So far, 2010 is looking like a great year for indie and alternative rock.
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best indie albums 2008
First up: Dylan In The Movies is the musical brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Brian Sullivan. In 2006, Sullivan and his Boston band DIY'd their debut EP, Feel the Pull, and caught the attention of deejays at the popular rock radio stations KCRW and KEXP, as well as many bloggers.
The band's debut LP, Josephine If You Only Knew, will drop in the spring of 2010 on American Laundromat Records, featuring guest spots from The Watson Twins and Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses, Breeders, Belly). If you dig Echo and The Bunnymen, you're bound to enjoy this band's music. Looking forward to this LP; in the meantime, here's an advanced single.
"Josephine" - Dylan in the Movies from Josephine If You Only Knew (2010)
The Fling recently sent a song titled, "Wanderingfoot," and we were immediately intrigued by their 60's-era psychedelic rock sound mixed with elements of folk, and filled with multi-layered pop harmonies. The band include among their favorite bands and artists, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Richard Swift, Arlo Guthrie and Led Zeppelin.
In addition to their fellow Long Beach residents, Avi Buffalo, The Fling will be a southern California band to watch in 2010. You can buy some of their music on the band's official website.
"Wanderingfoot" - The Fling from Out of My Head 7" (2009)
Welcome to Ashley is a Chicago band that mixes the influences of post punk and power pop to create an original sound that has begun to creep out from the Windy City to other areas of the country. Their sophomore LP, Absent Man, was self-released. The band formed in Chicago with members of the former Missouri indie band The Bennies. It's hard not to want to hear more from a band that list among their favorite albums, The Stone Roses' self-titled debut, The Replacement's Don't Tell a Soul, and Jesus & Mary Chain's Darklands. Check out Welcome to Ashley's MySpace page for more.
"Nothing But Grey Skies Ahead" - Welcome to Ashley from Absent Man (2009)
In and around their home base of Philadelphia, the band East Hundred have been garnering positive reviews and building a loyal and growing fan base. Their debut album, Passengers (2008), was produced by Brian McTear (Matt Pond PA, A-Sides) and recorded at the Philly studios of Miner Street Recordings.
"Slow Burning Crimes" - East Hundred from Passengers (2008)
This next song sounds like early Velvet Underground meets The Doors; we dig the spacey, mysterious and psychedelic slow jam of the song "Strange Transmissions" from Orlando, Florida's Strangers Family Band.
"Strange Transmission" - Strangers Family Band from s/t EP (2009)
With credits on The Lonely Forest's excellent debut LP that we featured earlier this year, Seattle resident Michael Perkins has recorded some songs under the moniker Maklak, one of which we are featuring here called "Cutting Clouds." On the song, Maklak plays all of the instruments himself.
Drawing from the local influences of Nirvana and The Melvins, to name a few, Maklak serves up melodic alternative rock that is beginning to attract a fan base outside his following in the Pacific Northwest.
"Cutting Clouds" - Maklak, single release (2009)
The response to our featured article on the Arizona duo The Smiles and Frowns was huge - there were hundreds of downloads of their songs over the course of two weeks. See the original post here. Therefore, to meet the demand, and thank their many new fans, the band is sharing another single from their new, debut self-title LP.
"When The Time Should Come" - The Smiles and Frowns from s/t LP (2009)
Canada's Said the Whale newest album, Islands Disappear, is full of songs about Canada. The songs are folk inspired for the most part, and rely heavily on guitar picking and prolific lyrics. Last month, STW won the CBC Radio 3's Bucky Award for "Most Canadian Song" - "Emerald Lake, AB." You can buy the album containing that song, and other great tracks, on the band's official website.
"Holly, ON" - Said the Whale from Islands Disappear (2009)
This next artist was a nice surprise in our email box. We've always been fans of jazz, and Nheap, the moniker of Italian composer and musician Massimo Discepoli, delivers his own brand of jazz on the new release, Skymotion. It's not traditional jazz, but much more of a fusion with electro pop elements.
The first song, "Hldrrr," is sweet, even Christmas-y; perfect for a visit with guests sitting in front of the fire with your egg nog or Baileys. The follow up track, "Aphelion," sounds just like something that could work on a soundtrack to the TV show, Heroes.
"Hldrrr" - Nheap from Skymotion (2009)
"Aphelion" - Nheap from Skymotion (2009)
More noteworthy songs sent In Dee Mail:
"The Gospel Of Carlos, Norman And Smith" - Rickie Lee Jones from Balm in Gilead (2009)
"We're Gonna Make It" - The Orange Peels from 2020 (2009)
"The Glitch" - Zealots from Flowers For My Broken Head EP (2009)
"Motorcycle" - A Brief Smile from Restaurant Airport EP (2009)
"Sacred" - The Belated from Belief in the Process (2009)
Part One of the In Dee Mail Year-End Special Edition features:
- Sean Walsh & The National Reserve
- Jupiter One
- Julian Plenti
- Parlour Steps
- Fin Fang Foom
- Sabrosa Purr
- Jacob Faurholt
- Summer Dregs
- A Classic Education
- Mist and Mast
You can also view the entire In Dee Mail series on one page.
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Since receiving their debut, self-titled LP last month, we've played it again and again. In fact, we fell in love with it so much, that it became necessary to step back and wonder how does one write a review of such a surprisingly terrific album? First off, they are so original that it's difficult to even begin to classify their sound.
Each track on The Smiles and Frowns has its own charm, identity and story to tell. This release is easily one of the best indie music debut albums of 2009. Let's jump right in and fire up one of the album's many highlights, "The Echoes of Time."
"The Echoes of Time" - The Smiles and Frowns from s/t debut (2009)
If you find yourself playing that song again and again, and eventually singing along, or even humming, you won't be alone. It's one of the catchiest, most memorable songs of the year. The song's appeal can also be attributed to its sweet, organic simplicity.
The duo's contrasts are intriguing. For example, the guys switch it up on the next song, "Mechanical Songs," which starts off with a carnival like sampling before transitioning into a melancholic lo-fi ballad of sorts where the lyrics are at the forefront of the song backed only by guitar and some keyboard infusions. Interestingly, the song manages to pay justice to its title with a minimal reliance on instrumentation.
"Mechanical Songs" - The Smiles and Frowns from s/t debut (2009)
Amazingly, there are very few reviews of this album to be found online. This was a shock, to say the least, but it also somehow makes it all the more special - like our little wonderful secret.
The song, "Sam," is yet another example of the originality and honesty of The Smiles and Frowns' music. And this is also apparent in our Q/A (see below) with Adam Mattson. In true indie fashion, The Smiles and Frowns recorded their album in their own space using their own equipment, and proceeded to self release it on their own label, The Peppermint Hill.
"Sam" - The Smiles and Frowns from s/t debut (2009)
While not everyone is likely to give the LP 4.5 of 5 stars as we have, that's fine because there is a certain appreciation and attraction for the professed stylistic influences of French cinematic music and rock and pop bands like The Beatles, The Kinks and Pink Floyd that swirl and twirl to create a wonderful collage of artistic music throughout the record. Seriously, if you can wear down an MP3 album by playing it too much, we're well on the way with this one.
In the final analysis, it's nearly impossible to put into words the authentic appeal of The Smiles and Frowns' music, but it is yet another example of why we love great independent music so much.
The Smiles and Frowns on MySpace
IRC's Interview with The Smiles and Frowns
Q: Who are your musical influences, past and present?
A: It's impossible to list all the things that have influenced us...Well lets just say that all of the classic bands and albums have affected us. As for modern bands we like, just stop by our myspace page and dig around in our friends list and youll find plenty of brilliance. Damien Youth is a longtime favorite. And we recently were blown away by the artistry of R.W. Hedges, and we suggest checking both of them out.
Q: What genre would you say your music falls into?
A: A question like that can only be answered in regard to perspective. If you sit far enough back we might as well be just the same old classic pop/folk/psych band. But if you get up close and pay sincere attention, there is no one doing exactly what we are doing in the way that we are. So I'm glad to be such a part of tradition and revolution all at once.
Q: What are your thoughts on how bands and musicians can make a living in time when no one knows how to make money on their music?
A: This is tough to answer. I guess if there were only 10 bands on earth and there was no such thing as digital downloads those 10 bands would be rich. But there are a billion bands. Everyone and their brother is in a band. Music might as well be free these days because of how easy it is to get it, and how much of it there is. The only thing I can think of is for people to try to be more original and truly look inside themselves to find a more personal way to express themselves. That way, the art they are putting out will be more and more unique and rare, and it won't be something someone can just imitate. People can steal your face. They can steal your riff. But they can't ever steal your memories and your unique outlook, so I say look to those places for inspiration first, then worry about money later. Chances are if you tap into that personal thing in your art to that degree, money won't seem like such an essential part of being happy with your life.
Q: What are some of your favorite songs/albums?
A: Here are some songs, just off the top of my head, that we both enjoy: "Strawberry Tea" - Tiny Tim "The ABC's" - Dr. Dog "Land Of Oden" - Peter & Gordon "Cold Hard World" - Daniel Johnston "Chapi Chapo Theme" - François de Roubaix
Q: When did you form your label; any other artists on the roster; or plans for such?
A: The label (The Peppermint Hill) was first formed as a legal means of releasing music. But after awhile it seemed like a good idea to try to turn it into something more. We will just have to see how it goes. The only reason to do anything with it would be to get out more of the kind of stuff we think should exist and be heard.
Q: What kind of equipment do you use to record?
A: We have used all kinds. The realest of the real analog, and the fakest of the fake digital. We use things that are cheap and half broken and also some pretty high end stuff. We have been slaves to both the antique and the modern. But as far as specifics go, we have an old 1/2" 8 track reel to reel tape recorder, a Moog, various old guitars and basses, some effects pedals and tape echos, a tube amplifier, a banjo that everybody borrowed twice, and some old ribbon microphones. Its really just a big mix of all types of equipment from all eras, including modern technology.
Q: How and why did you guys start recording together?
A: We have known each other since high school, and both of us had a similar interest in music and art. Art with ironic twists and heavy escapism. We found ourselves in a band after several years of experimental recording and songwriting. It started off as just a means of self entertainment.
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: The current sound is a bit of a mix. There are haunted train ride songs, and children's theme music songs, psychedelic science fiction songs, etc. I guess it's mostly just a collection of experiments in sound, patterns, and melodies.
Q: How would you describe your process for writing and recording?
A: A lot of the songs are conceived melody first... as an idea forms, it springs forth from Adam into a micro-cassette recorder while banging down the road in a cupcake delivery truck. The melodies and lyrics are later fished out by us and then given a body. This is at least one way that our songs have found life.
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