So indie. It is a term I threw around loosely with my friends at school. Oh, this is so indie, that is so indie. Everything under the sun could be deemed "indie." But what is truly indie? My indie was indie rock music. It is my bread and better and my go-to genre to listen to. Indie rock is so much more than just a band signed by an independent recording label. It represents everything that is pure and delightful about rock and roll. Every generation has its Top 40 hits that flood the airways and become so saturated that it is almost sickening; yet this is where indie rock comes in to freshen the air.
I guess that my love for indie rock stems from the music I grew up listening to with my parents. My mother and father grew up in the sixties and seventies, a time when there was a plethora of very talented bands and singers/songwriters. I was teething to The Animals, Chicago, The Guess Who, Aerosmith, The Lovin' Spoonful and of course The Beatles. The music was intricately designed and the lyrics spoke to everyday life while still touching on complex situations like love, relationships, politics and race. All the while it combined the signature jangle of the guitar, a synchronized connection between the bass and drums and if you're lucky; an accompaniment of brass instruments (here's to you Chicago!). This love for simple, yet complex music drove me to seek out alternative groups as I started to branch out my own musical tastes. Here I will break down three groups who I feel that deserve your attention and best exemplify today's indie rock music scene.
Let's begin with the artist from the Great White North, hailing from Duncan, Canada it is Mac Demarco. Under the Captured Tracks label, Demarco represents a new generation of "slacker rockers;" artists who sing about the daily life of lounging around, looking for a new love or just the next pack of cigarettes. Yet what separates Demarco from his contemporaries is his ability to combine the elaborate with the repetitive. His songs feel like they are out of the sixties in their structure; an effortless body that is blended with a catchy bridge and chorus. He is quirky, eccentric and a musical maestro. A quintessential part of Demarco's songs are the guitar, his main instrument. It jangles, it twangs, it rocks, it is hazy and it is offbeat. Take his song Ode to Viceroy, it is a guitar lover's dream about a song devoted to Viceroy brand cigarettes. Yet what Demarco is able to do with the guitar, especially at the end when he slides down the fretboard in an almost homage to the surfer songs of the sixties is a pure escape. His guitar notes flow as if you are rolling down the highway with the top down or catching the next wave the rides you into shore. I recommend these three albums; Rock and Roll Night Club, 2 and Salad Days. Specific songs to keep an eye out for are Ode to Viceroy(2), European Vegas, Rock and Roll Night Club, Baby's Wearing Blue Jeans(Rock and Roll Night Club), Salad Days, Blue Boy(Salad Days).
We now turn our attention to the band Real Estate. Based out of New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York, this quintet offers a return to the simpler days of guitar rock and songwriting. The group is made up of Martin Courtney (guitar, vocals), Alex Bleeker (bass, vocals, Jackson Pollis (drums), Matt Kallman (keyboards) and Julian Lynch (guitar). Matt Mondanile was the former lead guitarist but has since moved on to his newer band Ducktails. Real Estate offers listeners the joy of surf-rock and jangle-pop, most closely seen in the heyday of The Beach Boys. Courtney and Mondanile complimented each other effortlessly with the composition of their guitar play; Courtney taking on the role of rhythm guitarist playing the chords and Mondanile as the lead guitarist. Mandolin's unique sound comes from the type of guitar that he uses, a Fender Jazzmaster. The Jazzmaster gives Real Estate the very essence of mellow, relaxed and down to earth sound that has been its signature genre. Signed by Domino Recording, the king of independent music, Real Estate has released three albums; Real Estate (2009), Days (2011) and Atlas (2014). Key songs to look out for are It's Real, a fun play on the bands' name and Courtney's try at a wordless chorus love song. Had to Hear, Talking Backwards and Past Lives off of Atlas give the listener a dreamy, placid escape they were looking for.
Lastly, we have reached Jagwar Ma, a band that is quickly taking the indie scene by storm. Comprised of Gabriel Winterfield (lead vocalist/guitarist), Jono Ma (guitar, beats, synth, production), and bass guitarist Jack Freeman hailing from Sydney, Australia; Jagwar Ma is offering listeners a whole new world that could only previously have been dreamed of. Mixing electric dance music, dream-pop, shoegaze and psychedelic rock, the band is quickly becoming a regular on the music festival scene (particularly watch their performance at Glastonbury 2014). Signed by Mom+Pop Records in the United States, they released their first album Howlin in 2013. Ask anyone of my friends I lived with at school and they will most certainly tell you that these guys were constantly playing. Jono Ma instills a sense of wonderment with his ability to utilize retro drum machines that produce anything from simple drum beats, radio frequency manipulation, improvised percussion and other esoteric methods of creating sound. His ability is showcased in the song "Come and Save Me" as eighties style beats and synthesizer tones overlap with Freeman's upbeat bass lines. Winterfield utilizes the Jazzmaster as well, but unlike Mondanile's clean cut style, he uses heavy distortion and pedals to give their songs a dreamlike quality. Songs of interest from Howlin that instantly caught my attention were the singles Uncertainty, Come and Save Me, Man I Need and The Throw. Jagwar Ma is a group that is crossing the lines between indie rock and EDM, offering its fans intricate compositions while also dishing out addictive party beats. Of the songs I mentioned, check out their music videos; visual pleasures for your mind.
There you have it, three indie rock artists who will certainly pique your interests and offer a gratifying music experience. They are my go-to's for when I am looking for my moments of zen. Above it all, bands like these three give you the listener sounds that our more elaborate and music that has more meaning to your life outside of sex, drugs, parties and fame. It is music that we all can relate to and say "Wow, I know what they were really feeling when they wrote this song." Too many times in our lives we fall victim to the pressure of the Billboard Top 100 that we fail to look at the artists or groups who are still making baroque songs and albums. So next time, kick back and relax to one of these artists and immerse yourself into a world of pure sound.