in the 1970s) aspect of his band name, Petering told IRC that he will retire the name. However, what came from that lo-fi experimental period last year were a few terrific tracks, even though they are somewhat thematically morbid.
"Girl in a Box", the album's lead single, is a first-person account of a man who, keeps his girlfriend in a box. That's definitely not going to go over well with some people, but let's not try to be too serious here; it's just a song, and it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
According to Petering's own bio, he realizes some people will be offended by this material:
"Despite the grim subject matter, don't expect any existential naval-gazing - Brad P and the Son of Sam oozes with Petering's trademarked deadpan irony."
Interestingly enough, Petering has opened for artists and bands like Citay, Calvin Johnson, Drew Danburry, Da Bears, and his former band, The Movers and the Shakers. The later band, which made some great music, are now disbanded.
According to Petering, some of his biggest influences include the Velvet Underground, Fiery Furnaces, Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, Adam Green, Beat Happening, Elf Power and others.
Download the album for free on the Brad P and the Son of Sam MySpace page.
"Girl in a Box" - Brad P and the Son of Sam from s/t EP
"Nothing" - Brad P and the Son of Sam from s/t EP
"Crazy Weekend" - Brad P and the Son of Sam from s/t EP
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