Trying To Get To You

Friday, January 19, 2007

Indie Rock With Heart

It’s a busy time in indie rock land. Highly anticipated records from the Shins, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Arcade Fire are about to land, and given those band's intense fan bases and rest of the slump the record business is in, it’s quite possible that all of the above records are going to debut very high in the charts, which may inspire a slew of “the triumph of indie rock amidst the decline of the major labels” articles.

I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with indie rock. I’ve enjoyed to varying degrees many of the seminal records and bands of the genre, but with the exception of the first Liz Phair album, I can’t think of any indie rock albums I’ve had real and lasting passion for. (When I picked up the reissue of Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain last year, it had been the first time in years that I had listened to them - the album still sounded good, but I hadn't missed them all that much.) In music, I usually look for heat, and most indie rock I’ve heard has provided me with dispassionate cool. When I’ve wanted communion with music, indie rock to me has felt like clichéd alienation from artists (and an audience) that use irony and braininess as a substitute for talent. And finally, for me, most of it doesn't really rock, and almost none of it has any soul.

I write this because I’ve been listening to an indie rock record a lot the past couple of weeks; the Broken West’s I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On. They’re an L.A. band that record for Merge, the Arcade Fire’s label. But while the Arcade Fire has the glamour, the buzz, the celebrity fan base (Bowie and Byrne) and enough weirdness to be cool, what I hear from the Broken West is a lot of heart. I heard the first track on the album, “On The Bubble,” on another blog a couple of weeks ago, and was really taken in by the song. I've always thought the genre heading "indie pop" was faintly stupid, but this is it – and it sounds really good.

I’ve only spent time with about the first six songs, and at least four of them so far are winners. Check out “On The Bubble;” it’s not music as concept, deliberately obscure, snobbish or incomprehensible – it’s just music that sounds good. I hope this record gets the attention it deserves - given the indie rock press's tendency to look down upon accesibility, I have a feeling it's going to be damned with faint praise. That would be a shame. But a predictable one.

Download: "On The Bubble"

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