This is my running list of favorite bands, along with albums or tracks
that I particularly like. Down with MTV and ClearChannel!
- The Flaming Lips -
Weird/eclectic rock? If you can listen to Yoshimi Battles the Pink
Robots without being overcome by one of the emotions present on
that album in great quantity, you must be dead. Their most recent
album, At War With the Mystics is really only OK, sad to say.
- Pink Martini - Oregon's
"Little Orchestra", very popular in some circles. Has been playing
the midnight New Years Eve concert at the Walt Disney Concert hall for
a couple years now. The best concert I ever saw was Pink Martini
playing with the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl. Amazing doesn't begin
to cover it. Sympathique is better than Hang on Litte
Tomato, but both are very good.
- Ratatat - One
part video game music, one part electronica, one part funky baselines,
two parts awesome, and you get Ratatat. Find a copy of their
self-titled debut album, with all possible haste.
- E*VAX - Like
Ratatat (in fact, mostly the same band), but slower, more poppy, less
- Wilco - Somewhere between
indie and country lurks Wilco. I can't say I love everything they
have done, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a really excellent
album, and their previous release Summer Teeth has got a lot
going for it (although it isn't as good as YHF). I'm not really a fan
of anything newer than YHF, at least not yet.
- The Boy Least
Likely To - The album The Best Party Ever is really a work
of art. It is indie-pop filtered through childhood, augmented with a
fisher-price xylophone, and mixed with some heavy bitterness about
growing up. Musically this is one of those albums that you can't
listen to without cracking a huge smile. Lyrically, there is some
amazing depth of emotion here, but this is by no means "emo". Very
clever, glorious music. If you can manage to get a copy, do so. And
if you can catch them in concert, you must. BLLT put on a darn good
- Modest Mouse - Made
popular by Summer '04s Good News For People Who Love Bad News,
commonly thought of in indie circles as their sell-out album, Modest
Mouse has been around for a while. Last I counted they were
approaching their 10th full-length album. I particularly recommend
starting with Good News ... or the indie-favorite The Moon
and Antarctica. Once you've got a taste for them, try Sad
Sappy Sucker. Other albums by Modest Mouse have failed to impress me
(although I haven't listened to them all by any means.)
- The Decemberists - Do
you like songs that tell a story? Then this is the band for you.
Singer/songwriter Colin Meloy, who holds a degree in Creative Writing,
writes nearly every song as a story filled with archetypal
characters. Heavy Dickens themes. In truth, everything I've heard
from them is fantastic, but no single album is good all the way
through. Generally I like the first halves of Castaways and
Cutouts and Picaresque, and assorted tracks from Her
Majesty. Best tracks: Legionnaire's Lament and The Infanta,
although there are many many wonderful tracks to pick from.
- The New
Pornographers - Indie power pop. The New Pornographers is
composed of members from several Vancouver bands, and mixes the
best-of from each group. All of their current albums (Mass
Romantic, The Electric Version, and Twin Cinema))
are good. I like TC and EV best, but all are good. Closer to
mainstream than much on this list, with some nice summery/beachy
- Magnetic Fields -
Eclectic, clever, and very well executed, the Magnetic Fields are a
fascinating band. If you've got the opportunity, I strongly recommend
picking up their three-disc set "69 Love Songs," which has a number of
fantastic songs on it ("Book of Love" from disc 1, and "Grand Canyon"
from disc 2 are great, but I've got lots of favorites.)
- Cake - My wife and I have
been listening to Cake for roughly a decade now. And unlike any other
group that we could claim that about, they are still favorites.
Partially because of their unique style, and partially because of
their impressive lyrics, Cake is one "popular" band that I'm willing
to claim allegiance to. Fashion Nugget is definitely my
favorite of their five albums.
- Franz Ferdinand -
You probably heard a couple songs from these guys during Summer '04.
Their self-titled debut album is fantastic. Not a weak track to be
found anywhere. So cool. By comparison, their 2006 release You
could have had it so much better is much more refined, but weaker
- Hot Hot Heat - A slightly
goofy rock band from Canada . . . no, it isn't Barenaked Ladies (who
are good in their own right), but the musically more awesome Hot Hot
Heat. More similar to Franz Ferdinand than anything else I can think
of, Hot Hot Heat is great in its own way. I strongly recommend
Make Up The Breakdown, and I love some of the tracks on
Elevator although it is certainly more high on filler.
- Pain - With a name like
Pain, it ought to be dark, moody, and gothic. Instead, it's kinda
more like goofy-indie-ska. Bright, beautiful horns, goofy songs, lots
of energy. Some surprisingly beautiful tracks. I've heard and loved
Full Speed Ahead, Wonderful Beef, and Midgets with
Guns, but I have to say I like Full Speed Ahead best of
all. Especially the tracks Futz Said Julie and
- Belle and
Sebastian - One of the most respected and influential indie bands
around, and perhaps for good reason. Their most recent album, The
Life Pursuit is one that has stayed on heavy rotation for several
months. I can't say I know too much about their earlier work, but
their multi-CD release Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (which
compiles many of their EPs) is also really very good and quite
approachable even for B&S neophytes.
- Apples (in Stereo) -
Lo-fi indie rock. This is one of my guilty-pleasure bands, especially
my favorite Apples album, Velocity of Sound: I know it is
inane, but it is just so damned catchy and fun to listen to. Bits of
Her Wallpaper Reverie are highly reminiscent of the Beatles,
and so far I think those are their two best albums by far.
- Neutral Milk Hotel -
Beautiful, slightly lo-fi, very indie. The occasional accordion or
bagpipe doesn't seem out of place at all (and you might not even
notice). Lyrically they are amazingly beautiful, although you'll
never figure out what they are talking about. In the Aeroplane,
Over the Sea is a wonderful wonderful album.
- The Shins - If you're even
vaguely into the indie music scene, you've heard of The Shins. In my
opinion, they put out some really great music. But as great as it is,
it is often somewhat subtle: I can listen to their music for quite a
while and love it, every track, but not really be aware of it at the
same time. Still, it is quite good, and I highly recommend it.
- The Lucksmiths -
Slower than The Shins, but still has some of the same intangible
awesomeness of The Shins. Great melodies, beautiful vocal quality.
Good stuff all around. Naturaliste is getting some major
playlist time from me lately.
- The Polyphonic
Spree - Uh . . . 1970s inspired trance-laden choral music? Like
the Flaming Lips if they had more than two decent musicians? Big,
sweeping melodies, goofy and lighthearted.
- The White Stripes - For a
gimmick band, these guys are awesome. But yeah, they are totally a
gimmick. From the "Are Meg and Jack married? Brother and Sister?
Both?" rumors, to the fact that they have their own band colors and
patterns, to the illusion that there are only two musicians, they are
a gimmick. But that doesn't mean that they aren't awesome all the same.
- The Eels - I haven't
heard much from these guys, but their two-disc album "Blinking Lights
(And Other Revelations)" is fantastic. Beautiful sounds,
gorgeous melodies, and wry lyrics. Deep down, Blinking Lights is
trying to be depressing, with tracks like "Going Fetal", "Old Shit/New
Shit" and "Ugly Love", but it pulls a fast one on you by providing
such fantastic sound that you just can't help but feel great about
feeling anything. Good stuff.
- Clap Your Hands Say
Yeah - Their self-titled debut is one of those albums that you
either love immediately, or love eventually when everyone around you
is telling you that you're gonna love it. Took me a long while to
break down and get a copy of this, but in the end I'm very glad I
did. That said, I do not understand where the comparisons to Boy
Least Likely To come from - CYHSY is really more like if Modest Mouse
got rid of Isaac Brock and hired on a drunken lead-singer from a
Violent Femmes cover band. Instrumentally, it is very Modest Mouse.
Vocally, it is very slurred, with a definitely Violent Femmes quality
to it. In the end, it is just some catchy stuff.
Rubdown - This one is hard to classify, but I know I love it.
Their album Shut Up, I'm Dreaming has some of the most complex
(but palatable) music I've heard in a while, and wonderfully deep
lyrics to match. This is not something that can be passively absorbed
in the background, it demands attention (at least initially). And
that attention is a great investment.