Today was not a day for complicated music. I decided to leave the progressive rock and jazz on the shelf. This was not the time for post-rock. Sometimes, I like to strip things back, and go back to the fundamentals. Those are the days I go “Full Indie,” and today was one of those days.
I harbor a deep-seated love for the “indie” sound, even if I do a terrible job of defining it. Perhaps that’s because I’m hesitant to define music, lest I handicap it. But for the sake of argument, my idea of “indie” music is rock and roll at its most basic, compared to what I’m normally listening to. There are no odd time signatures, no interlocking guitar figures, no rampant drum solos, and next to no “concept” records. Instrumentation is usually limited to two guitars, bass, and drums. The occasional keyboard is ok for texture, as are other instruments. But they are rarely used to carry the sound. They merely augment it. Production is relatively simple. This is music that could be cut live by the band in a single room. Overdubs are rarely necessary. There are few studio tricks. A band, their gear, some microphones, and a room. That’s it.
But the music produced is genuine. It’s honest. It’s not driven by the need for a “single.” It just is.
There are songs of love, loss, longing, reconciliation, death, life, and all points in between. All the listener has to do is sit back and let the sound wash over him. It’s a great place to be.
Bandcamp has done wonders for my search for interesting indie bands. The bands are definitely out there. And they are making marvelous sounds. My finds aren’t always “new,” meaning it’s possible the band has been around for a couple of years without my knowledge. But I’d rather be late to the party than not show up at all.
Slooucher is a recent favorite of mine. They hail from Seattle, which is readily evident by their Nirvana-influenced sound. But rather than opt for over-the-top distortion or punk-oriented screaming, the band has a sense of mellow — but earnest — flow I found myself heavily drawn to. Sloucher has managed to be heavy without being all that loud. Their album, Certainty, is well-worth seeking out.
Foxing is a St. Louis band. Given that I live here, too, I was a bit ashamed that it too so long for them to come across my musical radar. They, too, have the ability to make heavy music very softly. There’s an earnestness to their sound. I have no choice but to hang around and find out just what it is they’re talking about. Foxing taps into a well of emotion most bands won’t go for, because it would leave them too vulnerable. I have no doubt these guys mean every word they say.
I caught The National by accident, on Saturday Night Live, in 2014. I had no idea who they were, and based on the typical SNL musical guest, I didn’t care. Then they started playing, and everything changed. The band produced a hypnotic, ethereal groove I simply couldn’t resist. Pretentious as it may sound, this band is very “in the moment.” Once again, I sensed that mellow urgency demanding attention. I couldn’t get to the record store fast enough to get my copy of Trouble Will Find Me the next day.
I found Grizzly Bear on Austin City Limits around the same time I found The National. They had me from the first notes they played. I can’t point to any one thing that appealed to me. Rather, it was the sum of the parts. Whatever they were selling that evening, I was buying. Of all the groups I’ve mentioned, Grizzly Bear is probably the loudest. Which is funny, because they’re not that loud at all. They sound the most “produced” of these groups, but again, this is relative. There’s no Danger Mouse or Pit Bull effect here. Just an earnest band eager to get its point across. They succeeded. It took a little doing, but Shields ultimately joined by CD collection. Oddly, I can rarely play them without also playing The National, and vice versa. My musical mind is an odd place, indeed.
I hope these bands are around for a long time to come. I will continue to explore any new music they see fit to bring into the world. I think they have become to me what bands like R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs were to me back in the ’80s. Whether they make the jump to that next level remains to be seen. I just hope they continue to remain true to themselves.
That will be more than enough for me.
http://americanmary.com (The National)