Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged indie rock

Skin Collision Past

I was excited about this album within moments of pushing play. Wild Moccasins could not be rebuffed by the aging speakers of my 1980s boombox. Their energy electrified the faux-fur seat covers of my red Volvo. I found myself sitting in the parking lot, unwilling to go into the grocery store until I had listened to all nine tracks. I resisted the urge to text my friends that I had found… something new! Something young! Something untouched by Brooklyn’s current brand of cool!

Radical Act

Tex Clark made the documentary Radical Act in 1995. It was originally intended as a snapshot of the rise of cisgender female involvement in indie rock following riot grrrl's and queercore's impact, particularly amongst lesbians and feminist women. After over a decade, Million Movies a Minute is officially releasing it this month.

Rockets EP

Go outside. Look up. What do you see? What do you think (or wish or hope) sees us? At their most basic, those are the questions that have motivated humankind to create, to believe, and to explore since it first dawned on us to look up. The famous opening phrase of Star Trek is “Space—the final frontier.” With its awe-struck yet determined delivery, the line presents space as the last, most daunting stop on humanity's Manifest Destiny Tour. Space is the only thing that remains to be conquered—at least in the realm of schlocky sci-fi TV.

Strange Weather, Isn’t It?

I will travel far and wide to see !!!, a band named for three staccato sounds (“chk chk chk” is the preferred pronunciation, though you can also say “pow pow pow” or “bang bang bang” to a fellow fan if so inclined). In the past five years, I’ve seen them at least as many times. From a slightly awkward but riotously fun gymnasium show in Chicago to a slam dancing mess at Boston’s Paradise, I’ve been there. I’ve seen related side projects and new ventures from Out Hud to Free Blood to LCD Soundsystem, and loved every minute of madness each show brought to my life.

Die Young

Blair Gimma bounces about between art pop and insightful complexity with her first full-length venture, Die Young, juxtaposing the indelible angst of indie folk rock (with help from her daydreamy vocals) with stark lyrical imagery.


“Jangly” is a complimentary adjective in my music lexicon. It's a descriptor applied quite often to indie rock bands of the early '90s: think classic-era music from UK label 4AD. In the case of Texas trio Tribella, jangly serves as both a term of endearment as well as a nod to their forebearers.

From A Basement On The Hill

My indie cred—if you want to call it that—is this: I was at one of Elliott Smith’s last shows. At the Northwestern University A&O Ball in 2002, Smith attempted to open for Wilco, fumbling with his guitar, breaking a string, complaining that his hand fell asleep, and never really finishing a song before trudging off stage an hour later.

The Bundles

I used to have a Livejournal, and Kimya Dawson was on my “friends list,” meaning I could read her journal entries. She was always a cheerful yet honest writer. Kimya shared photos of her lovely self, her bearded-and-bespectacled-husband, and her baby dressed in gender-neutral colors. I quickly admired this plus-sized woman with body modifications and tattoos, going about being a mother, wife, and artist, all in her own way. Both Kimya's music and overall personality seemed to lack the superficial posturing many other folks demonstrate. Needless to say, I was inspired.

American Gong

Did adding Joanna Bolme on bass somehow ruin the “purity” of the Quasi sound? I would suggest not. Although it would be impossible to argue that their music was thin before, Bolme’s bass adds a perfect oomph without taking away from the chemistry of the duo that already existed.

Darling Dear

At one point in the chaos of alley-crawling and narrow escapes that is the “Darling Dear” video, Little Fish frontwoman Juju beats up a guitar-wielding hipster boy, steals his guitar and straps it on before she launches in a furious bout of The Rocking. It is precisely this raw frenetic energy that attracted the attention of Custard Records, the label launched by singer/songwriter/producer Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes).


Systems Officer reminds me a bit of Grandaddy. Of Grandaddy I have to say this: I have seen Grandaddy once, opening for Elliott Smith, and Jason Lytle (formerly of Grandaddy) once, opening for Neko Case. It is probably unfair to hold Grandaddy and Jason Lytle up to the same level of adoration that I have for the other two artists (considering I would have hurdled myself into a closet full of menstruating hornets to see either Smith or Case).


Do you have a band with which you feel a connection that far surpasses all others? Are you a writerly music nerd who wouldn’t dream of interviewing said band for fear the mystique would be shattered? I reserve such ardor for only one band. I met Spoon frontman Britt Daniel a few times over the years at various North American concerts. Once, I had the guts to say, “Hi, I’m Britt too.” He put his arm around my shoulders, made a fist with his other hand, and took a photo with me. It’s crazy intense.


While growing up reading Spin and Rolling Stone, I quickly realized that both publications are fond of describing the sound of new bands by referencing older bands, many of which my twelve-year-old self hadn’t heard. I used to hate it, but now I realize it’s a pretty effective if lazy way of doing things.

Somewhere Gone

More subdued than X, less twang than the Knitters, this album might be what you listen to once glad bags have been replaced by retro shifts as the little black dress of choice—more spirit than spit.

Hung Like A Horse

Members of The Locust and Some Girls make up the edgy electro-punk industrial outfit All Leather, mixing angelic screeching over electro beats and spastic hardcore pummeling, which are all packed tight into ten glorious minutes of the [Hung Like a Horse](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002HWUU8G?ie=UTF8&tag=feminrevie-20&linkC

Twentieth Century Chemical

Those Bastard Souls is the side project of The Grifters’ David Shouse. The album Twentieth Century Chemical is a reissue; it was first released in 1996. To be honest, I haven’t heard of Shouse’s main gig. I don’t know anything about his other band either.

Gina Villalobos

The fourth studio album from indie folk rocker Gina Villalobos rolls off right away with “Take a Beating to You” and from then on out, Villalobos and her voice go on a journey both swift and slow. With honest and painful lyrics penned mostly by Villalobos herself, the record rises to the top of the alt country/rock genre and may be a breakout hit for this year.

Ribbon of Fear

Ribbon of Fear is a totally solid K Records release that places emphasis on humble production and a certain lo-fi artistic quality. My partner, endlessly amused by my penchant for unsophisticated music, asked if K Records isn’t “that label that will put out anything.” While I did mockingly protest, for a band on the label, the difference between recording in a studio or a basement is negligible.

Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture

I’ve always thought of indie culture as the marriage of individuality and community, and of course, a celebration of the do-it-yourself (DIY) morality that is ingrained in our society. However, some of our most creative pioneers are often obscured from mainstream art, music, and literature.


From the get-go, Plunt prejudiced me in their favor. They dub themselves "Montreal indie pop punk"—all promising adjectives, even if "Montreal" isn't really an adjective, but a beautiful city filled with friendly people. Then the group adds adorable cover art, bilingual credits, and band photograph that's the very opposite of a glamour shot. Look, they didn't even comb their hair!

Bitte Orca

At times the catchy melodies and ironically jarring harmonies found on Dirty Projectors’ latest album, Bitte Orca, seem surprising, and at other times, perfectly in place. From the very first listen the Dirty Projectors certainly project something interesting.

Dear Science

Once upon a CMJ conference, I unexpectedly encountered TV On The Radio in concert. Crammed into what I think was the Bowery Ballroom, the eclectic men took the stage and took up their horns. The vision—and the music that followed—has haunted me for years. And yet, try as I might, I did not fall in love with Dear Science.

The Sun Came Out

7 Worlds Collide is like an alt-folk “We Are The World” with admittedly fewer people of color. Headed up by Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, the second release from this international supergroup is an OxFam benefit double album featuring completely new material.

Quiet Little Voices single

Hyped-up Scottish indie rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks have been around since 2003, but are only now releasing their debut album, These Four Walls (out June 15 in the UK and July 9 in the U.S.).

Lost Houses

The only way I could love The Curtains of Night more is if they wore my grandmother’s homemade bread as a hat. It’s like they took a Melvins super burrito and added Kat Bjelland guacamole and made the best dinner entrée ever—with maybe a Big Business tequila chaser.

Royal City

Whenever I’m having an existential crisis sort of day—yes, it can come in daily doses—listening to songs like Iggy Pop’s “Success” soothes my insecurities and favors my sardonic humor that is both a coping mechanism and a genetic condition. How fortuitous then, among the early tracks from Canadian band Royal City, is a humorously lo-fi cover of Mr. Pop’s infectious tune.

The Fresh & Onlys

While comparing one band to another is often nothing short of calling a group unoriginal, The Fresh & Onlys blend mood and instrumentation so cleverly that they are great in their own right—despite sonic similarities to preceding groups. The ‘60s-flavored rock seems to draw inspiration from The Mamas and The Papas, and breathe a contained recording quality similar to [Fleet Foxes](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0017R5UAA

It’s Blitz!

Karen O. is back, and she’s dancing—or so she makes us think. The original hipster band from New York released their third album and it’s a love letter—it’s my love letter and yours, read aloud under the scattered light of a disco ball. This album combines the sensibility of MGMT’s enthusiasm, along with Karen O.’s personal finesse and emotional depth and a spot of New Wave. She is this generation’s Hope Sandoval and Beth Gibbons combined, without affectation, without orchestra, and with a lot of attitude. Karen O.’s voice simultaneously kisses you, fucks you, and kicks you out on your ass.

Outside Love

Pink Mountaintops—a Canadian band comprised of Stephen McBean and his collected associates—is an evocative, addictive blend of psychedelic melodies, fuzzy guitars, and gospel-like lyrics.

I Was Just Comforting Her

During my exploits as a queer culture addict, I’ve heard Gretchen Phillips’ name dropped multiple times, generally paired with admiration and approval, but I never went so far as to investigate the source of her praise.