I’m still on the fence about this one. This was a massive hit, way back in 2013, and we still can’t escape it on the radio. What I’m still not sure about is if it’s the most annoying novelty song of the decade, or if Bastille is actually a real band. I mean, it’s definitely an annoying song that’s been overplayed to the point of fatigue. But also I kind of like it? Also Bastille had a few other hit songs from the same album that were less, um, distinctive and more typical indie pop. They’ve bravely gone on to make a second album, which I don’t remember a minute of. So perhaps they’d be better off if all of their songs were this aggressively irritating. Then you could at least say they’ve got their own sound going on. But if you had to ask me to bet which currently successful indie band is ending up on the list of ‘where are they now?’ one hit wonders, my money’s on Bastille.
There’s something a little uncanny about Jake Bugg. He’s a button-faced millennial boy who somehow carries the vibe of an old folksinger who peaked in 1962. He has a voice that belongs on a warped old record you found in your uncle’s basement. How much of that is self-conscious, I’m not sure. He knows his music history, that’s for sure, and he didn’t choose that bowl cut by coincidence, either. But lots of people try to look and sound vintage only to succeed in looking like poseurs. So there’s more to it than just liking the aesthetic very, very much. I honestly didn’t love Bugg’s third album (he experimented with some new directions that didn’t suit him) but I have complete faith in a long solid career about to unfold. Let’s see this kid go from a prodigy to a fully baked artist.
Out of dozens of recent new discoveries, Courtney Barnett is probably the most exciting. I’m pretty confident that she’s one for the ages. Being a mold-breaker has something to do with it; Barnett doesn’t have much in common with the indie pop crowd et al. From her droll observational humor to her normcore style, she’s an artist outside of trends and firmly inside a long tradition of clever, verbose songwriters. And mostly, being much more clever than anyone else is the most appealing thing about her. She plays with words like a jigsaw master, and she nails the pointed emotional currents that color the most banal moments. Because grand outbursts may happen in extreme moments, but our emotional lives are really a constant slow trickle that bubbles and flows and gets affected by tiny, tiny things and rights itself without us really noticing it except as mental wallpaper, and we don’t usually stop and consider how every object and moment has subtle value. And we most certainly don’t write songs about the boring things we see and feel all day long, unless we’re Courtney Barnett.
So many good indie bands, so little time to get to know them! I haven’t listened to a Foals record in about a year, and hey, maybe I should go listen to all four of them now. I also don’t listen to the radio in my car anymore, so I don’t keep up with what’s new either. That’s how I discovered these guys, and many others. So what I’m saying is that keeping up with new music is a high mountain to climb (or something) and it’s even harder to consistently pass new discoveries on to you, the listening audience. Uh, bear with me? Anyhow, Foals are an English band, they have four albums, of which this one – Holy Fire – is probably the best, or at least the one with the most hit singles. They haven’t released anything that I know of since last year, but given the average slowed down pace of record production these days, they’re right on schedule. They’re at Austin City Limits, like, right now as we speak, so if you’re at Austin City Limits music and arts festival, definitely see them. Also, really great video below, recommend actually watching through all the way.
Duran Duran won’t be around forever. Fitz and the Tantrums are warming up for when they’re not. You’ve probably heard this on the radio, or one of their other hits. This is straight-outta-1983 synthpop, and I love it. Fitz and company would have been MTV giants if they’d been born a little sooner. As it is, they have to content themselves with merely dominating the Alternative charts and Indie radio. The aggressive catchiness of their music may soon help them bust all the way into the mainstream though, and then you can say you were a fan way back when.
Shout out to some local boys. A few years late and a dollar short, but still. Sons of Fathers no longer play together, a development I didn’t know about until just now, but you could still buy their album, which is pretty great. One of the great joys of living in Austin is serendipitously discovering great bands, and that’s what happened; “Hey, these guys are playing.” “Never heard of them.” “Let’s go!” That was a few years ago, like three or four, and they were playing bar’n’grill type places. In 2014 they played SXSW, sharing a bill with Hurray for the Riff Raff and Lucinda Williams. They made one album, also named Sons of Fathers, and got some attention from Rolling Stone and NPR. Then they broke up, I guess. It looks like lead singer and songwriter Paul Cauthen is having some solo success, with a nationwide tour in progress, so that’s good. Anyway, if you enjoy roots country with a touch of blues, you’ll dig this record, and try to see Cauthen on tour.
No video for this song, but you can hear it on NPR’s World Cafe.
Photo by me.
The members of Rhye really know where there musical bread is buttered. They know what buttons they’re trying to push in their listeners. They’ve made what may be the most button-pushingest record of the decade. I’m not saying button pushing in a bad way, though yeah, this is emotional manipulation of the highest degree. When Milosh sings dreamy songs about fading together, goddamn it, you melt into a puddle of wistful goop. Never mind if your rational mind believes that all the tropes of romance are a lie perpetuated by a conspiracy of bridal gown designers and right wing one-man-plus-one-woman types. Never mind if your personal experience tells you that it’s impossible for two human beings to maintain a meaningful non-platonic relationship without swiftly learning to hate and resent one another irrevocably. Never mind if your brain chemistry has reached a saturation point where it’s hard to even have a meaningful experience without the aid of alcohol and drugs. Rhye makes you believe that there’s nothing higher in the realm of the human experience than a good morning-after snuggle.