A friend told me recently that I need to save some content for future posts. Lol. The music world keeps spinning, y’all. I’m five weeks into this little side project and I’m realizing how much I DON’T know about this hobby that I dearly love (music). What I put in this newsletter is barely half of what I’m listening to. But what I love most about this process is that it’s forcing me to do a weekly writing session in which I have to research, compile, and write about something that only increasingly shows me how inadequate I am and just gets better the deeper I dive. Kinda like reading the Bible or even literature. Good things just get better the more time we spend with them.
I know we live in a consumer-driven world (feels like all I’ve been doing this week at work is working on Christmas campaigns), but there is a beauty in it that can push our culture forward if wielded well. If you’ve ever been to Monticello, the library there is fantastic. It’s Thomas Jefferson’s private literature collection, and during his lifetime he had one of the most extensive personal libraries in the country (over 6,000). Now we have entire volumes at our fingertips. We can acquire an entire hobby and skillset just by watching Youtube tutorials. And yeah, it can be overwhelming, but I think it also says something about the beauty of knowledge. Here’s the gap we miss though: making the jump from the 2D world of our screens to the 3D world of interacting with our friends over beers at the pub talking about all the music we’re listening to, the books we’re reading, which Brooklyn Nine-Nine character we most relate to, or the politicians we voted for and how we’ve seen their direct impact on our communities. As much as I love writing and the internet, music is meant to be shared. Knowledge is power, but dialogue is how we create a community, and we need a community to be human. Talking face-to-face opens up a true conversation about the things that consume our time, speak to our vulnerabilities, and help us connect with others.
Anyway, this week I’m again trying to in a very condensed way tackle a genre of what I’m listening to. And honestly, it’s my favorite genre: Women of Indie/Alternative Rock. I didn’t mean to make it only women. I just realized that all the indie/alt bands I’m listening to lately are led by women. So next week is for the boys. Equality.
INDIE SHALLOW DIVE
All my ladies, where you at.
I say shallow dive, because, wow, yeah indie is like a LOT of stuff. If you’re wanting a really great overview of the genre, I suggest listening to the Ongoing History of New Music podcast episode series (3 part) about Indie music. When we say “indie” it’s actually short for independent. As in artists that are under an independent label. Some people say it’s not a “true” musical genre, but rather a reference to who is producing it, but I would argue that it’s synonymous with alternative music, involving a lot of electric guitars, upbeat pop-ish music, and *especially* today a lead vocalist that often pushes their voice forward (kind of that “smoker” sound mixed with an almost fake-sounding British accent or like they’re singing out of the side of their mouth).
Indie music was born of and often has the reputation of pushing the boundaries a little further. If pop music is the friend that’s wearing whatever is on trend, indie is THAT friend that was wearing a leopard jacket or something truly ridiculous like a grandma blouse without apologies, making it look cool years before everyone else. There’s mainstream indie (is that oxymoronic?), and then there’s out there indie (Superorganism), but it’s all born of the same “DIY” mentality of people creating music on their own and defying what the big labels want. In this age of information, indie has thrived because of Youtube and GarageBand and honestly, loop pedals (s/o Tash Sultana). Musicians can create an entire album in their bedroom. And some of these did.
Can’t get enough of this band. ALSO Australian (somethin in the water?). Hannah Joy (lead singer) is married to the bassist, Tim Fitz. Both of them are middle kids and named their band after that fact.
This group is all out talented. They’re each classically trained. Combine that with something to stay and a creative mind, and boom, you have what Pitchfork deemed “radiant, anthemic indie rock.” Hannah’s writing really helped push their music forward. Even *Elton John* is a fan. Yeah. But they’re like super chill cool about that it’s whatever.
Hannah is a classically trained pianist, but often picks up the guitar and plays it backward because she’s left-handed. Personally, I love that there’s a little vibrato in her voice. Like a quiver paired with her alto voice, it just provides so much depth. Crushing so hard. Maybe when they come back to KC I can make an Australian friend. Or, like, let’s just all go on a musical vacation to experience the magic of Aussie music.
So don’t be hiding
I am not that bothered by this stuff you’re fighting
For no other reason that it makes it more exciting
You don’t have to sell it, I am sold
So give me all your garbage and your gold
(Don’t Be Hiding)
Intro: Edge of Town, Mistake, Don’t Be Hiding, On My Knees
For fans of Alex the Astronaut, Jade Bird, Gang of Youths, Lucius, First Aid Kit, Cold War Kids.
Bad Bad Hats
These guys + the main gal, make it through Lawrence at least twice a year and I’ve missed them every time. This band is so endearing. Bad Bad Hats is an indie rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band consists of Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison. Their name comes from a mischievous character in the Madeline books, so maybe it’s natural that I love them. It’s a nod to Pepito’s bad hat. They write these simple and honestly defiant lyrics playfully paired with “sweet and sour” indie pop rock music that makes every song sound more like an anthem to a coming of age.
“Can I, can I, can I get what I want this time?” (Get what I want)
I listened to their first album on repeat (Psychic Reader) for entire seasons, and their second did not disappoint (Lightning Round).
Also, these lyrics are so our generation:
“Kinda makes me nervous, baby
When my phone gets no service, baby
I walk around for hours trynna call you”
(Makes Me Nervous)
Intro: It Hurts, Nothing Gets Me High, Makes Me Nervous, Psychic Reader
For fans of The Greeting Committee, Sjowgren, Dresses (so good!), Charly Bliss
What a firecracker! Okay, go listen to “Soul No. 5” on repeat. People describe Caroline Rose as “darkly comedic” and yep, that’s pretty true. She pairs catchy, upbeat tunes with lyrics that tackle misogyny, cheating, accidental pregnancy, loneliness and death. Her newest album (LONER released Feb 2018) is a total left turn from her previous work, which sounds very Bob Dylan (see “Red Bikini Waltz” off her first album “I Will Not Be Afraid”). But she takes that same deep lyric writing and sets down her acoustic guitar to walk down the baseline on an electric guitar. Honestly, both albums are great. Her fast-paced lyrics and fervor remind me of Jerry Lewis. Caroline, keep doin what you’re doin.
For fans of Waxahatchee, Hop Along, fun., Bleachers, St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
New Caroline Rose – Soul No. 5. My favorite part in the music video is when she dances on the beach in a tracksuit. She’ll make you want to punch dance down a mountain.
It seems like making the shift from folk to alternative rock is a common theme. Your Smith is Caroline Smith of Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps. Her new solo project is more along the lines of Lucy Dacus or Julien Baker. She used to be very folk (think Lighthouse and the Whaler, Freelance Whales), but has moved into more a groovy slow jam alternative sound. She even sings differently, a little more softly, but still retaining that “cool” vibe. It’s the kind of music you can’t help but either sway or nod your head to.
I still have “Bad Habit” on repeat;
“I got a bad habit of smoking too much, of drinking on stage
I got a bad habit of living rich on minimum wage
Of needing to go, but choosing to stay
Of putting it off till another day
I got a bad habit, but loving you
Is the worst one”
For fans of Julien Baker, Margaret Glaspy, Lucy Dacus (for sure), Overcoats, Haley Heynderickx, Now Now.
I swear Australia is churning out some great artists lately. Harriette Pilbeam’s intro in “Sure” could almost be mistaken for “Dreams” by The Cranberries. Honestly, I think “Sure” and “Try” are her strongest songs, but she only has like 6 songs total, including a 5-song EP “Sugar & Spice.” Still, she’s gained major traction with her “cosmic concoction of dream-pop and shoegaze,” disrupting the indie scene with her single “Sure.” It’s just so catchy!
For fans of The Cranberries.
Okay, Margaret Glaspy’s new stuff is another detour from folk and I love it mostly because I love any good break up song. “Before We Were Together” shows a much more passionate and less passive-sounding voice side of Margaret (see “You’re smiling but I don’t believe you”). In her latest single, she pairs a fast-paced baseline underneath an earthy melody that’s alllll about the tension of heartbreak.
“I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t say it straight to your face: Life was better before we were together.”
(Before We Were Together)
She’s joined by child prodigy and jazz guitarist Julian Lage on “Before We Were Together” which adds some great layers. Her voice is very interesting. She is also an artist that came from folk, with nine years of fiddle underneath her belt, though she often plays the guitar.
Intro: Emotions and Math, You’re Smiling (But I Don’t Believe You), Before We Were Together
For fans of Lady Lamb, Phoebe Bridgers, Oh Pep!, Big Thief, Nikki Lane.
Live on the Current:
Margaret talking about songwriting and her beginnings.
HAIM came to KC in this last year and that show was a total last minute choice for me that became one of my faves. It’s a groovy sister-group of three—Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim—and they’ve got rock-star vibes. Plus, they can all sing and throw down in a serious drum battle all while dancing and playing in flares and heels. You go, girls.
They grew up as part of a family cover band Rockinhaim in the San Fernando Valley. They say they have Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, Santana, and Motown influences. What a childhood. They’ve toured with everyone from Ke$ha to Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros to Jenny Lewis.
Intro: Want You Back, The Wire
For fans of Lana Del Ray, Tegan & Sara, Lorde, Fleetwood Mac, Arctic Monkeys, Dan Auerbach, Bastille.
Here’s to you, ladies.
Artists worth checking out:
Mr Little Jeans
Tegan & Sara
Alex the Astronaut
Hit Parade – breaking down what makes a hit
Dissect by Spotify – mostly dissecting rap songs
Switched on Pop – breaking down how pop artists write hit songs. Listen to the one on Taylor Swift.
WINTER – my winter jamz
MISS INDEPENDENT – all the artists today + more
Women of Indie – A lil more mainstream indie
Essential Indie – solid playlist
Nov 16 – John Prine w Conor Oberst (Midland)
Nov 21 – Twenty One Pilots (Sprint)
Nov 26 – Tash Sultana (Midland)
Dec 4 – CHVRCHES (Midland)
Dec 19 – Harry Connick Jr (Midland)
Jan 12 – Live from Here with Chris Thile (Kauffman)
Jan 19 – Trampled by Turtles (Truman)
Jan 25 – Hippo Campus (Truman)
Feb 27 – I’m With Her with Mipso (Folly)
March 27 – St Paul & the Broken Bones (Midland)