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Thursday Three: The college years pts. 3 & 4: Indie boys and Indie girls.

July 30, 2010

Top: Unrest, Versus, Superhcunk. Bottom: Tiger Trap, Lois, The Spinanes

This post, as my Mom might say, is a day late and a dollar short. But, in the hopes of making it up to you I am giving you not one but two (two! *laugh like the Count on Sesame Street*) posts for the price of one. Mind you, the price is free, but you get my drift. Continuing on in the chronicling of music I loved in my college years (much of which I still love today, to be honest), we come to that monumental category of Indie Rock. What once started out as a slang term for independently released music of the rock or rock-influenced variety, soon came to be some sort of overly large umbrella term for a certain kind of guitar-based music. As much as I sort of loathe the term in its vagueness, I kind of “get” what people mean when they define a band as sounding “indie”. There always seems to be some playing around with traditional pop music structures while not totally giving in to banality and finding a balance of hooks, harmonies and a streak of individualism. The following are bands/artists that would fit into this amorphous “indie” category that brought me much musical joy in those college years. And for the sake of some organization I will be breaking them down into three entries from (mostly) male fronted bands and three by female fronted bands.

Unrest – “Makeout Club”: Unrest were like a silvery-fast blur of pop infused wonder to me when I first heard them. And then I saw them live and I was even more mesmerized. I couldn’t imagine hands that could move fast enough over guitar strings and drum kits and yet be making something so melodic and not punky-shouty at all. Although they got their start in more of that vein, I will always love them for their poppier sounds on albums like Perfect Teeth, which this track – an all-time favorite of mine – was taken from.

Versus – “River”: Oh, Versus! You played at my college one year and I was instantly smitten with your alternately loud and rocking ways and then your softly melancholy side. Mainly fronted by Richard Baluyut with Fontaine Toups occasionally stepping from backing vocals duty to lead a song, Versus was and still is one of my favorite bands from my college days. They churned out so much good music in a short period of time, then some slightly less good music near the end and then broke up. But they’ve been back together in the last few years, playing shows in their native NYC and working on a new album! Joy! And this here is one of my favorite songs by them, off of their album The Stars Are Insane. The song fades up as it begins, so expect a few seconds of silence when you hit play.

Superchunk – “Slack Motherfucker”: My relationship with Superchunk has always been a fickle one. At points in college they totally dominated my ears, especially after my friend Anna first introduced me to them and I pogoed around my room to their early albums. At other times I would find myself bored with them and go for long periods of Supechunk-less existence. Now I find myself less interested in their earlier stuff and more into their later albums. But whatever the place Superchunk holds in my heart, they’ve always been a pretty fantastic band. And “Slack Motherfucker” is just a classic, balls out, rock-n-roll gem. This is a really great live version of this classic track.

Tiger Trap – “Puzzle Pieces”: Oh, man, Tiger Trap. The first time my friend Anna played me this band it was like I had died and gone to pop heaven. They were sadly short lived, but Tiger Trap put out a brilliant full length, an equally fantastic follow-up EP and a handful of singles and 7″s. And I got to see them live a couple of times and they rocked pretty fucking hard for a band that kept getting called “twee”. It’s pretty hard to pick a song to feature by them, so I am going to put the first one I ever heard and one that is still a top three favorite from the TT ladies.

Okay, and here is a live version of “Words & Smiles” because I just found it and it’s fucking awesome! So much extra in your belated Thursday Three post!

Lois – “Davey”: Another fantastic artist my friend Anna introduced me to, Lois Maffeo did time in several bands before striking out under the simple moniker of Lois. Her albums, full of acoustically strummed, breezy pop melancholia, were and still are some of my favorite indie releases. She’s not a guitar virtuoso and her arrangements were often simple. But she has a voice I could listen to for days and a lyrical turn of phrase that always impressed me. This track is another first time song that introduced me to the artist, from her debut album (as Lois), Butterfly Kiss. And it’s still my favorite song by her to this day – sparse, economic and simply lovely.

The Spinanes – “Lines & Lines”: I don’t remember how I first came across The Spinanes but I know they surprised the hell out of me. They were one of a zillion bands on the much lauded Sub Pop label, a label I had never cared for much despite the salivating worship. But The Spinanes were kind of the redheaded step-children of the label, with Rebecca Gates spinning her brainy, heady-yet-sexy tales with honey-rich vocals, elliptical guitar lines and Scott Plouf’s flawless, musical drumming. The band existed as a duo for only 2 albums and a handful of singles before Plouf departed for Built To Spill and Rebecca released one more gorgeous album under The Spinanes  name with an array of musicians supporting her. This track is from their second album, Strand and it pretty much owns.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2010 12:30 pm

    None of these would be out of place on the tapes I made from scratchy, low power college radio broadcasts.

    , we come to that monumental category of Indie Rock. What once started out as a slang term for independently released music of the rock or rock-influenced variety, soon came to be some sort of overly large umbrella term for a certain kind of guitar-based music. As much as I sort of loathe the term in its vagueness, I kind of “get” what people mean when they define a band as sounding “indie”.

    I hate the term “indie,” too. Much to the chagrin of my record geek buddies, I’ve started calling everything that doesn’t pigeonhole easily “pop.” I’m going to sound like an aging hipster, but the bands called indie in 2010 to me are pop bands — and I’m okay with that.

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