I feel the need to highlight the people I actually like who are making music these days. The first three are kind of Indie superstars and all had stellar records last year – one of them was my number one in fact – and the other two are lesser known acts, one a lot more so than the other.
This was an obvious choice; that’s why it’s first. I really dug the Suburbs when it came out last year. And I’m digging it more with each passing day. Arcade Fire is kind of a monument on the landscape of influences. Funeral was my favorite album for a while, and even though Neon Bible and Suburbs don’t sound like it, I still really dig them too. Call me crazy, but I foresee a sort of monumental paradigm shift from Win Butler on the next Arcade Fire album, on the level Radiohead’s Kid A. I honestly hope it sounds like “Month of May” with more strings.
Scottish Indie-folk kings, Frightened Rabbit released two really great albums in a row 2008’s Midnight Organ Fight and last year’s Winter of Mixed Drinks. The former is an immediately accessible album about the intricacies of the lustful and loving ties we have to the opposite sex. A charming love letter to love itself, it’s genuinely fantastic. The latter is a bit harder to get into, it expands on the themes in Organ Fight but it’s also a tad bit darker than the previous one. If anything, Mixed Drinks is more worthwhile as a record about the entirety of youthful living. “If you never see grey / If you never feel pain / Life starts to lose its taste”
Look a string of great records preceded by several mediocre ones, that’s amazing to me. The only band I can think that did that other the one I’m writing about currently are the Lemonheads. So the National are in good company then, even if their style is completely different from latter-day Lemonheads. The National create churning atmospheric and enigmatic songs whose real poetry you only access upon the third or fourth listen. Matt Berringer seems to stumble over some of his words assured and proud in his own lyrical machinations. And the instrumentation on most songs is interesting as anything out there. That’s why I like them, plus they seem like funny guys. If you want proof, look up the intro to the “Terrible Love (Alternate Version)” video or the entire video for “Conversation 16.”
Chemistry of Common Life is a magnificent statement. The previous sentence means nothing to you, if you’ve never heard of Fucked Up. Chemistry was the band’s landmark album. The screamy hardcore blended with strange melodic indie rock twists all wrapped up into tight six-minute song packages. If that sounds like your cup of tea, Fucked Up is your band. The band’s new 78 minute, 18 track rock opera David Comes to Life is shaping up to be as good if not better than its predecessor. They’re recording a compilation of punk bands from the region where the rock opera is set with multiple vocalists, that’s dedication. To quote Philmatic, “They’re the good kind of pretentious.”
Andrew Jackson Jihad
This last one, I feel like they don’t get enough love. And boy do they deserve it. The duo create some of the tightest fucking music in the world. Their 2009 masterpiece Can’t Maintain is certainly weird and slightly self-indulgent, but only slightly. If you’ve never heard the Andrew Jackson Jihad brand of severely fucked up Folk-punk, go look up tracks like “I Love You”, “Heartilation”, and “People II: The Reckoning.” One thing that kills me about AJJ though is Sean Bonette’s sometimes intense, often melancholy crooning that sets the group apart. He feels bad for himself a lot of the time; and I do something insanely similar. In other words, these guys are my favorites. Go forth and listen.