November 20, 2005

New Buzz : Antony and the Johnsons

I Am A Bird Now

Antony and the Johnsons' second full-length recording, the haunting and affecting I Am a Bird Now, is a far more intimate affair than their debut. Antony's bluesy parlor room cadence is more upfront here, resulting in a listening experience that's both exhilarating and disquieting. "Hope There's Someone" is a somber opener, and its plea for companionship, augmented by a sparse piano/vocal arrangement that rises into the air by song's end in a swirl of multi-tracked harmonies, is ultimately uplifting. This formula is applied to much of the record and never ceases to elicit honest emotion from either Antony or his numerous guests.

Rufus Wainwright takes the lead on "What Can I Do?," a languid meditation on death that conjures up images of rainy streets, lonely lampposts, and cigar smoke -- it's brief (under two minutes) but alluring like the cover of a Raymond Chandler novel. Boy George joins Antony for a duet on the soulful and empowering "You Are My Sister," Devendra Banhart lends his warbly tenor to the lush "Spiraling," and Lou Reed plays noodly guitar and recites an anonymous poem on the mischievous "Fistful of Love."

It's a testament to Antony's skill as a writer and arranger that these guest appearances are completely devoid of pretense, and while each artist is reverent to the source material, it's still Antony's show, as the most powerful moments on I Am a Bird Now are his.

Antony and the Johnsons are an award-winning music act from New York City.

The band is essentially the vehicle for singer Antony, whose full name is Antony Hegarty. Born in Chichester, West Sussex, England in 1971, Antony moved to Amsterdam in 1977 before settling in California the following year. As a teenager he was enthused by the British synth pop of the time — in particular emotive torch singers such as Marc Almond and Boy George. In 1990 he moved to Manhattan and founded the performance collective Blacklips with creative partner Johanna Constantine.

British neofolk musician David Tibet of Current 93 heard a demo and offered to release Antony's music through his Durtro label; the debut album, Antony and the Johnsons, was released in 1998. In 2001, Antony released a short follow-up EP, I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy, which, in addition to the title track, included a cover of a David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti song and a Current 93 song.

Producer Hal Wilner heard the EP and played it to Lou Reed, who immediately recruited him for his project The Raven. Now gaining more attention, Antony signed to US-based record label Secretly Canadian, and released another EP, The Lake, with Lou Reed guest-performing on one of the tracks. Secretly Canadian also re-released Antony's debut album in the United States to wider distribution in 2004.

Antony's second full-length album, 2005's I Am a Bird Now, gained rave reviews and significantly more mainstream attention, winning the Mercury Music Prize for the best album of 2005. Rival Mercury nominees, and favourites for the prize, the Kaiser Chiefs suggested that Antony got in on a technicality; despite the fact he was born in the United Kingdom he spent much of his time in the US - although they later apologised for the suggestion that he wasn't a deserving winner.

Antony's voice seems to channel Nina Simone and Bryan Ferry, and he has many celebrity admirers such as Philip Glass, Marc Almond, Lou Reed and the guest vocalists on I Am a Bird Now, Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Devendra Banhart.


* Antony and the Johnsons (Durtro 1998; Secretly Canadian 2004)
* I Am a Bird Now (Secretly Canadian 2005) #5 UK

EPs and singles

* I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy (Durtro 2001)
* The Lake (Secretly Canadian 2004)
* Hope There's Someone (Secretly Canadian 2004) #46 UK (charted in 2005)
* You Are My Sister (Rough Trade 2005)

Indie Rock : The Postal Service

The Postal Service is an indietronic band featuring singer Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and producer Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and Figurine. Several songs on their first LP, Give Up, feature guest vocals from Jenny Lewis, the lead singer of Rilo Kiley, a band which was once on the same label as Death Cab (Barsuk Records) and vocals from Jen Wood, an indie rock solo artist. Chris Walla is also in the band playing guitar, drums, and keyboard.

he way in which the group combines mechanical backing tracks with poppy hooks is somewhat reminiscent of 1980s new wave music. The group formed after Gibbard contributed vocals for a song on Dntel's album Life is Full of Possibilities called "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan". This song sparked an EP of remixes by other artists, such as Lali Puna, Safety Scissors, Barbara Morgenstern and Superpitcher, and was so well received that the two artists decided that further collaboration was in order.

Their name comes from the manner in which their songs were written, due to the fact that the two of them lived too far away to be able to work together in person. Tamborello would create beats and mail them to singer and lyricist Gibbard, who would then edit them and put his melodies over the tracks and mail them back. Ben didn't write any of the lyrics until the tracks were completely finished.

Despite the fact that their main bands are still active, The Postal Service has supported their full-length album Give Up with a successful concert tour and has stated intentions to tour more in the future. The album's most notable single was "Such Great Heights" that has been featured in various television commercials and movie trailers. The album also recently became the most successful album for the Sub Pop label since Nirvana's debut album Bleach.

In 2004, the United States Postal Service sent the band a cease and desist letter citing their trademark on the phrase "postal service". After negotiations, the USPS relented, allowing the band use of the trademark in exchange for promotional efforts on behalf of the USPS and a performance at their annual National Executive Conference..Additionally, the USPS website sells the band's CDs.

In 2004, the track "Such Great Heights," as performed by Iron & Wine, was used on the Garden State film soundtrack. In 2005, this version of the song was also licensed for use in a television commercial for the Mars Corporation's M&M's candies. "Such Great Heights" has also been featured in The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy, as well as commercials for insurance provider Kaiser Permanente. The band ghas also done a great cover of the Phil Collins song 'Against all odds' featured on the Wicker Park soundtrack.


* Such Great Heights
* Give Up
* The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
* Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell (EP) - The Flaming Lips
* Wicker Park: Soundtrack Album
* Give Up (Vinyl)
* We Will Become Silhouettes
* Be Still My Heart (Nobody Remix) - Single
* Verve Remixed, Vol. 3

Indie Rock : Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes is a band fronted by Conor Oberst, an American singer-songwriter from Nebraska.

Bright Eyes currently resides on the Saddle Creek record label, an Omaha-based label that is home to bands including Cursive, The Faint, and Now It's Overhead. The name "Bright Eyes" came from a film Oberst was watching, where the male protagonist affectionately used the term to describe the female protagonist.

Conor Oberst and producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis are the only permanent members, with the backup players resembling something of a Saddle Creek house band, pulling many, if not most, from other bands on the label. Oberst's vocal style and lyrics often have a desperate edge: he frequently sounds like he's on the verge of crying, or of having a nervous breakdown.

Oberst has stated that his lyrics do not necessarily reflect his personal experience, and are often similar to short stories. "Padraic My Prince," for example, tells of a mother drowning the narrator's brother in a bathtub, an event Oberst has stated is fictional. In interviews, Oberst has explained such situations are often required to achieve the emotive extremes he seeks.

Oberst has served in many bands since the age of 13, by first fronting the mildly succesful band Commander Venus and the not-as-successful Park Ave.. He was also the lead singer of Desaparecidos. Although there are some parallels between Desaparecidos and Bright Eyes, the lyrics of Desaparecidos tend to reflect more on society rather than individuals, and the music fits more to punk rock than folk. Although this clean comparison is for the most part accurate, it should be noted that there are two general stylistic grains in Bright Eyes' catalog. The earliest records and most recent Digital Ash in a Digital Urn feature heavier use of electronic instruments and drum machines, while Lifted and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, while still using many electronic aspects, have a more "stripped down" tone with the acoustic guitar taking the most prominent role.

During the 2004 election season, Bright Eyes toured with Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M. on the "Vote for Change" tour, further pushing him into the public eye. On May 5, 2005 Bright Eyes appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and performed the protest song "When the President Talks to God", a scathing rebuke of the Bush administration.

In early November, 2004, two Bright Eyes singles, "Lua" and "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)", reached the two top spots on the Billboard Hot 100 Single Sales, a remarkable feat for a musician on an independent label. This was the first time this has happened on the list in seven years. Many predict that, as of January 2005, Oberst is on the verge of an international mainstream breakthrough.


* Letting Off the Happiness (1998 · Saddle Creek Records)
* Fevers and Mirrors (2000 · Saddle Creek Records)
* A Collection of Songs: Recorded 1995-1997 (2000)
* Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002 · Saddle Creek Records) (US #161)
* The Christmas Album (2002 · Saddle Creek Records - online exclusive)
* Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005 · Saddle Creek Records) (US #15)
* I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005 · Saddle Creek Records) (US #10) (UK #23)
* Motion Sickness (live) (2005 · Saddle Creek Records)

EPs, singles, other

* Every Day and Every Night EP (1999)
* Blood of the Young 7" (2000)
* Drunk Kid Catholic 7"/CD (2000)
* Don't Be Frightened of Turning the Page (2001)
* Oh Holy Fools: The Music of Son, Ambulance & Bright Eyes (2001)
* There Is No Beginning to the Story EP (2002)
* Lover I Don't Have to Love CDS (2002)
* Vinyl Box Set (7 LP's) (2003) This collection contains Bright Eyes' first five albums plus bonus material.
* One Jug Of Wine, Two Vessels (2004) Split containing three tracks each from Bright Eyes and Neva Dinova.
* Take It Easy (Love Nothing) CDS (2004) from Digital Ash in A Digital Urn
* Lua CDS (2004) from I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
* First Day of My Life CDS (2005) (UK #37)
* Easy/Lucky/Free CDS (2005) (UK #42)

Indie Rock : The Decemberists

The Decemberists are an indie band from Portland, Oregon. Named after the Decembrists from the Decembrist Revolt, they appropriated the name and made it their own. Their songs range from upbeat pop to slower, instrumentally lush arrangements. In their lyrics, they eschew the angst and introspection common to modern rock, instead favoring a storytelling approach with lines like "My mother was a Chinese trapeze artist / In pre-war Paris / Smuggling bombs for the underground" (from "My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist", on 5 Songs) and "We are two mariners / Our ship's sole survivors / Inside this belly of a whale / Its ribs our ceiling beams / Its guts our carpeting / I guess we have some time to kill" ("The Mariner's Revenge Song", from Picaresque). Their songs convey tales ranging from whimsical ("Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect") to epic ("The Tain") to truly dark ("Odalisque").

While they boast a genuinely original sound (which often features the accordion), their demeanor and approach often finds The Decemberists compared to Neutral Milk Hotel. Many reviewers and fans categorize the band as pirate rock (due to alleged pirate themes in the music), a characterization that lead singer Colin Meloy disputes Recently, the band has also earned a reputation for their exceptionally entertaining live performances.

In March 2005, the Decemberists were reportedly the first band to distribute a music video, the self-produced 16 Military Wives (for the song of the same name off of Picaresque), via BitTorrent. That same month, the band's gear trailer was stolen; fans contributed to a replacement fund, and another fund-raiser was organized via eBay auction, bidding copies of Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey and original art work by Carson Ellis. They also recieved help from Lea Krueger, the Shins, the Dandy Warhols and other musicians. The Martin Guitar Company offered 6- and 12-string guitars on permanent loan. In early April, police discovered the trailer in Clackamas, Oregon missing $40,000 worth of instruments and equipment and a great deal of the band's merchandise

On their official website, The Decemberists claim that their official drink is Orangina, and that bands they adore include Norfolk and Western, The Places, The Long Winters, Death Cab for Cutie, Tracker, Sleater Kinney, Electrelane, Camera Obscura, Clearlake, Tom Heinl, The Thermals, The Swords Project, and Earlimart. Their official biography, keeping up their reputation for grandiloquence, describes how the band's members met in a Turkish bath.


* 5 Songs EP (self-released 2001, Hush reissue 2002)
* Castaways and Cutouts LP (Hush release 2002, Kill Rock Stars reissue 2003)
* Her Majesty The Decemberists LP (Kill Rock Stars, 2003)
* The Tain EP (Acuarela Discos, 2004)
* Billy Liar CD Single (Kill Rock Stars, 2004)
* Picaresque LP (Kill Rock Stars, March 22, 2005)

Indie Rock : Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan (SOOF-yon) Stevens (born July 1, 1975 in Detroit, Michigan) is a musician, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Michigan with a fondness for the banjo. His lyrically focused songs deal with subjects such as faith, family and, in the case of Michigan, his observations from living in that state. Stevens has announced plans to make an album for each of the 50 states. Accordingly, his follow up to Seven Swans is titled Illinois.

Sufjan Stevens began his musical career as a member of Marzuki, a folk-rock band from Holland, Michigan. He also played various instruments for The Danielson Famile. While in school at Hope College, Stevens wrote and recorded his debut solo album, A Sun Came, which he released on Asthmatic Kitty Records, a record label he founded with his step-father. He later moved to New York City, where he was enrolled in a writing program at the New School for Social Research.

While in New York, Stevens composed and recorded the music for his second album, Enjoy Your Rabbit, a song cycle based around the animals of the Chinese Zodiac that ventured into electronica.

Stevens followed this with the first of his 50 states albums, a collection of folk songs and instrumentals inspired by his home state of Michigan. The result, the expansive Michigan, included odes to cities including Detroit and Flint, the Upper Peninsula, and vacation areas such as Tahquamenon Falls. Melded into the scenic descriptions and characters are his own declarations of faith in God, sorrow, love and the regeneration of Michigan.

Following the release of Michigan, Stevens compiled a collection of songs recorded previously into a side project, the Christian-folk album Seven Swans, which was released in March 2004.

The 50 States Project

Beginning with Michigan, Stevens announced an intent to write an album for each of the 50 U.S. states, although in interviews he wavers between utter sincerity and self-mocking sarcasm when describing the idea.

Stevens spent the second half of 2004 researching and writing material for the second of these projects, this time focusing his efforts on Illinois, where he has never lived. Among the subjects explored on Illinois are the cities of Chicago, Decatur and Jacksonville, the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, the poet Carl Sandburg, and Mississippi Palisades State Park. As with Michigan, Stevens used the state of Illinois as a leaping-off point for his more personal explorations of faith, family, love, and location. Though slated for general release on July 5, 2005, the album was briefly delayed by legal issues regarding the use of Superman in the original album cover artwork.

Illinois has been widely acclaimed, and as of October 2005, is the highest rated album of the year on the Metacritic review aggregator site, based on glowing reviews from Pitchfork, The Onion A/V Club, Spin, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and The Guardian

The next states to be the topics of albums in the project have been reported as Oregon and Rhode Island.
Studio Releases

* A Sun Came (Asthmatic Kitty, June 13, 2000; re-released July 20, 2004)
* Enjoy Your Rabbit (Asthmatic Kitty, September 17, 2001; re-released June 8, 2004)
* Michigan (Asthmatic Kitty/Sounds Familyre, July 1, 2003; a.k.a. Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State)
* Seven Swans (Sounds Familyre, March 16, 2004)
* Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty, July 5, 2005; a.k.a. Come on Feel the Illinoise)

Other Releases

* This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to The Beatles' Rubber Soul (Compilation) song: "What Goes On" (Razor & Tie, October, 2005)
* Seen/Unseen (Compilation) song: "Damascus" (Absalom Recordings, September 25, 2001)
* Noel! Songs for Christmas - Vol. I (unreleased)
* Hark! Songs for Christmas - Vol. II (unreleased)
* Ding! Dong! Songs for Christmas - Vol. III (unreleased

Indie Rock : Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie is an indie rock band formed in Bellingham, Washington in 1997. The band takes its name from a satirical song performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band on their album Gorilla. The song was also performed in a striptease act in the Beatles' movie Magical Mystery Tour.

Death Cab for Cutie began as a solo project of Ben Gibbard while he was the guitarist for the band Pinwheel (he has also recorded solo as All-Time Quarterback). As Death Cab for Cutie, Gibbard released a cassette, entitled You Can Play These Songs with Chords; the release was surprisingly successful, and Gibbard decided to expand the band into a complete project. He recruited Christopher Walla, who also recorded "Songs with Chords", as an electric guitarist, Nicholas Harmer on bass, and Nathan Good to play drums; this configuration released the LP Something About Airplanes in the summer of 1998. The album got favorable reviews from the independent music scene, and in 2000, the follow-up was released: We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. Nathan Good left the band at some point during the recording of We Have the Facts. His playing on "The Employment Pages" and "Company Calls Epilogue" were kept, but Gibbard played drums on all other songs. New drummer Michael Schorr would first appear on The Forbidden Love E.P., released in fall of 2000. The following year, another LP was released, entitled The Photo Album. Limited editions of this album contained three bonus tracks, which were later released separately as The Stability E.P..

In 2003, there was another change of drummer, with Jason McGerr of Eureka Farm replacing Schorr. McGerr would play drums on the next release, Transatlanticism, which came out in October of 2003.

Transatlanticism received critical praise and also became the band's top-selling album, with 225,000 copies sold during its first year out. In addition, tracks from the album appeared in the soundtrack of television shows The O.C. and Six Feet Under and the 2005 movie The Wedding Crashers.

In spring of 2004, the band recorded a live album titled The John Byrd E.P., named for their sound engineer. The E.P. was released on Barsuk records in March of 2005.

In November, 2004 Death Cab for Cutie signed a "long-term worldwide deal" with Atlantic Records, leaving their long-time label Barsuk Records and the rank of indie record labels. Gibbard stated on the official website that nothing would change except that "Next to the picture of Barsuk holding a 7”, there will be the letter “A” on both the spine and back of our upcoming albums."

The first single off the band's Atlantic record release Plans is titled "Soul Meets Body". The full album was released in August of 2005.

Gibbard is also a member of The Postal Service, a side project he formed with Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello and Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis in 2003.

Full albums

* You Can Play These Songs with Chords (1997 · Barsuk Records)
* Something About Airplanes (1998 · Barsuk Records)
* We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (2000 · Barsuk Records)
* The Photo Album (2001 · Barsuk Records)
* Transatlanticism (2003 · Barsuk Records)
* Plans (August 30, 2005 · Atlantic Records)[1]


* You Can Play These Songs with Chords + 10 (2002 · Barsuk Records)
* Future Soundtrack for America (2004 · Barsuk Records)
* The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered (2004 · Gammon Records)
* Stubbs the Zombie (2005 · Shout! Factory)


* The Forbidden Love E.P. (2000 · Barsuk Records)
* The Stability E.P. (2002 · Barsuk Records)
* Studio X Sessions E.P. (2004 · Digital Only iTunes Release)
* The John Byrd E.P. (2005 · Barsuk Records)

Genre : Indie Rock

Indie rock is rock music that falls within the indie music description. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with indie music as a whole, though more specifically implies that the music meets the criteria of being rock, as opposed to indie pop or other possible matchups. These criteria vary from an emphasis on rock instrumentation (electric guitars, bass guitar and live drums) to more abstract (and debatable) rockist constructions of authenticity.

The music commonly regarded as indie rock is descended from what was known as alternative rock during the 1980s; this name refers to the fact that it was an alternative to mainstream rock. Alternative bands of the time, in turn, were influenced by the punk rock, post-punk, and New Wave movements of the 1970s and early 1980s. During the first half of the 1990s alternative music, led by grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, broke into the mainstream and achieved commercial chart success. Shortly thereafter, the alternative genre became commercialised, as mainstream success attracted major-label investment and commercially-oriented or manufactured acts with a formulaic, conservative approach. With this, the meaning of the label "alternative" changed away from its original, more countercultural meaning, and the term "indie rock" fell into greater use.

"Indie rock" is shorthand for "independent rock," which stems from the general rule that most of its artists are signed to independent record labels, rather than major record labels. It is not strictly a genre of music (given that musical style and independence are not always correlated), but is often used as an umbrella term covering a wide range of artists and styles, connected by some degree of allegiance to the values of underground culture, and (usually) describable as rock and roll. Genres or subgenres often associated with indie rock include lo-fi, post-rock, shoegazer, garage punk, emo, slowcore, c86, twee pop, and math rock, to list but a few; other related (and sometimes overlapping) categories include alternative rock and indie pop.

Typically, indie artists place a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, often releasing albums on their own independent record labels and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, and airplay on independent or college radio stations for promotion. Some of its more popular artists, however, may end up signing to major labels, though often on favourable terms won by their prior independent success.

More recently, the term "indie rock" has become so incredibly broad that almost anything from post-punk to alt-country to synth-pop to afrobeat to ambient to noise pop to IDM to psychedelic folk to hundreds of other genres can fall under its umbrella.

In fact, there are likely to be several popular, and wildly varying, strains of indie rock going at any given time. For example, some of the more popular recent strains include:

* New folk, an updated take on the folk music of the 1960s, typically designated by quiet vocals and more ornate, orchestral instrumentation and arrangements. (See: Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine)

* Freak-folk, a more experimental take on New Folk that generally revolves around quirky, psych-inflected folk songs and ballads. (See: Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Animal Collective, Six Organs of Admittance)

* New Weird America, the most heavily psych-damaged strain of New Folk, frequently consisting of avant-garde noise, drones, or dissonance, and often employing natural field recordings for added atmosphere. (See: No-Neck Blues Band, Tower Recordings, Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice)

* Dance-punk, a hybridization of electronic dance music and punk rock aesthetics. (See: LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, !!!, Out Hud, Radio 4)

* Garage rock revival, a throwback to a more primitive 60s rock and roll sound which was heavily influenced by Delta blues. (See: The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Hives, The Von Bondies)

* Nu-gaze, an updated version of shoegazer that tends to lean more heavily on synths than its more guitar-focused predecessor. (See: Sigur Ros, Ulrich Schnauss, M83, Serena Maneesh)

* Indietronic, a descendent of electropop that finds a more conventional approach to indie rock or indie pop backed almost exclusively by highly digitized electronic instrumentation. (See: The Postal Service, The Notwist, Manitoba, Dntel, Lali Puna)

Also among the most popular strains of indie rock at present is Neo-Wave. Popularized by bands such as Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Futureheads, it is influenced primarily by the New Wave and post-punk movements of the 1980s. The core of this movement has mostly been the resurgence of spiky 80's post punk rhythms and riffs akin to those played by Gang of Four, Television and Wire. Often this style has been blended with other alternative genres such as garage rock (Death From Above 1979), synth rock (The Killers) and post-punk (Interpol). Some would also classify the Scissor Sisters and many others within this genre, which is very popular in the UK, forming the backbone of the Zane Lowe show, a popular evening radio show on Radio 1.