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Lollipop Indie/Alternative Streams

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Indie/Alternative Streams


  The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Revelation (A Records)
release date: 5/19/14

The music industry illuminati had seemingly declared The Brian Jonestown Massacre - and their supposed mad genius frontman Anton Newcombe - to be rock's great saviors a few seconds after they formed the band. And considering how their profile blew up even further following Dig!, the excellent 2004 documentary about Newcombe's fascinatingly prickly relationship with Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor, it's incredible that TBJM feels so under the radar in 2014, considering their history. But hey, strip away the contextual stuff and this band still delivers some great rock 'n' roll, as evidenced by the supremely confident slow burn of "What You Isn't," from their fourteenth (!) album Revelation.


Owls
Two (Polyvinyl Records)
release date: 3/25/14

Owls are a satisfying throwback to a time when emo rock hadn't yet evolved into an overly sleek, whiny mess of a movement. Originally on the scene for a brief time in the early 2000s, the group is back after a decade-plus hiatus, and they sound fantastic. Nervous, jittery guitars and endearingly vulnerable vocals all delivered with the confidence and talent necessary to pull this style off, "I'm Surprised..." tells of great things in store on their second album, Two.

Dum Dum Girls
Too True (Sub Pop Records)
release date: 1/27/14

My brother-in-law saw this band open up for Ben Gibbard a while back, and his zero-word review was a lethargic shoulder shrug. So I didn't have high hopes going in to this but, hey, maybe they've improved with age. Maybe not. I'm all for some icy synth-pop (the more Ladytron, the better), but "Lost Boys and Girls Club" is a little too distant even for me. Chilling out to the buzzing hummm of this track is definitely an option, but I like to see evidence of a beating heart a little closer to the surface.


Matt Pryor
Wrist Slitter (Equal Vision Records)
release date: 11/11/13

The Get-Up Kids have been the butt of many of my emo/bad indie rock jokes. The band got less terrible with every release, as the cute college girls I assigned to review them for the magazine often noted. I actually liked their cover of The Cure's "Close to You" on Before You Were Punk Vol. 2. Liked, I say. "Kinda Go To Pieces" is standard indie rock with a recognizable vocalist, Matt Pryor (The Get-Up Kids, The New Amsterdams, The Terrible Twos, Lasorda, and some solo stuff under his own name). He hits all the notes, which he's been doing a lot of recently and it's appreciated, but he doesn't reach far out of his natural range. So no emo yelp, falsetto, or no faltering Soundgardenisms, just on-pitch everyman basics, like Mike Ness and other older guys who've made a living of it. Nothing world-altering, but nothing cringe-worthy. A likable song.

Boardwalk
(Stones Throw Records)
release date: 10/15/13

Pleasant, predictable, and absolutely mesmerizing. While it's a dick move to say an entire genre is pretty indistinguishable (to the obvious outsider), that's what I'm gonna do. Breathy, gauzy female vocals, and some hipster dude handling the deeply-reverbed, mellow guitars, and drum machine set on snooze. "Crying" is simple and warm, well-balanced, and another near-perfect addition to the dream pop genre.


Blitzen Trapper
VII (Vagrant Records)
release date: 9/30/13

No, the title of the new Blitzen Trapper album isn't meant to be clever or anything (I thought maybe this was their, like, fourth album), this is their seventh full-length. And the music, heard here on "Ever Loved Once," is just as straightforward and unpretentious, with a confident alt.country swagger. For some reason, these four minutes call to mind a mashup of Jim Croce with Neil Young's "Ohio," but I promise that the actual music sounds a lot better than that bizarre description.

Rogue Wave
Nightingale Floors (Vagrant Records)
release date: 6/4/13

"College" is appropriately-named. For those a little older and wiser (just ask 'em) than their cliquey high school counterparts, Rogue Wave offer up a 101-level anthem for awkward, nervous late-teens. No fist-pumping neanderthalism, no yelping & moping, no wub-wub dub, just jerky indie pop, perhaps a glasses-wearing update of "I Guess This Is Growing Up" or something. Safely pleasant.


Saturday Looks Good to Me
One Kiss Ends It All (Polyvinyl Records)
release date: 5/21/13

Gloriously produced, easy-breezy summer indie pop, with most of the vocals volleyed by the women. Their voices match better than my socks, and while the beats of "Invisible Friend" are fingersnapping like Standing on a Beach poppy Cure, the gauzy guitars and recording speaks more of dancing, not standing, on the beach, fingers up, tickling the clouds and making them giggle.

Goldfrapp
Tales of Us (Mute Records)
release date: 9/10/13

Not that Goldfrapp (first name, Alison) hasn't been doing well for herself for quite a while, dating back to her mid-'90s collaborations with Orbital, but c'mon -- having your song in an Apple commercial is a new level of stardom (and moolah, one would hope). But hey, that's where she's at right now with "Ooh La La" featured on the omnipresent iPhone 5S commercials. The piano ballad "Drew," a track from her most recent album, is definitely a more subdued affair than that song (or my personal favorite, the synth-happy "Rocket"), but it's beautiful nonetheless.


Maps
Vicissitude (Mute Records)
release date: 7/8/13

This is some chilly electro indie rock that you pretty quickly warm up to, in the vein of Junior Boys or Supersystem. Maps is actually one dude -- James Chapman from Northampton, England -- and "A.M.A." has a lonely sound, but it seems to be celebration of it rather than a lament. The song is from Maps' third album, Vicissitude, which Chapman describes as both darker and more positive than his previous works.

No Age
An Object (Sub Pop Records)
release date: 8/20/13

L.A.-based experimental duo No Age creates some exceptional sounds in these two and a half minutes. "An Impression," from their most recent album, An Object, has a dreamy, hypnotic quality to it, and that's before the old-school psychedelic sounds creep in towards the end. The song has a "big" feel, full of layers and patterns, not unlike what Animal Collective does, but also manages to sound stripped down and sparse, recalling The Slits.



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