Tuesday, December 13, 2016
the Top 10 Indie Rock Albums of 2016
Indie rock has become a blanket genre for hip college kids. It often hold more pre-tense and less balls than it's mainstream cousins. Here we have a mix of some albums that rock and others that are more introspective. While none of these artists are mainstream, there are some veterans in the mix who are far from the flavor of the week at the local coffee shop. They are ranked according to the albums that earned the most repeat listens.
10- Leonard Cohen-"You Want it Darker"
When you hear his new album “You Want it Darker” his influence on some like Nick Cave is obvious. He is storyteller first and foremost. His gravelly baritone is weathered, but recites the lyrics with conviction that makes up for what age does to one’s voice. At the end of the day he remains a masterful song writer with a vast amount of power over his words.
This trio out of Brooklyn casts an ample shade of gloom over their sound on their new album "Vail". This is not another run of the mill post-punk revivalist band, they do not plug in a single six string and instead hit you with a hypnotic swirl of two basses. Vocally they weave their melodies in between a dizzy entanglement of bass lines that warble in echoing waves. Male and female vocals dance around one another sometimes harmonizing at other times creating counter points. The male vocals are a dead pan baritone that sometimes reaches more of a croon. The female vocals are an indifferent indie rock alto.
8-Muscle & Marrow- "Love"
This Portland based duo caught my attention when I saw them open for Author and Punisher. Then when I went back to listen to their album that had been sitting around on my hard drive I was not as impressed. The album's heart beat comes to life with an electronic pulse. Kira Clark's emotive vocals are layered in a dizzy spiral of melodies.The heavier mood is more restrained at times but still just as potent , and often even more so with the improvements in the vocal delivery on this album. The lighter shades which contrast starkly with the darkness are going to take some getting used to.
7-Dead Forest Index- "All That Drifts"
This duo keeps things dark and simple. The vocals are generally androgynous, giving these guys a much different sound than if they were just another band of Ian Curtis impersonators. The music drifts by you with the slow melancholy pulse similar to Chelsea Wolfe's earlier work hovers like a rain cloud over it.Both bleak and graceful, it often defies genres, sure indie rock is the broadest genre, there are more folk and western influences hinted at than writing these guys off as being post-punk. Slow-core bands like Low certainly would be a reference along with the likes of Sun Kil Moon to some extent in the lethargy that lingers it the heart beat of these songs.
6-Slothrust- "Everyone Else"
They fuse apathy into the punk attitude that reminds me of when Sonic Youth was once punk. The first real song is "Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone". This weaves it's wave into some pretty impressive jazz chops. The vocals of Leah Wellbaum are sometimes plaintive and some times emotive. "Horseshoe Crab" which is the first song I heard from these kids is pretty powerful and touches on emo in it's honesty.
5-the Coathangers-"Nosebleed Weekend"
California vibes have smoothed out the more abrasive garage rock band that I once saw playing out in the parking lots of Little Five Points. Vocally they have really improved and the jangle of their guitars is not more in tune. Some of their rough around the edges punk riot grrrl comes across in "Dumb Baby". The play a squeaky toy on solo the pop tinged drive of "Squeeki Tiki".I enjoyed it a lot more than anticipated going into this. California is treating them much better than Atlanta did, even though they were the critics darlings there. I think they are in an environment where there creative juices are allowed to flow with greater ease out west. If you are a fan of indie rock with a garage rock vibe then this album is a must for you.
4- Self Defense Family- "Colicky"
This ever evolving collective of musicians has been around for ten years. Their newest release finds the more slow core- pacing of what I have previously heard from these guys gone in favor of a more sonic creeping. The drumming is not heavy or heard hitting, but is very deliberate in more of a Joy Division like fashion. The vocals are lighter and more introspective than the brooding tension the rest of the song stirs. The guitar sounds are once again top notch. The production is just right reminding me of some of the more classic post-hardcore albums of the 90s.
3-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Skeleton Tree"
Darker electronic throb haunts the opening of Nick Cave's new album. This is a much different album than what he has touched upon with the Bad Seeds before. The minimalist arrangement of 'Rings of Saturn" bears a stark vulnerability. Very deceptive as the album is more organic than it sounds on first listen. Theremin and strings create the swells you would otherwise suspect to be Pro-tools plug-in's if this album had been made by any one else. Vocally there is more of narration, leaving me waiting for the moments when he sings. Nick Cave has been a story tellers in the past taking you back to varied colorful pages in the seedy corners of Americana. The darkness painted over these songs is done is shades of gray.Cave more focused on the narrative than letting me hear him sing on some songs, but still stands up with the 15 albums that came before this one. A must for fans.
She sang on the final Xasthur album and has continued to pave a dark and sometimes country path for her self with her second release on Sacred Bones. It is evident from the opening strains of "Divers of the Dust" that her sense of identity is firmly intact the country croon is equal parts haunting torch singer. "Katie,I Know" is equally ethereal though more firmly rooted in the more Western side of Country. It's evident many of these songs take a few listens before they stick to you, but it's a solid album of intangible songs and feelings.
1- Emma Ruth Rundle-"Marked For Death"
In some ways there is not much difference between Emma Ruth Rundle's second solo album and the last Marriages album, which is a good thing. If you were expecting just her and an acoustic guitar then think again. Perhaps the punches are not as rock and the songs are less jarring in their dynamic shifts, there is a very stormy mood that brews in the first songs.