So far, 2010 is looking like a great year for indie and alternative rock.
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best indie albums 2008
For those of you unfamiliar with the In Dee Mail profile series, it has become a cornerstone of what sets this blog apart from the rest, and a popular platform to introduce relatively unknown, and talented, artists and bands (all who sent their music to us unsolicited) to music lovers worldwide; most of whom probably would otherwise have never heard many of the songs featured in the series anywhere else. Due to the overwhelming number of great songs submitted this year, the In Dee Mail series for 2009 will spill-over in to 2010.
First up, it's not another Stone Roses tribute act. Instead, the Montreal-India collective Elephant Stone is actually ex-High Dials' guitarist Rishi Dhir's new band. Elephant Stone's debut LP, The Seven Seas, delivers jangly indie pop infused with a distinctive Eastern influence.
We loved The Seven Seas 'hindie rock' from the get-go; it's nearly impossible to resist the LP's shimmering guitar riffs, lush harmonies and accomplished vocal work. No wonder Elephant Stone made the list of nominees for this year's Polaris Music Prize for best album, which was ultimately awarded to Toronto's F*cked Up for their 2009 release, The Chemistry of Common Life.
"I Am Blind" - Elephant Stone from The Seven Seas (2009)
Elephant Stone on MySpace
Melbourne, Florida's Clock Hands Strangle follow-up their CMJ Top 50 charting-debut with Distaccati; an evolution of their classic rock-influenced indie folk sound. Distaccati was mixed by legendary producer Geza X (Dead Kennedys, Meredith Brooks) at Satellite Park Studios.
Cognoscenti singer/songwriter, Todd Portnowitz, holds a degree in poetry from the University of Florida, and is currently attending the University of Wisconsin with the goal of receiving a master's in Italian. Throughout Distaccati, Portnowtiz and the band take the listener on a sonic and literal pilgrimage from an arid desert to the concrete miasma of New York City to an Alabama cotton field, weaving a story of the moon's eternal loneliness and a stone that questions its sculptor.
"Distacci" - Clock Hands Strangle from Distacci (2009)
Clock Hands Strangle on MySpace
The second music video from Distaccati, "The Moon Looks Back," features a collage of archival footage from B-movie sci-fi and monster flicks.
Although we already featured The Sun's second, and last album, Don't Let Your Baby Have All the Fun, as one of the best overlooked LP's of the year, it is so good that we have to share two more tracks with you all that were not included the initial review.
Unfortunately, Don't Let Your Baby Have All The Fun represents The Sun's break-up album, and yet, thankfully, the band left us with a magnificent LP that we'll cherish years from now. Like The Format, we'd love to see this band get back together some day. Fingers crossed. You can hear the influence of Spoon's producer Mike McCarthy all over this LP, which is, amazingly, available as a free download from RockProper.com.
"Alien" - The Sun from Don't Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
"Do The Sucker" - The Sun from Don't Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
The Sun on MySpace
Singer and songwriter Daniel Bellmann and bassist Olaf Borchert began to collaborate in a meadow near the Elbe River in Hamburg, Germany back in 2003. They started with just six simple songs and an old acoustic guitar. Three months later they were recording their material at Gentle Art Studio in Hamburg with help studio owner Karsten Deutschmann on guitar and session drummer Florian Brandel.
Deutschmann and the studio's co-owner and drummer, Henry Sperling, were so impressed with the music that they asked Bellman and Borchert to form the band, Six Simple Songs.
Band members of Six Simple Songs cite The Beatles, The Clash, Social Distortion, The Descendents, Hüsker Dü, Dramarama, The Replacements, Art Brut, U2 and Coldplay among their biggest musical influences.
"You Want It (To Be With Me)" - Six Simple Songs from Upside Down (2009)
Six Simple Songs on MySpace
Back in May we featured the Brooklyn band Aeroplane Pageant. Now we have another single from their latest - and widely acclaimed - LP to share with all of you. The band's first single, "Stars Still Pretty," was one of AOL's Top 10 tracks of 2009.
Aeroplane Pageant's 2007 debut LP Wave to the Moon paved the way for the band to open for bands like Vampire Weekend, The Hold Steady, Dr. Dog and Tokyo Police Club.
"Stars Still Pretty" - Aeroplane Pageant from Even The Kids Don't Believe Me (2009)
"I Remember I Think" - Aeroplane Pageant from Even The Kids Don't Believe Me (2009)
Aeroplane Pageant on MySpace
Lemonwilde is an unsigned, Los Angeles alternative rock band that create dark, spacious tracks full of crooning vocals, ambient guitars, and seductive drum and bass that at times are reminiscent of Radiohead, Muse and Franz Ferdinand.
Such bold comparisons pan out on the band's debut EP, Red Room, released earlier this year. The sprawling and forbidding track, "Danse," has helped make Lemonwilde a hit in the alternative rock scene. Another single, "Just This Ashtray," was featured on IRC this past summer. You can also listen to more songs from Red Room on Lemonwilde's official website.
"Danse" - Lemonwilde from Red Room EP (2009)
Lemonwilde on MySpace
This next couple of songs are definitely different from most of the music we usually feature on IRC. Cracked Latin's (yes, terrible band name) "Caracas Shakedown" is an enthralling and eclectic mix of genre-bending styles, including tropicana pop, Havana-New Orleans hybrid jazz with a Squirrel Nut Zippers meets They Might Be Giants feel throughout.
"Caracas Shakedown" - Cracked Latin from s/t debut (2009)
Nuyorican R&B and Latin Soul recording artist, and nephew of baseball legend Roberto Clemente, Lugo, is back with a new track that he is making available today for all of you called "Subway Songs," a cut from his latest LP, Oye. Lugo has traveled as a USO Armed Forces performer to Afghanistan, Korea, Spain, Italy, Japan and the UK to entertain U.S. troops deployed around the world. Lugo is signed to the independent label Love Kiss Music.
"Subway Songs" - Lugo from Oye (2009)
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What happens when a band with a major record label deal tosses it away and puts everything on the line in a bold move to return to their independent roots? The answer in the case of the rock band The Sun is simple: they create a masterpiece album.
But The Sun's split from Warner Bros. was not trouble-free nor fool proof - two band members left as a result, legal battles ensued and major disagreements with management were just some of the fallout in the wake of their decision to sever their contract and go indie.
“We hawked the gear, we sold the van, we squeezed as much as we could out of the label (Warner Bros.) and severed all ties,” The Sun's singer and guitarist Chris Burney said of the break.
In the aftermath of their former lives as big label artists, the remaining band members teamed up with Spoon producer Mike McCarthy to work on their second - and reportedly last - LP, Don’t Let Your Baby Have all the Fun, which was officially released as a free download on November 10th via RockProper.com. Free is great; but this is one record we'd gladly pay for, so if a vinyl edition comes out (please!), we'll let you know.
The Sun formed in 2001 after Burney wrote and recorded a tape of slick, gritty garage rock demos. With songs in hand, Burney recruited New Bomb Turks' drummer Sam Brown and Floatation Walls' guitarist Carlos Avendano to start a band. All three members dropped out of Ohio State University in Columbus to make music full-time. Eventually they were joined by another FW member, Brad Fosblom, on bass, and Brad Caulkins, on keyboards and guitar. (Subsequently, Avendarno, Fosblom and Arendt left the band to pursue other projects.).
In 2001-2002, The Sun began recording with Wilco's Jay Bennett in his Chicago. Within in few months time, the band signed with Warner Bros. and released their debut EP, Love and Death, in February 2003, followed two years later by their first LP, Blame It on the Youth. But the LP, despite its solid collection of songs, was a commercial failure, and the remaining band members - Burney, Brown and Caulkins - were uncertain of what would happen next.
Sometime in 2008, McCarthy contacted the band to express interest in producing their next album at his Austin studio. "I was a big fan of their first record," McCarthy said. "I was surprised [Blame It on the Youth] didn't become a huge, big, big deal."
"It was the first time that the band felt natural to me," Brown said. Even though other labels, including Merge Records, demonstrated interest to distribute the album, the band's manager deliberately delayed its release, apparently with the hope to elaborately promote it as a self-release - a formula that has worked well for other artists.
Frustrated by the LP's state of limbo, the remaining band members started giving away Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun at their 2008 ComFest performance, until its official release earlier this month via RockProper. Essentially giving up hope that the LP would be released by a label, Caulkins left to join LA's Afro-pop band, Fool's Gold.
The LP's first single, "So Long Sundays," blends catchy rhythms, high octane synthesizers, raspy vocals, and edgy lyrics, resulting in an seductive garage rock hit (and probably the most "Spoon-sounding" track on the LP.)
"So Long, Sundays" - The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
"The Goddess," is one of the most memorable tracks on the LP, and frankly of the latter half of 2009. The bright guitar riff alone hooks you into the grooves of the song's T. Rex-meets-Pavement sound. As it marches along enthusiastically for two and half minutes, the song suddenly ends, followed by a 40 second acoustic interlude ("A Prayer Before Dawn") which ends abruptly with a burp and a giggle.
"The Goddess"- The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
As you listen to this album, you can't help but notice how much fun the band is having, and it rubs off, as evidenced by tracks like new wave leaning recording "Cold Hands"; the epic, melodic pop rock of "In Perfect Time"; the danceable, excited, "Watch Out," and the lo-fi urgency suspense of "Alien."
"Cold Hands (Clap Louder)"- The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
"In Perfect Time" - The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
It's just too bad the band does not plan to record another album together. During the past year, Caulkins stated he has no interest in playing with The Sun again; Burney started a new band called Adult Fiction, and a record label, Eastern Watts; Brown continues to tour with RJD2 and has embarked on his new power-pop project, You're So Bossy.
If you enjoy the C86, glam rock and post punk music genres of the 1970's and early-to-mid 1980's - all of which paved the way for so much of the alternative and indie rock we enjoy today - you're probably going to love Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun. This LP is simply a masterpiece, and a decade from now, it will be regarded as a underrated classic. We can only hope that the band will reunite to record more music and set out on tour in the near future; absent that wishful-thinking, The Sun have left us with at least two amazing albums.
The Sun on MySpace
The Sun's Official website
Get The Sun's new LP free
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