Daniele Luppi grabs Parquet Courts and Karen O – Indie Rockers Celebrate!

If you are saying to yourself “Daniele who?” you are not alone.  He’s an Italian composer living in the US with an album in 2011 and several movie soundtracks to his name.  He just burst on the scene with a new album on Danger Mouse’s label with some of the most outrageous indie rockers around.

Parquet Courts is an American Indie band with tremendous guitar strength and rock/punk attitude.  Karen O is the front women of the well-loved Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  What a combination!  These songs are just unique and powerful, well-constructed, and a bit hard core.  A surprise from left field, and a very welcome one.  If you haven’t heard them yet, please do, you won’t be sorry.  Vocals are sometimes by Karen O and sometimes by Parquet Courts lead singer, A Savage.  I’ve included two with each singer.

In this playlist:

Talisa, Karen O on vocals

Flush, Karen O on vocals

Soul and Cigarette, A Savage on vocals

Mount Napoleon, A Savage on vocals

YouTube playlist: Luppi, Parquet Courts and Karen O

Spotify playlist: Luppi, Parquet Courts and Karen O

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15 Top Indie Songs of 2017 – In Chronological Order

Very clever of me to choose 15, right?  Well anyway this was certainly a fun activity.  It reminded me what an incredible range of great music got made this year.  By putting them in order by month it plays like a walk down memory lane.

Since this is obviously more than 15 minutes feel free to pick and choose by clicking on the songs you want to hear – or – for the full year experience, click the full playlists below.

JANUARY

Chicano Batman: This Land is Your Land This video is actually a commercial, but it is a great production. This band has lots of great music. Look them up.  Powerful and musical and a clear statement against some of the anti-immigration stuff coming out of Washington.

FEBRUARY

Middle Kids: Edge of Town This new band out of Australia is my first choice to make it big when they release their first full-length album.  Their debut EP and their live performance knocked me out.

Orwells: Heavy Head The Orwells are a Rock and Roll band in the old school style.  Great banging rock and crazy lead singer.

Animal Collective: Kinda Bonkers Electronic psychedelic bonkers music for sure.  Their live show was mind-warpingly good.

MARCH

Temples: Certainty This English psychedelic guitar rock band has amazing musical and can definitely get into your head.

APRIL

Sylvan Esso: Die Young I can’t get enough of this band.  Saw them in Brooklyn twice this year and would go again anytime.  It’s hard to just pick one song from the great, Grammy nominated 2017 album, “What Now”.

New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions My favorite from the album of the same name.  An album full of deep tracks that get more interesting the more you listen.

JULY

Lana Del Rey: Love What an epic song, and sung by a woman who performs like someone inhabited by the music.

AUGUST

The War on Drugs: Holding On I’m certain this will be number one one someone’s list.  This band keep delivering awesome music with deep roots.  With a bit of an “E Street Band” feel, this song is absolutely one of the best of the year.

SEPTEMBER

LCD Soundsystem: I Used To LCD Soundsystem’s return in 2017 was one of the biggest Indie Rock events of the year.  They headlined at Coachella and have been playing night after night of sold-out shows everywhere they go.  Hard to describe, LCD combines electronics with their own off-center vision of the world.

Alvvays: In Undertow This band our of Toronto, Canada, got the world’s attention with “Marry Me Archie” in 2014 with its happy retro feel with and indie vibe.  They scored again in 2017 with great upbeat melodic songs that are hard not to like.

OCTOBER

King Krule: Dum Surfer On a much more challenging note, here is an artist from a distinctly different part of England, who can move easily from post-punk to the blues.  There is a lot more here than meets the eye.

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile: Continental Breakfast What happens when two very popular independent musicians with similar, somewhat out of tune, sing-song styles collaborate between Australia and Pennsylvania? A video so cute it is curing millennial depression everywhere.

Tune Yards: Look at Your Hands If you don’t know Tune Yards, check them out.  Be sure to watch the whole video, the second half is electric!  I hear a city vibe, a multi-cultural vibe, an experimental vibe, a great voice, and music that you can listen to, dance to, or, just vibe to!  This song was just released, but the full album won’t come out until January.  So check out their catalog, and look for them in next year’s list.

November

Sleigh Bells: Rainmaker Sleigh Bells is back and looking to combine their noise-pop, M.I.A. inspired intense beats, into something that works on the dance floor at high volume or in the living room, just hanging.  But my suggestion, turn it up!

Full Top 2017 YouTube playlist

Full Top 2017 Spotify playlist

Lana Del Rey – Mistress of Feels

Lana Del Rey sings with heart and soul.  Her lyrics are full of wistful melancholy, longing for depth, and dreams of the wild life. Vibey and loaded with emotion, she has attracted a huge audience of young women and the rest of us who look for some sense of real feelings in our music.  I’ve seen her live twice now.  Once from way in the back at Governor’s Ball and just a couple weeks ago at a much more intimate setting at Terminal 5.  She is evolving and you can here it in her music and see it in her performance.  The audience at Terminal 5 reminded me of nothing so much as a Beatles audience from the 60’s.  Girls screaming and singing along as loud as they could throughout the night.  This was the most packed house I’ve seen at this venue.  Her performance was stellar and personal.  She interacted well with the audience even agreeing to sing “Get Free’ when the audience chanted for it even though she wasn’t sure she could remember the words and needed help from the audience.  This also resolved a long-running question about who the people were whose names were left out of the previous recording.  The words are: “for Amy and for Whitney.”  See the last video in the playlist which was recorded that night.

She has been criticized for her straightforward performance style, but it is clear she is trying to add a little more to her stage presence, moving more, dancing a little, and bringing in backup dancers.   Really what those critics missed is that her singing is loaded with real emotion; and that doesn’t require acrobatics.

She may look like a pretty pop star, but Lana Del Rey writes evocative songs, sings with strong emotion, and connects to the audience.  She is the real deal.  Sit back, have a sip of wine, and enjoy the feels.

In this playlist:

Ride – One of my favorites

Love – From her newest album – shows off her vocals

Summertime Sadness – Watch the video version to hear the madness at Terminal 5!

Get Free – The video version was unplanned and acapella – also at Terminal 5 

YouTube playlist: Lana Del Rey

Spotify playlist: Lana Del Rey

The xx – Personal, minimal, romantic, sexy

This band is not for everyone.  Maybe the opposite of a “wall of sound”, their music is simple, even minimalist.  Their impact has been huge.  They convey a kind of romantic feel no one else has been able to duplicate.  I once saw a review which said that while there are lots of songs about things leading up to sex, the xx songs seem to take place afterwards.  There is a depth of feeling here that, if you hook into, can grab you my the solar plexus.  It’s like being pulled into a connection between the two singers that you can’t escape.  When I was lucky enough to see them live (see bad photo above) it was clear they have an adoring audience who know all the words, and just want more and more.

In this playlist:

Crystalised – Their biggest song from their first album – the video is an intimate live version that let’s you see how they work.

Chained – From Coexist, their second album

Islands – Check the YouTube video – a truly unique piece of choreography with feels that run deep

On Hold – From their most recent album, “I see You” – YouTube version is live

Angels – Perhaps one of their most intimate songs – the video I’ve included is purely a solo with Romy singing and playing guitar.

YouTube playlist: The xx

Spotify playlist: The xx

Indie Rock Nerds

This one is just for fun.  Here are some Indie Rock songs that lean a little on the nerd side.  Why?  Words like parallelogram, ion displacement  and encryption don’t seem very likely in rock songs – but here they are.  Great music – slightly nerdy words.  Enjoy.

In this playlist:

alt-J – Tessellate  – Tessellate: cover a plane surface by repeated use of a single shape, without gaps or overlapping

The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions – Use of the word encryption is here – along with reference to Mayans, the science of falling, and ignoring the warning – good enough to make the list

Vampire Weekend – Bryn – Not really a nerdy song except for the opening words: ion displacement

Certainty – Temples – making parallelograms cool again

Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator – Courtney gets on the list for her reference here to SimCity – watch the video – cute – maybe not so nerdy

YouTube playlist: Indie Rock Nerds

Spotify playlist: Indie Rock Nerds

Temples – A Little Retro, A Little Psychedelic, a Lot of Talent

If you listen to the first song on this playlist and think – wait, is that the Beatles?  the Moody Blues? – you’d be forgiven.  In general Indie Rock is known for incorporating ideas from all rock times and genres.  So I wouldn’t overdo the “retro” concept here.  What stands out most about the Temples is their incredible talent as musicians and their dedication to their music.  I hear bits of 60s, 70s, and 80s music throughout Indie.  I think what is great about that is that in indie rock, people don’t feel that the only way forward is to invent the next genre.  Instead, let’s look at all the ideas we can find and create something brand new, that’s never been heard before.

In the case of “Shelter Song,” it certainly has a big retro feel.  I chose it for that reason. But listen to the rest of the Temples catalog and you won’t question their originality one bit.  The picture here (and the top level picture in this blog) I took at their concert in New York in 2014.  One thing that really stood out was their amazing guitar work. These guys are serious.  Have fun.

In this playlist:

Shelter Song
 
Certainty

I Wanna Be Your Mirror

Mystery of Pop

YouTube playlist: Temples

Spotify playlist: Temples

Neko Case – Queen of Indie Rock

The title may not be official, but never mind, she is the queen (and occasionally the king too).  She is a consummate professional, a great singer, a feeling human being, and a serial collaborator.  If she is singing, I’m listening.  As someone in the YouTube comments wrote, “you don’t need auto-tune if it’s built in.”  Neko is one of the lead singers of the New Pornographers but I feel I need to pay homage to her as a solo artist first because, well,… she is the queen.

I’ll post the New Pornographers another time (edit: here now), but for now, just enjoy her performance, her voice, and if you feel the need, you may bow.

I took the blurry photo above at a free Neko Case concert in New York on the pier in 2012.  I’ve seen her twice with the New Pornographers and I’m psyched to say I’ve got tickets for her upcoming solo tour in January.  Neko Case rules.  Check out the comments on YouTube to see some serious admiration.

For more examples search for her collaborations with Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Elton John, and the album she did with k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs.

Song on this playlist:

Behind The House / This Tornado Loves You / Man / Magpie To The Morning / I’m An Animal

YouTube playlist: Neko Case

Spotify playlist: Neko Case