Best New Indie Rock Songs and Albums, January/February, 2014 – Damien Jurado, Warpaint, Wild Cub, Hidden Cameras, Mogwai
As many of you probably know, there were not many releases from signed and popular indie rock and alternative artists and bands dropped during the month of January, until near the end of the month, which we have discovered over the years is actually typical for the first three weeks of a new year. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that it is right after the holidays and many people’s attention is focused elsewhere, they’re on vacations, getting ready to go back to school, wrapped up in football playoffs and so on.
Therefore, we’re starting with releases from popular, relatively new and signed – but not well-known necessarily – artists and bands that officially dropped during the week of January 21st through January 27th (Tuesdays are when more new releases are dropped by record labels, which has been the standard for decades). The top releases for the week of January 28th, which spills into the first couple of days of February, will be published in the next day or two, so watch out for that. Also, make sure not to miss out on Volume One of the Top DIY Songs & Albums of 2014 (So Far), which has gotten a huge amount of hits, plays and downloads, with many of the song available only on IRC. So, let’s get to it. Then we’ll be working really hard to get all caught up with February. It’s an incredible amount of work to sift through hundreds and hundreds of submissions to bring you the best indie rock playlists and bands around. There simply is no other indie rock site like IRC, and certainly none that post so many songs each month with free MP3s and uninterrupted playlists and podcasts of the best new indie and DIY music available on the web.
Singles from New Releases by Damien Jurado, The Hidden Cameras, and Mogwai
Beginning with the week of January 21st, the top singles include new songs from Damien Jurado, Mogwai, Warpaint, The Hidden Cameras, Thee Oh Sees, Wild Cub, Against Me, and Bill Callahan, among others.
A good deal of the lead singles from new releases for the last full week (1/21 to 1/27) of January 2014 are similar stylistically – with varying degrees of experimental, dark, melancholy and psychedelic sound signatures, sometimes with one or more genres interwoven and threaded together. The less rock and less pop influences, and the more trippy and dark characteristics, are unmistakable, as you will hear in the sequencing of the singles’ playlist for the week of January 21.
This first cluster of 2014 singles kicks off with Damien Jurado‘s spooky, psychedelic jam on “Silver Timothy.”
“Silver Timothy” – Damien Jurado from Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son via Secretly Canadian
Next, The Hidden Cameras‘ trippy orchestral experimentation on “Year of the Spawn,” is one of the finest new songs of 2014, without a doubt. There’s a certain Sgt. Pepper-esque composition present, with a build-up to a noisy, riffling, and chaotic climax that includes a sonic duel, rather than a duet, between the viola and piano, and ultimately, all of the instruments. It’s unquestionable the song was influenced by The Beatles‘ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. After all, it is pretty much unavoidable for a songwriter and musician – unless they’ve been completely oblivious and somehow cut-off from pop and rock music for the past 50 years – not to be directly or indirectly influenced The Beatles. The fact is that there is some really fine, skillful craftsmanship going on in the The Hidden Cameras’ camp, and their latest album is proof positive.
We’ve been spinning the songs in this playlist again and again over the past two weeks, and some of them, just get better with each spin. That’s when you know you have a song that will stand the test of time. After the masterful, intense, even mind-blowing, experience of “Year of the Spawn,” we needed to pick the right follow-up tune, and Mogwai‘s single, “Remurdered,” fit the bill. Although the song is not a new Mogwai song, it is one of the tracks on the band’s new Sub Pop compilation Rave Tapes, which makes the compilation a nice treat for die-hard Mogwai fans. All things considered, what can be said about the greatness of Mogwai that hasn’t already been said over the years?
“Year of the Spawn” – The Hidden Cameras from Age via Evil Evil
“Remurdered” – Mogwai from Rave Tapes via Sub Pop
Selected Singles from New Albums by Warpaint, Bill Callahan, The Oh Sees and Wild Cub
The next set of IRC’s selected singles from the first batch of 2014 album releases by signed and well-known artists and bands (which we separate from our DIY/unsigned, small label posts and playlists) highlights Warpaint, Bill Callahan, The Oh Sees and Wild Cub. From Warpaint‘s January release comes the semi-dreamy, semi-melancholic track, “Biggy,” perhaps the album’s best song, and no wonder it was chosen as the first single to be released by Rough Trade. Don Yates at KEXP in Seattle wrote that Warpaint’s sophomore, self-titled, album release, is a “more subtle and minimalist take on the band’s brooding dream-pop, featuring a dark, atmospheric, sound with swirling guitars and keywords, prominent bass line, hypnotic rhythms and ethereal harmonies.” Word, bro, word.
Next, the subdued mood continues with Bill Callahan‘s newest single, “Expanding Dub,” and its mystical melancholy and experimental trippiness – all of which is interesting considering that more of Jurado’s new work veers more into those realms. Thee Oh Sees‘ single, “Coma,” which by its name alone, fits into the over-riding theme of the week. “Coma,” however, is remastered single from TOS’s new Singles I & II compilation.
Now it’s time to switch gears and lighten things up withWild Cub‘s catchy indie dance pop song, “Thunder Clatter,” a song that could easily get caught in your head.
“Biggy” – Warpaint from Warpaint via
“Expanding Dub” – Bill Callahan from Have Fun With God via Drag City Records
“Coma” – Thee Oh Sees from Singles Collection 1 & 2 via Castleface
“Thunder Clatter” – Wild Cub from Youth via Mom+Pop Records
Against Me! Gets More Pop; Rev. Horton Heat Dials In Jazzy Blues
Wild Cub’s track right above sets up the next bloc of the singles nicely. In fact, the latest song, “Black Me Out,” from the long-running punk rock band, Against Me!, sounds much more like a pop rock kind of a band than the punk rock Against Me! band that we used to know; everyone needs to evolve at some point. The question is: Will it work for long-time, hard-core fans of the band? The Reverent Horton Heat returns with album No. 120 or something like that and the halfway decent jazzy, bluesy rockabilly style track, “Spooky Boots,” that might remind some of the Squirrel Nut Zippers; wonder (well, just for a second, actually) whatever happened to them?
The album cover art for REV is fantastic. In an age when album cover art isn’t taken as seriously by artists and bands as it was in the 70s and 80s – part of the 90s – it’s extra noticeable when an artist cares about the cover art to their album. You may not be able to judge a record by its cover, but it sure can entice, and definitely impress, and thereby, increase the chances of a sale – at a time also when people don’t buy as much physical music as they used to – a great album cover can absolutely encourage sales that may otherwise not happen.
“Spooky Boots” – Reverend Horton Heat from REV via Victory Records
“Black Me Out” – Against Me! from Transgender Dysphoria Blues via Total Treble Music
NYC Indie Band herMajesty Release Stellar New Single
The New York City indie rock/pop band, herMajesty, which we first profiled back in 2010, and again in 2011, are back with a new album, and a new label, Bittersweet Records. Plus, the band has had the honor to opened for bands like The B-52s, The Tom Tom Club, Say Hi to Your Mom, and Boxer Rebellion.
Combining poetic lyrics, a memorable chorus (sung by a choir of elementary school children), and a clarion-like trumpet accompaniment, the band’s newest single, “One by One”, is what they call their “most accessible song to date,” even though they don’t exactly say what they mean by that. Nevertheless, it’s definitely one of the standout tracks of the week. The band’s songwriter and chief architect, JP (John Paul? Jose Perez? Jack Pontanopolous? – we do not know), was granted citizenship in the U.S. when he was eight years old. At that early age, JP was already a student of modern Greek poetry and classic Greek tragedy.
“The motivation to use a children’s choir on the new single came from the idea that we are all struggling to come to grips with the promise of our youth and the reality of adulthood while maintaining a connection to the life affirming energy and sense of wonder of those early years” says JP. The band’s principal musical influences include Roxy Music, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Jon Hopkins, and Eagulls.
“One by One” – herMajesty from One by One – Jan. 22th
Coming up next: Top singles playlist for the week of January 28th to February 2nd and the February top hits playlists, as well as more great DIY releases.