London’s Tom Vek sounds like everybody and nobody else all at once. He doesn’t quite fit in the electro square peg, nor does he quite fit into the indie rock round hole. What Vek is adept at doing is combining those elements in his own unique style. His music is thought-provoking yet decisively danceable, all sung in his idiosyncratic monotone signature with vocal phrasings that at times resemble Marc E. Smith from The Fall (while being much more of an accomplished singer). His third full-length album—self proclaimed as “garage rock for the pro-tools generation”—is full of abrasive synths, angular guitar riffs and metallic crunching beats set to expressive crescendos. There’s a certain level of drama and urgency to Vek’s output, and that’s partly what keeps his work so compelling. There’s also a controlled chaos going on. Some tracks border on spiraling out of control, yet they never quite topple off the precipice. Thankfully, this talented multi-instrumentalist’s off-kilter pop music breaks many conventions and molds. He sings “I’m an awesome man” on the album, and I would have to agree. Prime Cuts: “Let’s Pray,” “Pushing Your Luck,” “You’ll Stay” —Paul V for the Independent FM
It’s astounding to note that Sia has never really had a huge Top 40 hit of her own. She’s written them for the biggest pop stars (Rihanna, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Beyoncé), but this publicity-shy hitmaker has yet to achieve her own stardom. By the time you read this, though, her glorious “Chandelier” has been reigning on the top of the charts. Trust me when I tell you there are many more on this superb album. First, let’s laser-focus on that voice, which is absolutely stunning in its sheer power and melodic beauty. Second, the songs themselves are remarkable. She’s able to balance stirring, emotional ballads with mid-tempo dance beats and some rock grit, and she has a singular sound all her own. Prime Cuts: “Burn the Pages,” “Eye of the Needle,” “Hostage” —Paul V for the Independent FM
Bleachers is the new project from Jack Antonoff, the adorkable guitar player from the band fun. also known as Lena Dunham’s main squeeze. This debut is full of vibrant, bombastic synth-rock sing-alongs, and the entire collection feels like a long-lost indie distillation of ‘80s and ‘90s hitmakers, from Bryan Adams to Bruce Springsteen to Beck and Weezer. In describing the vibe, Antonoff says, “You can dance to it or you could weep to it. I don’t know what anybody else wants, but that’s what I want from music.” The record has lyrical moments of emotional angst, with some tracks reading like a high school confidential. Antonoff even tackles how he was incessantly tormented for being gay (which he is not). He handles the lead vocals like a champ, with some assistance from Grimes and a delicately charming Yoko Ono. Prime Cuts: “I Wanna Get Better,” “Rollercoaster,” “Shadow” —Paul V for The Independent FM
I was admittedly skeptical upon hearing that Neil Patrick Harris would be starring in the theatrical revival of Hedwig. I knew he could sing and act like a champ, but could this “nice guy” inhabit the queer, grit ‘n’ spittle essence of a transgender German glam rocker? As everyone witnessed during his show-stopping performance of “Sugar Daddy” during the Tonys, all doubt has been erased like a drag queen’s eyebrows. Granted, Stephen Trask’s original songs are so strong to begin with, but Harris has truly immersed himself in not only the character but all the musical reference points Hedwig was built upon. The beauty of this recording is that it was essentially rushed to see the light of day, so it was assembled in a very DIY setting with little production or polish. Harris and company truly nail the glitter-smeared, pithy nuance needed for these now-iconic songs.Prime Cuts: “Tear Me Down,” “Angry Inch,” “Wicked Little Town.” —Paul V for The Independent FM
Hey Los Angeles, what are you up to this weekend? Put on your sunscreen, hydrate, and get on over to the Echo Park Rising music festival! Now in it’s fourth year, it features a lot of amazing artists (and quite a few you’ve heard here on Indie) so you should get out there and listen to some live music. Check out the schedule here.
We’re halfway through August, and the music keeps rolling out… Have you guys noticed these new albums?
Spoon – They Want My Soul (Headz Under)
These guys have become the kings of edgy power pop, with catchy yet slightly abrasive hooks and sort of paranoid lyrics and a tenseness that still invites melodies… Anyway, we love Spoon and we love this record.
Bear In Heaven – Time Is Over One Day Old (Dead Oceans)
Like a dreamy, druggy late night dance club, Brooklyn’s Bear in Heaven have a collection of tunes that sound really great when you’re already sweaty and maybe coming down for the night but don’t quite want to. Turn on the red lights for this sexy synthy spinner.
The Rosebuds – Sand + Silence
The post divorce album of the Rosebuds’ founders Ivan Howard & Kelly Crisp was bound to be interesting, and there is a bit of uplifting to be found in this particular brand of chamber pop which is indeed here. Very pretty and emotional, but not as desolate as one might think given the circumstances (that was the last record).
You know, we kids here at the Independent FM were too busy playing at the beach last month, so we kind of forgot to tell you about some new music that came out. But better late than never! Here are some things released in July that we’re really digging right now.
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again (Epitaph)
10 songs = 20 minutes, kind of par the course for these rowdies out of Torrance, CA. These guys know how to pack a lot of punk punch into a minute, and they do so gloriously here. Lots of heartfelt yelling and intensity that is actually emotionally engaging, if you can hang on for the ride…
The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi (Beat Dies)
Always noisy, always pretty, and always sexy, the Raveonettes seemed to have turned those things up a couple notches, somehow, for this release. This one, though, has a bit more anger underlying it, while projecting that with moodier lyrics and more aggressive beats that still have a lot of swagger.
Matt Kivel – Days of Being Wild (Woodist)
LA Singer/songwriter Matt Kivel played with indie pop outfit Princeton before going the solo route. Pretty, folky and textured tunes here, with moments of indie breakouts and noisiness, but nothing too rowdy. Contemplate your smooth summer vibes with this one on the turntable…
French Style Furs – Is Exotic Bait (Frenchkiss)
Side project from vocalist Nathan Willet and bassist Matt Maust from Cold War Kids, along with Nathan Warkentin of We Barbarians, with lyrics provided by the poetry of a 20th century Trappist monk and mystic named Thomas Merton. Intrigued yet? Willet’s signature vocals, horns, classic drum pounding, groovy bass and choral breaks make it pretty interesting…
Jungle – s/t (XL)
Intentionally shrouded in mystery as these Brits released the super funkalicious early singles for this debut, we now know that it’s a group of musicians led by two individuals named J and T. The music, though, also leaves plenty to the imagination: moody grooves, blue eyed falsettos, and cinematic rhythms all conjure images of car chase scenes, late night discos, and a whole lot more…
Morrissey – World Peace is None of Your Business (Harvest Records)
What is Morrissey preaching about now? Our favorite bitchslapper has plenty to discuss with his latest, a gritty affair telling tales of abuse, sickness and political strife. Cleverness abounds, but you know he isn’t joking a round. Is he ever, really?
Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside (Army Navy)
This LA trio is back with a melodic and melancholy indie pop record filled with romantic lyrics for summertime evening swooning at the bonfire on the beach.
Alvvays – s/t (Polyvinyl)
A fun collection of melodic indie pop out of Canada, this debut from Alvvays has a bit of synth, a touch of that kiwi Flying Nun quirky charm, and a whole lot of hooks that make listening a sweet time.