four of 'em. Enjoy!
"Do As I Say Not As I Do" by Ed Harcourt: In the indie rock world, Ed Harcourt is one of the most simultaneously soothing and intriguing musicians, so I was pretty psyched to find out he was releasing a new album! Perhaps a good way to describe Ed would be "Burt Bacharach music interpreted via Andrew Bird", the latter an indie musician himself who is also '60s pop inspired. Ed's benign yet clever delivery of pop/rock music continues in "Do As I Say Not As I Do", which isn't too much of a departure from such gems of his as "Watching the Sun Come Up" and "Born In the '70s", except for the fact that it has an electric guitar solo in between the chorus and verses, though Ed even manages to make that part sound charming. If you like your indie music to sound nostalgic but still somewhat relevant, this song's for you!
"Dragon's Song" by Blitzen Trapper: Ever since their debut (which was only about a year ago), Blitzen Trapper have become a pretty well-loved band in the indie universe. Adult alt. radio kinda-sorta caught on to "Black River Killer" from their debut (though it was only a mild hit on such stations), but I guess it's taken until their latest album to come up with a song that looks like it will be (slightly) more popular on such stations. Much like Ed Harcourt (see above), Blitzen Trapper are very much of what I like to call a "'60s Renaissance" band, meaning that they sound like they're from the decade even though they're not (an increasingly common theme in indie music). Blitzen Trapper tend to come off to me like what Donovan might have been like if he named his backing group, in that, though their roots lie in folk, they're not afraid to experiment with more "psychedelic" sounds (often within the same songs). "Dragon's Song" is no exception to the rule. It starts out sounding like an "acoustic" Bob Dylan song, yet once the drums kick in, pretty much every other instrument starts to as well, notably the synthesized keyboards in the main parts of the song, and the groovy electric guitar solo in the middle of it. "Dragon's Song" truly seems like it would be a trip back in time had I been around during the '60s. Even the title of the song sounds like it came from that decade!
"Saturday Sun" by Crowded House: Despite the fact that their biggest hit, "Don't Dream It's Over", was somewhat of a Tears for Fears soundalike (though smoother and more soulful), fans of most of Crowded House's other material tend to be drawn to them for their emulation of the "three B's" (The Beatles, The Byrds, and The Beach Boys). Their '91 album, "Woodface", has some fine examples of their influence by these bands (especially "It's Only Natural", and a lot of "Weather With You". For awhile, that seemed like that album was going to be the last of Crowded House, though in the mid-2000's they came back with an unexpected but instantly welcomed smash hit on adult alt. radio, "Don't Stop Now". As much as I love Crowded House, that song didn't exactly ring well with me, as it sounded like they were trying a bit TOO hard in that song to imitate contemporary "piano-pop", and not of the Ben Folds variety either - more like that of the blander radio-friendly sounds of The Fray and later Coldplay. Thankfully, Crowded House's latest, "Saturday Sun" is not like this. However, fans of Crowded House's '60s pop/rock-oriented style should take note that the band have once again shifted direction in their style for "Saturday Sun". With the exception of the guitar solo towards the end of the song, most of it sounds more like it was influenced by the gentle "trip-hop-lite" sounds that Massive Attack and Portishead originated and that Zero 7 and Frou Frou made more popular. Though songs like "It's Only Natural" have a special place in my heart for their irresistible, cute, sunny melodies, it's also refreshing to hear Crowded House successfully take on more contemporary sounds in "Saturday Sun".
"Shadow People" by Dr. Dog: This song is proof of how eclectic Dr. Dog truly are! Their last effort, "Stranger", released earlier this year, was an energetic, happy, fully orchestrated song, yet "Shadow People", in some ways, seems to be the opposite of that one. Instead of taking on vibrant sounds (until midway through the song, for some reason), it has a more folk-y, calming vibe, that instantly brings to mind one of Neil Young's acoustic songs. Unlike the quirky, brightly delivered lyrics of "Stranger", "Shadow People" seems like it goes for a more melancholy vibe, with its yearning lyrical vibe ("Where did all the shadow people go?"), even through the sunnier second half of the song. Intelligent AND introspective - what more could you ask for?!