Compared to his previous releases Pool and Slow Dance in the Cosmos, Aaron Maine’s project Porches shows simplicity and restraint in his latest electro-pop-driven album, The House. With this new chapter, in the majority of the tracks Maine ditches the auto-tune he picked up in Pool and favors his soulful, uninhibited vocals. While there are several forgettable tracks on the album, there are some stunners that I just can’t get enough of right now. Continue reading
Indiecation Top 20 Indie Rock Albums of 2017
It’s that time of year when everyone’s lists are rolling out. And while most are a mish-mash of pop, hip-hop, electronic and rock, Indiecation’s top 20 lists only “indie” rock and some electronic music.
In the 2017 indie scene, reverberating, dreamy sounds and rhythms ranging from ultra-minimal to jazz-inspired and complex reigned supreme. In some cases, vocals took a bit of a back seat, allowing for the instrument compositions to really shine through.
We saw some really great lo-fi pieces come center stage too, with Jay Som and Hoops coming to mind. But at the same time, we saw some of our favorites like Beach Fossils and Alex G really come into their own and take some damn risks.
These albums, in my humble opinion, are all incredible in their own way. Just ordering them was though enough! And while I’m sure there’s a lot more out there I just didn’t even have a chance to listen to, I believe that these well represent what’s great about the indie rock scene today.
Would love to hear your thoughts! What were some of your faves this year? And what do you think of this list? Please comment below.
20. Sondre Lerche – Pleasure
This ’80s pop forward number is certainly a pleasurable listen. “Siamese Twin” is devastatingly stunning, and easily one of my favorite tracks of the year. While there are certainly some skippable tracks on this one, the hits far outweigh the misses. And regardless, each song has it’s own “goodness” about it.
19. Hand Habits – Wildly Idle (The Humble Before the Void)
This dark, folk-y album is permeatingly soft, and is structured with varied minor arpeggios with the vocals in a strong whisper floating above. Listen to standout tracks “In Between” and “Demand It,” which feature devastatingly relatable lyrics like “can you even stand it / being all alone.”
18. TOPS – Sugar at the Gate
This indie-pop album will transport you to various decades. Incorporating soul and disco elements, ’80s sounds and dream-pop, Sugar at the Gate is pop-y enough to appeal to fans of Haim with tracks like “Further,” while guitar-centric tracks like”Petal” and “Dayglow Bimbo” will get indie rockers out on the dance floor as well.
17. Mac Demarco – This Old Man
Goofball Mac Demarco came out with a pretty solid album this year, opening up about his tumultuous relationship with his father and how he’s beginning to see himself as his old man more and more. Standout tracks like the fuzzy, folky number “This Old Dog” really showcase DeMarco’s soft, breezy vocals. He also masters sultry comedy with “One More Love Song” and keeps it cool with the electro-forward “On the Level.” Again, we see more jazz (or jizz-jazz) influences in this indie-forward album.
16. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet
The 6-minute dreamy opener, “Diving Woman” will hook you into this album instantly. And when you get to the second track “Road Head” you’ll be convinced that Soft Sounds from Another Planet is worth diving into fully. While ultimately a dream-pop album with elements of indie rock, several songs like “Machinist” are straight up danceworthy.
15. Hoops – Routines
I hadn’t heard of this group before I was given an assignment to review Routines this past summer, and I must say I was delightfully surprised. This is a lo-fi summer staple, crafted with dreamy guitars and hazy vocals, and mostly upbeat tracks. “Suns Out” is by far the first thing you should listen to this summer — or even for a day at the beach here in sunny so Cal this “winter.”
14. Surf Curse – Nothing Yet
This one is probably the wild card, local band that’s not on anyone’s radar quite yet. But Reno-based punk group Surf Curse are making quite a name for themselves in the L.A. punk shows, landing themselves opening acts with The Drums and sold out shows. Nothing Yet is brilliant lo-fi, imperfect, raw and rusty. Check out tracks like “Doom Generation” and “All Is Lost” for your dose of millennial angst.
13. Alvvays – Antisocialites
There were so many standout hits in this album — from feel-good tracks like “Pimsoll Punks” to the more heartbreaking “Now That You’re Not My Baby,” Alvvays never gave out on crafting unique melodies and bridges to go along with each track. And though their sound can be a little pop-y for me at times, their songwriting in this album was absolutely on point.
12. Wolf Alice – Visions of A Life
This punk-forward, dark album hooked me in pretty quickly, and after the first couple listens, I became a big fan. While harder tracks like “Yuk Foo” will appeal to your angst, dreamy, belting songs like “Don’t Delete the Kisses” will do just the same to your softer, emo side. There’s a doom-like feel to each track, whether it’s more punk or electro-forward, or even pysch-centric like “Formidable Cool.” “Sadboy” is a doom-y, distorted favorite with a really incredible breakdown. The best way to describe Visions of A Life would probably be “the bright side of doom.”
11. Real Estate – In Mind
While we didn’t see a whole lot of innovation from Real Estate this year, the band did what they do best — produce well-thought-out, jangly indie rock. They played around with rhythm changes too in the hit “Darling,” and threw in a classic jam sesh at the end of “Two Arrows,” which was quite possibly my favorite screeching jam I’d heard all year. I thought Real Estate put together a really pleasant, cohesive album that gave me a break from the depressing shit I tend to gravitate to.
10. Beach Fossils – Somersault
I know Beach Fossils’ latest probably had mixed reviews both from fans and publications, but I found Somersault to be quite a strong listen. They played a lot more with strings and brass, adding some richness to tracks like “Saint Ivy,” which was basically a post-election ode to the Beatles. But in “This Year” and “May 1st,” we heard that familiar hazy, reverberating Beach Fossils sound. My absolute favorite from the album though was the faster-moving “Down The Line.” With lyrics like “These days I feel like I do nothing right / so come with me and we’ll go down the line,” it had me singing along, feeling every single lyric.
9. Chastity Belt – I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone
I really think that if I were to ever be in a band, I’d want to make the kind of music Chastity Belt does. It’s crisp, unpretentious, and the lyrics are super-relatable, particularly if you’re a woman. Just based on the opening song “Different Now,” which was one of my top listened to this year, this album was already a great contender. The counterparts in the guitars, low, resonant vocals, and of those lyrics… “You’re hard on yourself / but you can’t always be right” are so easy to really feel as you sing along, as the melodies they come up with are simple but so stunningly natural. Another great lo-fi, post punk number for the books!
8. Jay Som – Everybody Works
So I really loved Jay Som’s Turn Into and was also pretty pleased with this latest release. Everybody Works could be found on just about every major music publication’s top 50, but since it’s indie only, I say it’s top 10 material without a doubt. The popular “Bus Song” is catchy and well-written, but I favored the Wild Nothing-esque tracks like “One More Time, Please” and the even dreamier “Baybee.” This was absolutely one of my favorite lo-fi albums this year.
7. (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
The young PA native Alex G has yet again released a stunning album with Rocket. The addition of strings, folk and jazz influences really make each track come alive in its own way. “Proud” has a bit of a ragtime feel with the jazzy keyboards and simple melody. “County” and “Guilty” are perhaps my favorite — the former with a dreamy, hazy feel about the vocals, and each with their blatant jazz-inspired licks. And while he probably is so over being referred to as the “modern-day Elliot Smith,” the line between the two is so clearly drawn.
6. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
In their latest album, Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear show how their sound had evolved, incorporating more electronic influences than their previous albums. Droste and Rossen equally lead the vocals in the group and give us new stunning hits like “Three Rings” and the radio-popular “Mourning Sound.” This album was a really stellar comeback for the group, who hadn’t released any material really since 2012’s Shields.
5. King Krule – The OOZ
19 tracks can be a lot to take in, but King Krule’s sophomore debut is beautiful and deliberate. With stunning, heart-wrenching songs like “Lonely Blue” and “The Ooz,” and jazzy, electronic numbers like “Czech One,” The Ooz is a non-stop savor.
4. Slowdive – Slowdive
Slowdive came back in a big way this year, releasing the most stunning shoegaze album. After 22 years, this group proved that they haven’t missed a beat as they resurfaced with an impeccable album that has suited the likes of fans both old and new. Songs like “Star Roving” fit beautifully into the current dream-pop, post-punk scenes. While it takes a few listens to fully appreciate, the first song “Slomo” will make you want to dive right in with it’s 7-minute, ethereal sounds.
3. Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex
This minimal yet beautiful album will pull at your heartstrings. The lyrics are so devastatingly relatable, all pertaining to relationships. Songs like “K.” and “Apocalypse” give you a glimpse into singer Greg Gonzalez’s intriguing love life, but “Each Time You Fall In Love” is sure to hit you where it hurts, as he sings “each time you fall in love / it’s clearly not enough.”
2. Priests – Nothing Feels Natural
Priests’ debut album came in strong this year. Upon the first listen, I was instantly hooked — singer Katie Alice Greer’s vocals remind one of the powerful belts of X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene. And with hit title track “Nothing Feels Natural,” we catch a glimpse of everything that’s great about post-punk. This album instantly came to mind when building my top 20 this year.
1. Mount Kimbie – Love What Survives
While several albums were deserving of this spot, none quite came together as well as Mount Kimbie’s Love What Survives. A beautiful collection of electronic, post-punk and krautrock, this album is full of sonic variety. Each song, whether it includes vocals or not, simply shines in it’s unique way. Songs like “Marilyn” and “T.A.M.E.D.” are instant hits with singable lyrics like “I’m looking up at you / are you looking up at me” and “think about me every day / forever,” and have this minimal/repetitive style that manage to be super intriguing, never tiresome. With featured artists like James Blake and King Krule, the project is taken to a whole new level.
Grizzly Bear at the Wiltern
This past Wednesday, December 13, I had the pleasure of catching a sold-out Grizzly Bear show at the Wiltern theater in Koreatown. By the time I arrived around 7:30, the GA bottom floor of the theater was filling up at the pit, so I spotted an opportunity to secure a prime viewing spot on the third riser level, which I quickly grabbed before the opening act started.
Opening act Serpent With Feet was a bit of a wild card. The solo electro-poetry act engaged the audience with word play, reality checks and kindness. “Leave softer than we came,” was his challenge to the audience, along with his love for “adult playtime.” Continue reading
Love Songs to the Heartbroken
So this is a list of songs I’ve carefully compiled over the past couple months — from the depths of Desert Daze to the antiphonies of Cigarettes After Sex — this compilation is sure to draw out any emotion that’s ready to come forward.
This mix is inspired by my breakup, my time at Desert Daze, Beach Goth, and just from seeing movies and TV shows that made me feel… well… anything.
Without further ado, here’s a comp of what I’ve been into for the past couple months:
Beach Goth is Dead, But its Spirit is Alive as Ever
This past weekend, I headed to San Pedro’s waterfront to watch two whole days of live music. Although I’ve been to a few major festivals this year including Desert Daze and Music Tastes Good, I was most excited for this lineup, mainly to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the B-52’s, Beach Fossils, Cigarettes After Sex and some of my favorite smaller acts like the Paranoyds, Billy Changer, and La Luz. I was also excited to re-live my high school punk days by catching FEAR and Bad Brains. Continue reading
Music Tastes Good – A Lineup Filled With Flavor
There was literally something for everyone at this year’s Music Tastes Good Festival at the Marina Green Park in Long Beach, CA. Dance/EDM? Check. Hip-Hop? Check. Indie Rock? Check. Dad Rock? Check.
Long Beach pride simply ran through this festival. From the local chefs and restaurants to the liberal use of “what up, Long Beach!” to hype up the crowd, it was clear that people were both surprised and delighted to be there. Continue reading
Beach House and Fleet Foxes at the Hollywood Bowl
It had been so long since I’d been to the Hollywood Bowl I’d forgotten just what a magical place it could be. I didn’t need to think twice, however, when I had the opportunity to snag a ticket to see two incredible bands: Beach House and Fleet Foxes.
Beach House I had seen a few times before, so I was already prepared to be blown away by them once again. I was excited to also catch my first live Fleet Foxes show because Robin Pecknold & Co. are musical geniuses.
I arrived early before the sun went down to have a picnic with friends overlooking the city. The show started promptly at 7:45 with Beach House as the opening act. They were backlit during the entire performance, their classic starlit backdrop sparkling on early in the set. They started with “Levitation,” allowing the music to start on a soft note. Singer Victoria Legrand hid behind her hair, singing softly at first, but exposing her full range later in the set. While they’re usual set ending song, “Elegy to the Void” wasn’t quite as dramatic in the open space, it’s still one of my favorites to see live. They also played “Chariot” from their latest B-Sides and Rarities release. This time they ended the set with “Myth,” the first track on Bloom, which was just as fitting to close the set. Legrand rarely spoke to the audience, but when she did it was about love, gratitude and appreciation for being able to perform again with Fleet Foxes.
After Beach House’s hour-long set, Fleet Foxes took the stage. Robin Pecknold’s voice was solid throughout the set, and the harmonies were simply magnificent as well. They really played up the dynamic contrasts, utilizing the Bowl’s full capacity, ranging from belting to whispering from dramatic effect. While they played many songs I recognized like “Ragged Wood” and “Mykonos,” I was blown away by several of their newer, more epic-scale tracks I had not yet heard. “On Another Ocean (January / June)” started off delicately and then went into an indie rock beat. While it was one of the more straightforward tracks in a set laden with tempo and time changes, it was stunning. Another breathtaking performance was of “The Shrine / An Argument,” an 8 minute track that featured an angsty Pecknold melody and built up into a cymbal-crashing, driving chorus. It was one of those sets that was welcomingly long. And just like that the night was over, and we were forced to come to terms that each of our cars were blocked in as we ventured down the hill to our cars.
Beach House set list:
10 Mile Stereo
Elegy to the Void
Fleet Foxes set list:
I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar
Cassius, – Naiads, Cassadies
On Another Ocean (January / June)
He Doesn’t Know Why
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Third of May / Ōdaigahara
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Ridge Mountains
Blues Run the Game(Jackson C. Frank cover)
Set lists from http://www.setlist.fm, Photo from Sub Pop
Enter the Enchanted Forest of Jen Gloeckner’s VINE
Iowa-Based Bedroom Pop artist Jen Gloeckner released VINE just earlier this year, and the result is hauntingly stunning. The bedroom-recorded dream-pop album, released on Spinning Head Records, evokes hypnotic, reflective emotions.
The album opens with “Vine,” setting the mood with harp-like synth minor arpeggios and dark atmospheric sounds. Gloeckner’s vocals echo in a simple, eerie melody in which she declares she’s “all right without your love.” “Firefly” swells in a trance-inducing instrumental soundscape. “Breathe” is dreamy yet danceable with an industrial hypnotic vibe. What makes this track stand out is the avant-garde instrumentation — some electronic strings wail just before the halfway point of the song, and the “ahs” in the chorus pair perfectly with the rhythm of the synths. “Ginger Ale” could be straight out of Lana Del Rey’s repertoire with drooping vocals set to an ethereal backdrop. But the instrumental with piano and strings take the track into more complex territory, in a good way.
“The Last Thought” has a dreamy retro-vibe featuring a folk inspired tune, a steady drum beat and swelling strings with cascading guitars. “The last thought of my day / was kissing you goodbye” she sings in a hopeless romantic kind of way. “Blowing Through” has just about the most pronounced vocals Gloeckner will give in the album. She sings a winding tune over dreamy soundscapes and sliding guitars to a ballroom tempo. “Counting Sheep” will certainly get you ready for bed with heavenly harp arpeggios and angelic backing vocals. “Prayers” stretches time by utilizing a quick dance beat and slowing down in the chorus. “Colors” is ambient in nature and share a glimpse of Gloeckner’s despair — “Fill me back in,” she pleads, mourning a lost love. “Row With the Flow” channels the Twin Peaks theme and is another true standout. “Somebody’s sinking way too low / Somebody simply rows with the flow / I know it’s not that easy,” Gloeckner sings undoubtedly about following her passion. “Sold” closes the album on a dreamy yet moving folk note.
Both the lyrics and ambient nature of VINE give the album an art-song, poetic feeling. Listening to it is like stepping into Gloeckner’s enchanting bedroom — a forest-like place to reinvent yourself while you soothe your soul.
Take a listen to the full album here, or purchase VINE on iTunes:
FSO X INDIECATION Summer Playlist Vol. II
FSO X INDIECATION Summer Playlist Vol. II is here! My good friend and show buddy Cynthia of For Swooners Only and I have teamed together yet again this year to bring you a compilation of summer-worthy tracks that’ll have you swooning.
Perfect for road trips and coastal drives, vol. II incorporates a bit of the “old” and the new, featuring classics like Hall & Oates to new gems like Hoops. Being on opposite sides of the U.S., our collaborative process included texts back and forth, adding our own new faves and tried and true tracks separately, only to discover that we’ve been more in sync than ever.
So, without further ado, please enjoy this summer’s soundtrack:
(Sandy)Alex G & Japanese Breakfast at the Echoplex
On the 15th of June I caught a sold out show at the Echoplex with opener Cende, Japanese Breakfast, and Alex G.
Japanese Breakfast performed some new songs, sharing that their new album would come out next month. The singer was perfectly charming, even stepping out during Cende’s set to sing a song with them. Highlights from their set included their dreamy opening track and “Everybody Wants to Love You.”
(Sandy) Alex G, if you haven’t seen him live, is really something special. Their set was long without feeling over extended, and they played mostly tracks off their latest album, Rocket. Alex G switched from guitar to piano smoothly with a mild power interruption, and while I was happy to hear “Guilty” live, they were missing some key players on stage to round out the song like their sax and violin players. But regardless, Alex G’s intense talent and cool factor, even the way he quickly sways constantly while playing guitar had me in a star-struck trance. Their performance of “Sportstar” sans auto-tune made me a believer in the song, requiring me to go back and listen to it in the car with even more enthusiasm and respect.
Upon completing their jazz jam session in “Guilty,” Alex G said casually, “well, that was our set….what do you guys wanna hear?” This was so refreshing, as most bands these days aren’t quite as quick on their feet or even as cool to allow the crowd to shout out some requests. But they took the requests and played them, even the older more rusty ones, with ease. I was especially delighted when they played “Mis,” a particularly beautiful but depressing track with lyrics like “My baby’s all right / she just doesn’t wanna see me tonight / not for a minute / not for a second / she says there’s nothing here for you to make right.” Crying yet?
I was walking on air on the way out, and the only thing that added to my elation was a Zachary Cole Smith sighting (of DIIV) leaving the show – band members, they’re just like us!