All posts in Indie Dispatches

Indie Dispatches: CHL’s year-end accolades & a peak at what’s to come in 2012

From the melodic pop of Real Estate to the undeniably retro fuzz of Yuck, the distorted dreamy noise of I Break Horses and the lo- fi meandering of Youth Lagoon, 2011 has been an excellent year for music. Read more…

Indie Dispatches: Will the Grammys see an indie upset repeat? + more…

Grammy schmammy.   Read more…

Indie Dispatches: Real Estate’s ‘Days’ evokes the best of bygone indie era

There seem to be two words coming out of a lot of people’s lips in the latter part of 2011, usually with some sort of glowing acclaim attached, with those words being, Real Estate. Read more…

Indie Dispatches: CHL picks for CMJ Music Marathon

Alabama Shakes among this year's must-see at CMJ

It’s fall again, when every avid music fan’s thoughts turn to NYC and the annual CMJ Music Marath… hang on… it’s 2011! Does anyone actually go to this thing any more? Is it even relevant? Though indeed, it may not have the cachet of past decades, it seems that there are still a crew of people that will make the rounds of the clubs to see whatever the latest buzz hope-they-are-not-forgotten-in-two-years-time band (hello Black Kids?) While the masses may all be lined up to see Purity Ring or Araabmuzik, maybe you’d enjoy a few of the tips below – some new, some old, some signed, others not – to brighten up the days traipsing from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back…

Fionn Regan – Ireland’s answer to Ryan Adams – that is, a balladeer of the finest pedigree, who can floor a room with just his voice and an acoustic guitar (Fat Baby, 8pm Thurs 20)

FIDLAR – group of young SoCal punkazoids currently looking to steal the mantle of ‘kings of the LA underground’ from No Age. And winning. (Cake Shop, 10pm, Wed 19)

The Lonely Forest – their experience with Atlantic Records seems to have been a bust so far, but don’t discount them for that reason – this band is in the best tradition of the Pacific Northwest – great songs, good energy and a superb live show (Rock Shop, 9.30pm Thu 20)

Caveman – not sure the name does the band justice – but a very nice and subtle psychedelic edge sets them apart from the rest of the current crop of post-Local Natives/Fleet Foxes harmonizers (Pianos, 11pm Thurs 20)

Weekend – the loudest band in the US right now? Certainly a candidate with their excellent firebrand noise-rock, and another find by the always tasteful Slumberland label (Cake Shop, 12.45am Fri 21)

Rubber Kiss Goodbye – featuring the son of Brian Ferry. That’s a reason to at least have a look-see, right? (Fontanas, 9pm, Fri 21)

Duke Spirit - Still slogging away with that ‘big break’ eluding them, but for sure they rock better than most bands. And Liela Moss gets the vote as the sexiest front woman in Altrock (Brooklyn Bowl, 11pm, Tues 18)

Robert Ellis - sure does sound like Gram Parsons at times. And there is nothing wrong with that… A shining gem on the New West Records roster. (Living Room 11.15pm, Fri 21)

Metronomy – UK electro act that captured a lot of hearts (and ears) with their album The English Riviera this year (MHOW, 11.30pm, Thurs 20)

A Place to Bury Strangers – see Weekend. But with more records under their belt. And signed to Mute. (Union Pool, midnight, Thurs 19)

Sea of Bees – On the supreme Heavenly label for the UK, and an NPR fave. Freak folk with a twist – think the female equivalent to Devendra Banhart, or maybe Damien Rice (Living Room, 10.45, Thur 20)

Hey Marseilles – more great Northwest indierock that slides nicely alongside DCFC & more particularly, the Decemberists. (Living Room, 10pm, Sat 22)

Alabama Shakes – They are from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and live up to that area’s rich musical history. Say no more. (Bowery Ballroom, 8pm, Thu 20)

This Old GhostSmiths? Deathcab? not a bad place to start… (Acheron, Thu 20)

Kevin Devine - What better way to spend the final night of the the festival, than relaxing with Brooklyn’s most talented singer-songwriter? (Highline Ballroom, 8.30pm, Sat 22)

WILD FLAG – what do mean you weren’t there? #FAIL (Bowery Ballroom, 10.30pm, Tues 18)

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Musical highlights of 2011 thus far…

Charles Bradley one of CHL's 2011 picks

We’re not really sure why (need for updated content? lack of anything in the way of worthwhile ideas from their editorial staff? an obsession with lists?), but it seems like various online outlets are publishing their ‘best bands’ lists (are there really 40 great new acts this year Stereogum?) and the best of the first 9 months of 2011 just seconds after a best of the first half of the year… So, what the hell, that seems like a reason to chime in with some of what we see as the cooler musical moments to date (since we flaked on a mid-year summation), especially as some of the ‘best of’ ratings are populated with a fair share of clunkers (EMA, tUnE-YarDs we’re looking at you), some that have been much covered but have generated medicore sales and others that we have to disqualify just because (The Head and the Heart really came out in 2010 more than once, and well, there was this too…) So drumroll please… a few of the musical bright spots of the year to date…

Cass McCombs “County Line” (Domino) – quite possibly the track of the year, and McCombs’ finest moment to date. The full length, Wit’s End, is his best yet, though peppered with a couple of jarring moments foiling any aspirations for album of the year (but then, there are more than a few other records in 2011 that seem to suffer from the same affliction)

Middle Brother Middle Brother (Partisan) – a ‘super group’ of sorts, but one that may well be greater than the sum of its parts. Dare we drag up the ‘alt country’ tag, but this trio from Dawes, Deer Tick and the Delta Spirit made an album full of sublime originals (exemplified by the rather superb “Wilderness”) and a rather great Replacements cover (Portland) which will warm the cockles of any Whiskeytown or Ryan Adams fan’s heart.

The Kills Blood Pressures (Domino) – Rock’n'roll at its finest. Guitars and more guitars. A cheap drum machine. And one of the sexiest and most engaging vocalists out there. What else do you need?

Caitlin Rose Own Side Now (Theory 8) – An album that is charming, full of personality and brimming with well crafted songwriting. The spirit of Emmy Lou Harris and Neko Case lives on in the next generation, and for that we are thankful. No wonder the Europeans were early adopters and embraced the talents of this diminutive Nashville singer-songwriter.

Yuck Yuck (Fat Possum) – yes it is derivative, and owes an awful, awful lot to the 90′s, and especially Dinosaur Jr. But hell, J Mascis hasn’t made a truly brilliant record in years, and has headed into old(er)age by making acoustic records, so someone has to pick up the baton in the noise-rock stakes.

The War on Drugs Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian) – The Bloomington, IN label collective does it again, with another great release – this time from the indie rock band from Philadelphia, who once featured Kurt Vile amongst its members. An album both dense and laid back, featuring the droll Tom Verlaine-esque vocals from A. Granduciel. It’s been described in the media as Spiritualized meets Springsteen, and that seems an apt assessment of its dreamy psychedelic-tinged Americana.

Charles Bradley No Time for Dreaming (Dunham) – Both Otis Redding and James Brown may have left this mortal coil, but Bradley makes a brave effort to step in and at least partially fill their ample shoes on his debut album – released at an age when many of his peers are looking to take advantage of those AARP discounts. A slab of sweaty, wrenching soul. Excellent.

Adele Rolling in the Deep (XL) – yeah, so sue us… It doesn’t matter how popular this track is, but it is an absolute monster. The same can’t be said for the whole album, which can veer into schmaltzy mainstream territory, but just for this one song alone, Adele, we salute you!

WILD FLAG - Everything about them. The live show. The limited edition RSD 7″. The videos. The album on Merge. A band that just elicits pure excitement from devotees, both new & old. And they rock. Can’t complain about any of that!

Flaming Lips – live at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A spectacular light show, with strobe lights and lasers bouncing off the palm trees, gravestones and crypts, and playing their finest moment The Soft Bulletin front to back in one the best settings for an outdoor live show in Los Angeles. Three thumbs up!

TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light (Interscope) – thankfully ditching the more overt art-rock tendencies of their last 2 releases, the kings of Brooklyn return to form. And still may be the most unlikely act signed to a major label…

Beach Boys 7″ (free with MOJO 60′s magazine) – a fine taster from the upcoming Capitol issue of the Smile Sessions box set, and putting Panda Bear in his place, showing him who is the master, and making the point about what a real teenage symphony to god should sound like.

Warner Brothers Record Store Day 7″ series – a genius idea – pairing an original from their storied catalog with a cover by one of their newer acts, for example Jenny & Johnny covering Gram Parsons‘ “Love Hurts”. The only fault is that in playing (on Warner Brothers or on other labels) a few of the originals such as Husker Du “I Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely” it only amplifies the sense that very few, if any, artists are making recordings even close to being this truly classic and long-lasting in 2011…

Bright Eyes The People’s Key (Saddle Creek) – At the recent LA live show, the Nebraska combo played one track after another which made the listener think, “This is a great song. And so is this…” And many were drawn from the latest (and possibly final?) album from Conor Oberst helmed Bright Eyes. An album that has possibly the most elaborate packaging for a regular CD & LP release for the year. And we’ll say ‘thanks’ for all of the above.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Wilco goes their own way with The Whole Love – will others follow?

Wilco releases The Whole Love on their new label dBpm

In the indie sector, this week qualifies for landmark status, as the much revered and critically acclaimed band Wilco officially turned their back on the major labels with the release of their new album The Whole Love. The Chicago combo had spent their entire career through Warner Music, firstly on Sire/Reprise, before controversially being dropped, and ironically re-signing to WMG via Nonesuch. In fact the new Wilco album constitutes band leader Jeff Tweedy‘s first indie release for almost 20 years, ranging back to when his prior group Uncle Tupelo left the Rockville label after their March 16-20 album and signed to Sire/Warners for their final record Anodyne in 1993. The Whole Love is the first release on the Wilco’s own imprint dBpm, distributed via Anti, part of Epitaph Records – not a small indie, but still a far cry from the WMG behemoth. And significantly, the early signs on the record show it is business as usual in the Wilco world, and they are not rueing their departure from the major label. In fact, to the casual observer there is no difference, with the obligatory NPR piece and album stream, a TV performance on Letterman, the glowing reviews, the slew of articles, and a general blitz in the media.

In the broader scheme of things, onlookers will also be curious to track the success of the album, as it could serve as the template for a number of other alternative and indie bands with a similar sales base and stature (such as Bright Eyes and Fleet Foxes, who have both reportedly fulfilled the terms of their recording agreements), looking for non-traditional release options in 2011 and beyond. Not only could more artists be looking to turn to the independent world and snubbing the majors and those dreaded 360 deal terms (though The Shins bucked the trend, signing to Columbia), but more could also be really choosing to take control of their own destiny, following the example of Wilco (and other artists like The Get Up Kids), and forming their own record labels.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Requiem for the 90′s; aka Remembering Creation Records

As a logical segue from the recent piece on 4AD is a discussion about the other of the twin towers of British independent labels from the 1990′s – Creation Records. The two companies took very different paths in the end, with the 4AD remaining a true independent label (selling out to the equally indie, Beggars Banquet), and continuing as an entity to this day, meanwhile Creation sold to the majors (Sony), and then flamed out when the two founders – Alan McGee and Dick Green – thought the time was right, around 1999, to pack it all in – living by the live fast, die young… adage and leaving a legacy untainted by any current musical flavors du jour.

The history of the legendary Creation has been a topic of conversation this year after the debut US screenings of the documentary Upside Down: The Creation Records Story. The film, which tracks the history of Creation from the chaotic early days in the mid-80′s to the later days, which were equally chaotic, for different reason, and highlighting the status of the label – and especially McGee – as true mavericks.  Upside Down also represents an amazing reflection on a very different time in the music business – a period where there were no 5-year marketing and promotion plans, no 360 deals, no American Idol, and when it truly was, more often than not, just about the music. An era, I’m sorry to say, that was in many ways infinitely more exciting. Think of bands and labels devoid of the obsession with social media, alternative income streams and the quest for that elusive TV license as an essential marketing tool, a time of seat-of-the-pants decisions, borderline craziness, and yes, the archetypal “sex, drugs and rock’n'roll”. And the documentary shows that Creation was fueled by all three.

But it was truly about the music. Fancy that – a company run by music fans – and the artists who signed recognized that, and as a result the label put out a range of some of the best tracks of the era. It is staggering to realize that Creation issued My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless, Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica and Teenage Fanclub‘s Bandwagonesque albums, all within the space of a few weeks in 1991 – releases that are both hugely influential and legendary, and still stand up some 20 odd years later. Something tells me you’d be hard pressed to find any of the 2011 crop of indie labels such as Neon Gold or IAMSOUND releasing one album with that status or lasting impact, let along three at the same time! And then of course on Creation there are the rest… Felt, (the massive selling) Copper Blue by Sugar, along with Ride, Super Furry Animals, the Boo Radleys, Saint Etienne… the list goes on. There’s no disputing Creation did release its fair share of duds, especially in the years when they were skating on thin-ice and releasing as much as possible to keep the doors open and stave off bankruptcy, but in 2011 their iconic status still stands, in no small part due to that little band called Oasis… While there is an argument that Adele is successfully flying the flag for indies in 2011 (on XL ex-USA at least), it’s hard to comprehend an artist nowadays having the sort of impact Oasis have had. Watching the jaw-dropping footage in Upside Down of the band’s now legendary Knebworth concerts, gives an indication of just how truly massive in size Oasis became, and how they were part of the fabric of daily life in the UK at that time. And of course the Creation story wouldn’t be complete without the band that punctuated both the beginning and end years of the label – the Jesus & Mary Chain. So it is fitting that the documentary – a rollicking, fun, inspiring journey itself – draws its title from their notorious debut 45. Upside down indeed. Alas, there is no current news of further screenings, or a DVD release for the documentary in the USA, but once the film secures distribution, it should be on the agenda for every music aficionado.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Legacy Incorporated

Among 4AD's preeminent releases

There’s no arguing that more than a few eyebrows were raised in the indie community recently, over the release of the debut EP from Inc. (formerly Teen, Inc.) on the storied 4AD label. Since 4AD is usually seen as a bastion of good taste, and the home of a remarkable and significant back catalog, the signing of the L.A. ‘crew’, who have played a minute number of shows in their hometown, and have not garnered any great number of glowing reviews, was seen as quite a surprise. Furthermore, when a band seems manufactured for the blogosphere, and even Pitchfork decides the band is not up to snuff describing them as “a total fucking disaster” , a “huh? what were they thinking?” response isn’t unexpected. Which begs the question of “legacy”. A band like Inc. definitely pales in comparison to prior generations artists of on 4AD – from the Pixies and Lush, to Dead Can Dance or the Cocteau Twins - and even more recent signings such as Deerhunter, The National and (love them or hate them) tUnE-yArDs.

But then no label can be seen as having a totally flawless roster, and every company has more than one clanger they have signed. Sub Pop may be lauded for Nirvana, Sebadoh, Sunny Day Real Estate or the Scud Mountain Boys, but the 90′s also saw them ink Teen Angels, Chixdiggit and The Yo Yo’s - acts that haven’t weathered the test of time all that well (and maybe were not universally embraced at the time either). Even recently the Seattle indie might want people to forget Tiny Vipers and Ruby Suns in lieu of Blitzen Trapper and The Head and the Heart. Or with Matador you may make the argument for Pavement and Sonic Youth over Bunnybrains and Esben and the Witch. While the majors have a history of actions like this – possibly tainting their legacy with a new generation of artists, especially when they are absorbed into larger music conglomerates – for example Atlantic, where Otis Redding & Led Zeppelin can be seen as far superior to Kitten, or 3Oh!3. Even somewhere like Elektra released some better-left-forgotten records before their golden years signing Love, MC5, Tim BuckleyThe Stooges and Television, while Liberty (which later owned the Blue Note catalog) made their money with the hit Chipmunks records, and most recently the decision to hand the legendary Verve label over to David Foster – better known for producing schmaltzy elevator pop – has jazz afficiandos shaking their heads in dismay. So, when it comes to the music business, “legacy” can be a slippery slope. But to a large degree consensus seems to be that the independents exercise a deeper level of taste, and stay truer to their roots as a bastion of taste. So for the moment, while 4AD may have taken a baffling step with Inc., maybe the sands of time will show that the band, and their faux Prince-isms, were just a momentary lapse of reason, an embarrassing sidestep, swept under the rug as the indie regains its well-deserved reputation for their A grade roster.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: A Look at the Long Road in an Age of Hype

Kevin Devine to release his latest album Between the Concrete and Clouds on Razor & Tie

There seems to be a tendency in the media world in 2011 – especially amongst blogs and online outlets obviously – to go hell for leather-touting whatever the next shiny-new-thing coming down the street (which will likely have a shelf life of about 10 minutes – Black Kids anyone?)  And in that mad stampede, it’s sometimes the older artists who get lost in the proverbial shuffle. Which is a shame, because more likely than not, their records are better, and longer-lasting than some of their younger competitors. Just look at Thurston Moore who, despite his Dorian Gray eternal baby-faced looks, is truly an elder statesman when it comes to alternative rock. 2011 has seen his new solo release (what must be about his 325th record overall!), where he took a daring step in making an acoustic album. Demolished Thoughts, released by indie Matador, sees Thurston (who celebrated his 53rd birthday this week!!!), passing up his regular noise for a gentler affair, sitting somewhere between the music of his current touring (& label) partner Kurt Vile, and the more plaintive moments of Beck – who produced the album. And in the process, the lanky New Yorker made a fine record, one that the folk battering down the doors in search of new EMA or Rainbow Arabia albums, would be making an error to ignore.

And how about Thurston’s former DGC label-mates in Sloan? The Canadian stalwarts celebrated their 20-year anniversary this year by putting out a new album, appropriately titled XX – the Double Cross. Each record from the foursome, with XX the 10th overall, has been a barrage of power pop songs that have stood up well, and there is no disputing their landmark album One Chord to Another still sounds as fresh 16 years (and 3-4 labels) on from its original release. And while the Nova Scotian quartet may not have seen a lot in the way of ‘hits’ – at least south of the border – there is no disputing Sloan still have a wide and dedicated group of devotees, even after 20 years.

Then there is Kevin Devine. He may reside in Brooklyn, like many of the blog obsessives, but it’s not as though he receives the same coverage.  Once again a crying shame, as the singer-songwriter has spent 10 plus years making smart, thoughtful and well crafted records, from his early days in Miracle of 86, through a number of solo releases – not to mention his recent collaboration with Manchester Orchestra under the name Bad Books – an oeuvre that includes Put Your Ghost to Rest, which could possibly be classified as “the best album released for what seemed like 10 minutes on Capitol Records in 2006″ (Devine was dropped soon after its release). But the songs from that and his other albums have barely aged, showing infinitely more longevity than some of his buzzy counterparts over the years. The good news is that Devine has finished a new record, Between the Concrete and Clouds, which is scheduled for release in the fall through Razor & Tie. And what’s the bet we’ll still be hearing from Devine in 2021 – something that is far from guaranteed when it comes to the likes of Wu Lyf, or Inc.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Bon Iver’s Bon Iver Lands Atop Charts; Meets Mixed Fan Reaction

Bon Iver's sophomore release hits #2 on the charts, but is met with mixed reaction from fans

It seems like this may be a notable time to return from exile, in order to acknowledge the rather impressive chart news last week, as the sophomore self-titled album from Bon Iver debuted at #2 in the USA. Quite an achievement for a label based in Bloomington, Indiana, and for a band from Wisconsin. There is no denying that Jagjaguwar, and the whole Secretly Canadian organization, did a more than a creditable job of setting up the record, with the indie act singer-songwriter Justin Vernon and a supporting cast a ubiquitous presence in the last 2-3 weeks around the release. Even more remarkable was that the final sales-tally for the debut week, over 100,000, even eclipsed some of the estimates by over 10-20%. This after barely 3 years ago when Vernon was holed up in a cabin in the woods making his debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, an album that nabbed the attention of Jagjaguwar, who reissued the record before it steadily gained notoriety and an expansive group of avid fans, ultimately racking up sales of over 300K. And of course along the way there were also notable events, like the now legendary sunrise performance on the lawn at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, which cemented Bon Iver’s reputation as one of the shining stars in the indie scene. Signed to 4AD internationally, the new album also had a striking debut in the UK, where it hit #4. Though underlying all this notable chart success for Bon Iver is the interesting twist to the story – that this has been an album far from embraced by many of the group’s legion of fans. In fact, it has proven to be a rather divisive release, with a number of the band’s original supporters giving the album a definite thumbs down on pre-listen, a counterpoint to the (controversial) 9.5 Pitchfork rating, the blanket NPR coverage and the general media hype. In comments on the album, more than one (rather disparaging) reference has been made to Peter Cetera, Christopher Cross, and…um…Bruce Hornsby, with the closing track on the album, “Beth/Rest,”  particularly the source of much disdain. Though, in the end, notwithstanding the negative reviews, and the parallels to some of the rather forgettable parts of the 80′s, there is no disputing that the sales for Bon Iver are quite an achievement, and another feather in the cap for Team Indie in 2011.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Saved by Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Kills

The Kills: Mosshart & Hince

Many artists will claim to play in a rock ‘n’ roll band. Few, if any, truly deliver. Much of what may be labeled Rock ‘n’ Roll is safe and bland. It is supposed to be edgy. Dangerous. Almost primal. And simple. This was the essence of Elvis Presley‘s formative days, shocking the older generations. And the Rolling Stones in their formative years, the bad boys wreaking havoc. And The Clash. While nowadays more than one band may claim to play rock ‘n’ roll, there is only one that truly does. The Kills.

Over their four albums, through Domino Records, the band plays simple, dirty rock’n'roll. Jamie Hince‘s filthy sounding guitar. A clattering drum machine. Alison Mosshart‘s howling vocals. And while their recorded material may be compelling, it is live where The Kills really take it to another level – the pinnacle. On stage Hince holds guitar like a machine gun, laying waste to the pretenders to their throne, as he wrings the dirty chords out. Music as weapon. And Mosshart, plain and simple, is a star. One of the best front women you will find, and the epitome of sexy. Pair the two of them on stage and the chemistry is electric. It is sweaty. And dangerous. American Idol it is definitely not. The Kills are as you’d imagine the prime-era Stooges would have been. Always on the brink of chaos. Gripping with tension, with the audience never knowing if it is suddenly going to explode, as it teeters on the edge of oblivion.

On the band’s most recent release, Blood Pressures, and on their just-completed US tour, they have expanded the formula a little, with a trio of back up singers and a few other extras thrown into the mix, but for the most part it is still Mosshart and Hince. Alison and Jamie. Still the same pair who floored people with their early shows in LA at The Smell and the Silverlake Lounge, and toured the country in a rental car with a guitar and a cheap drum machine. And while Mosshart may be better known now as the vocalist for Jack White‘s Dead Weather, and Hince is in the tabloids for his attachment to model Kate Moss, it is still The Kills where it all happens. Maybe they have never had that big break – though it seemed like they were on the brink with the previous album Midnight Boom when it became the soundtrack to Gossip Girl and their anthem “Sour Cherry” seemed to be everywhere, but alas they had their thunder stolen in the radio world by the infinitely more bland and whitebread Ting Tings. But when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, there is no argument. And the world would be a far far less exciting place without them. The Kills. Punk as fuck. No wow? Yes wow!

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Giving It Up For the Ladies…

Nashville's Caitlin Rose returns to US after bubbling in Britain

After the last week’s examination of a couple of business developments in the indie sector, maybe it’s time to talk again about some new music. By some ladies in particular! On high rotation is the debut album by Tennessean Caitlin Rose. After bubbling up in the UK over the past year, where she has already developed a great reputation and an ever-expanding group of fans, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter is now stepping out here in the States. The album Own Side Now – finally released in the USA in March – is one of the high points for the year so far. In some ways Rose is reminiscent of flame-haired alt-country chanteuse Neko Case, though there are touches of Emmy Lou Harris, and maybe even Zooey Deschanel/She & Him. Rose heads out on a US tour this month to support the album release, hitting the west coast in the coming week. meanwhile, Australian duo An Horse, fronted by the cute-as-a-button Kate Cooper, just released their sophomore album Walls on indie Mom + Pop. The band’s 2008 debut Rearrange Beds was a guilty pleasure – a straitforward album harking back to the fertile scene in the Pacific Northwest in the 90′s, and bands such as The Spinanes and Sleater-Kinney. In an ever-more bombastic music world and one that is propelled by the blogger’s quest for the flavor of the month (or should we say of the hour?) An Horse – both live and on record – come across as simple and honest – the proverbial breath of fresh air. And it seems like we are not alone in being impressed by new combo Pageants, from here in LBC in SoCal. Formed by Rebecca Coleman, who split last year from her position as the keyboard player in local indie rock faves Avi Buffalo, picked up the guitar and enlisted some of her former bandmates in her new endeavor. Despite only a handful of local shows under their belt, Coleman’s current outfit have impressed with their new sound, which is, at times, quite mesmerizing. Sonically Pageants come across as a hybrid of Beach House, Cults, and (of course) Coleman’s work in Avi Buffalo – with layers of shimmering vocals and sparkling guitars. Still yet to have anything officially released, that may not be the case for long, after it seemed that everyone at a recent show at 3 Clubs was ready to start a record label just to release something by the band after being awed by the group’s set. One to definitely file in the ‘new to watch’ department.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Arcade Fire Goes Deluxe; No Signing Blues for Sub Pop

Fleet Foxes release highly anticipated sophomore effort via Sub Pop

Oh dear. Just when you thought it was safe to venture back into indie-land, the idyllic utopian kingdom where labels such as Merge still offer 50-50 split profit arrangements with bands, 360 deals are an anathema, and folk like the Arcade Fire make a claim for the moral high ground, opting for ‘no film & tv licensing’ (except for charity), and playing benefits concerts and small club shows for fans. Then comes the recent news that the Montreal outfit are set to release a ‘deluxe’ version of their chart topping album, The Suburbs. The new edition is set to include 2 unreleased tracks, the Spike Jonze directed short film, and more. Which, if you look at it, penalizes those dedicated fans who rushed out to buy the album from the get go (and helped it hit that #1 spot!). They’re suddenly stuck with a version of the album that is inferior. At least, yes, in the digital world of 2011, fans can nab those new tracks from the iTunes store for minimal cost, instead of having to buy the whole album over a second time. But are those some dark clouds appearing on the horizon?

Regular readers here may have noticed a subtle ribbing of Sub Pop and the rapidly expanding size of their waistline (we mean their roster), as they seemingly announce a new signing every other day. But prompted by a slew of press releases in the past week about further additions to the label – Shearwater and Beach Fossils being the latest – it seems as though we’re not alone in making that assessment. And a general rumbling of “they signed more bands, how is that possible?” has been spreading around the music community. Of course the issue is not so much who and when they sign an act, but if the Seattle imprint has the resources to effectively manage and market a roster that is now rather gargantuan. Traditionally the appeal of the independent label is that they have the time to market the each band and every release – the old school concept of artist development – instead of operating as a conveyor belt. Rather than having 300 other projects vying for time and resources, such as at a major label, the indie can give each release the attention it deserves. But if the release schedule is suddenly overflowing, and a label such as Sub Pop is issuing 3 to 4 albums per month (or more!), do they have time to do the job properly? Of course, pity other artists on the label this month, as they released the much anticipated new album from hometown heroes Fleet Foxes, which looks to swamp everything else in its path. And while it is not going to follow the Arcade Fire to the top of the charts, the record, Helplessness Blues, is looking at a bumper debut week. Whether it is worthy of the the hype and acclaim, for a band that treads the Crosby Stills & Nash path a little too closely, remains to be seen, and there is no doubt that a claim by one of their hometown papers that the Seattle act “makes some of the most CRITICALLY IMPORTANT MUSIC (sorry for yelling) of this generation” (sic) seems just a tad excessive. And only time can tell whether Fleet Foxes will, like their peers in Band of Horses, The Shins and Iron & Wine, depart for the magical Majorlabel Kingdom, since their contractual commitment to Sub Pop has now (with the album released) reportedly been fulfilled.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: James Murphy Stands Down, Goth is Back?, The Feelies, WILD FLAG & More…


Yes , it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke – Indie Dispatches has returned and is back in a regular fashion. And as predicted we did indeed forget a few of the notable items so far in 2011…

* The indie rock power couple in WAVVES and Best Coast went out on tour together (and were seen at the Satellite recently in L.A. checking out their buddies in DOM). Interestingly enough, Bethany‘s Best Coast sales have far outstripped those of Nathan’s WAVVES… wonder if this is ever a source of tension.
* The New Goth Movement? It’s official… Zola Jesus led the charge, and now Esben & the Witch are close behind. With more to come!
* LCD Soundsystem operated under the classic mantra “live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse” with a week of life-affirming shows in NYC culminating in a 3 hour party Saturday night as the band’s last appearance on stage. From starting as the sound guy for Sub Pop‘s Six Finger Satellite to bowing out with headlining show at Madison Square Garden… James Murphy, we salute you!
* Tennis released an album with arguably the worst looking sleeve you’ll see this year.
* Did The White Sea remix Britney?
* My Morning Jacket lined up a new album, Circuital, hitting stores May 31st.
* Did TV On the Radio leave the indie world behind, parting from 4AD internationally?
* The dulcet tones of Mike Berenyi from Lush were heard by millions as Seinking Ships had a pretty striking sync use on ABC‘s hit show Private Practice.
* Avi Buffalo recorded a new 45 that is coming out shortly – great news!! Alas once again it looks to be enclosed in less than stellar jacket art.
* Underground super-group Middle Brother (with members of Dawes, Delta Spirit & Deer Tick) released an excellent album on Partisan, sounding as close to Crosby, Stills & Nash as you’ll hear this year (well, maybe until the new Fleet Foxes album)
* After almost 20 years, NJ’s favorite post-Velvet Underground popsters, The Feelies, recorded a new album Here Before that hits stores April 12 on Bar/None Records.
* Still wonder why we feel that there are too many bands and too many records? Just check out this list of forthcoming releases on Pitchfork
* Adele put a further stamp on the recent intrusion of the independent label into major label’s chart domination (at least in the UK) as her second album 21, released on XL Recordings, raced to over 1.8 million sales in old blighty. That’s over 6 times platinum pop kids!!!!
* The latest installment of Record Store Day - scheduled for April 16 – announced their list of releases, including a bunch of stupidly limited items that you’ll undoubtedly see popping up on Ebay April 17.
* Former Super Furry Animals singer Gruff Rhys has a new album, Hotel Shampoo, due on Wichita Recordings next month. This teaser video is plain awesome.
* Another one destined for the top 10 records of 2011 lists come December? The long awaited follow up to Bon Iver‘s debut For Emma, Forever Ago.
* The 2 most exciting words of the first part of the year though? WILD. FLAG. Watch out, this one is going to be rad…

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: All The News That’s Fit to…

UK's Yuck, among bright spots of 2011 so far

Surprise!! After been closeted away down the rabbit hole, toiling away turning the wheels of industry, figures it was time to pop up again into the world and find out just what we have missed. And what better day to choose, than April 1st? So just what has been going on these past few months?

* Domino blasted out of the annual SXSW fiesta on a definite high with everyone raving about their new signing, Austra. The band’s debut album Feel it Break drops May 17. The label also has a schedule of highly rated new releases from Cass McCombs, Anna Calvi and of course the long awaited re-issue of the Queens of the Stone Age classic debut album. Oh yeah, there’s also a new album, Blood Pressure, from our favorite rock duo, The Kills about to drop any day. Bets on ‘best of 2011 list’ anyone?
* A band on an indie won a Grammy for best album or something. More exciting was that their label, Merge Records, released the stunning new album, Civilian from Baltimore’s Wye Oak.
* A new UK combo with inauspicous beginnings (formed from the ashes of Cajun Dance Party) and a terrible name – Yuck – put on some shows and released an album that was far from terrible or inauspicious. Combining a dose of classic 90′s Sonic Youth & Dinosaur Jr the UK group stands as a definite bright spark in early 2011.
* After 20 years in business, our favorite Bay Area operation, Slumberland Records, suddenly became a ‘label to watch’ with new records from Pains of Being Pure at Heart and new noise group, Weekend.
* Sub Pop signed a new band. Or two. Or ten it seems. But seriously though, can they have any more? Still Corners, Memory House, Niki & the Dove… the list of newbies goes on. How many is too many? When you factor in their sub-label Hardly Art, the Seattle indie seems to have an active roster the size of a major label.
* Sharon Van Etten toured. And made even more fans. Swooooooooon.
* Radiohead suddenly dropped a new record on the world to much fanfare. An album which even their fans weren’t sure they really liked.
* The 2 piece is still in vogue despite the demise of the White Stripes in the guise of Hanni El Khatib.
* It became clearly evident that just because the bloggers love you and the press file is big and thick, it doesn’t mean you sell a massive number of records in 2011. Looking at you Dum Dum Girls. And Deerhoof.
* Bright Eyes released an excellent new album, ‘The People’s Key’, which may have been the most lavishly packaged release to hit the top echelons of the charts.
* Sebadoh toured to support the release of a t-shirt because the US label organizing the reissue of their classic Bakesale, release didn’t come close to getting the album out on time.
* The Radio Dept finally toured North America and released a double CD of singles and oddities. Peter Bjorn and John released a new record. Yay Sweden!
* Portishead sent a welcome message that they are happy to buck the system. And you know they will still have fans. And will still sell records.
* Sasquatch Festival once again looked like more fun than spending 3 days in the desert
* Wilco became an indie band. Rah!
* The neo-soul movement became even stronger, with the continuing charge of Fitz and the Tantrums, as they took over SXSW, and seemingly now, the world. Then there is that old dude (62!) Charles Bradley showing a) its never too late to start your recording career (ageism be damned!) and b) THIS is how you make a great soul record. He may not be Otis Redding but he is a fine substitute!

My, this has been fun. But wait – there’s more we’re sure! Maybe we’ll just have to be back next week too fill in some holes that have undoubtedly been missed…

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Chart Bumps, Tour Slumps & Band Overload – Final Missive for 2010

The xx were one of 2010's biggest stories

Whoa, 2010! What a year! Great music, bad music, hypes, bombs, and a whole lotta changes. It seems like everything this year moved at Warp Factor 10 and there were more than a few surprises. Launching the time machine back to January 1st, it would have been hard to predict some of the significant moments of the year ahead.

Arcade Fire top the charts! No, not the indie ghetto, or Heatseekers – the real ones! In fact it wasn’t just the Arcade Fire & their label, Merge Records, making waves in ‘the big boys club’ - Spoon, The National, Sufjan Stevens and a host of other acts signed to independent labels had sales that led to them crashing into the upper echelons of the charts. Heavens, even Best Coast made an appearance! And not to be forgotten is Vampire Weekend, who also hit the coveted #1 position early in the year on the indie XL Recordings. Maybe it can attributed to slumping major label sales leaving the door open for their independent brethren, or it could be the focus on the music community and a dedication to the fans from the indies that the consumers repaid by actually buying the records. Maybe it is just that many indies put out great music that people cared about. Whatever is behind it, it is a reason to celebrate, and set 2010 as a landmark twelve months – to paraphrase Sonic Youth… the year that indie broke.

Is it the 90′s? The host of bands from Gen X/Y that reformed, toured and released records was long and full. Sonic Youth, Superchunk, Soundgarden, Pavement, Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub, Versus, Faith No More, Belle & Sebastian, Guided By Voices, JSBX and  Dean Wareham playing Galaxie 500… Even Jeff Mangum from the much revered (and long lost) Neutral Milk Hotel popped up at year-end for his first live show in many, many years. And significantly, this wasnt some tired re-tread as the bands (for the most part) held their own against younger contenders. The Sonic Youth ‘early years’ set at the Hollywood Bowl this year was blistering and Superchunk came back to release one of the albums of the year, and put on a series of shows that were 100% fun and over-the-top great (meanwhile finding the time to run the label releasing that #1 album…)

First #1 in 2010

Speaking of which – who would dispute Merge Records as the best label of the year? The Arcade Fire hit the chart peak, after the label came close earlier in 2010 with both Spoon and She and Him. But there was still a dedication to quality releases – large or small. A conversation with label head Mac McCaughan will see him raving about the marvels of Wye Oak, as much as some of the label’s more storied roster. The Love Language, Caribou, Tracy Thorn, Telekinesis… quite a schedule of releases, and one that should be the envy of other labels, both big and small.

Duke Spirit, Delta Spirit, Kid Sister, Twin Sister, Twin Shadow, Le Sands, Leswitch, La Sera, Deerhunter, Deerhoof, Kisses, Suckers, Sweaters, Cults, Guards, Avi Buffalo, White Buffalo, White Arrows, White Sea, Cloud Cult, Cloud Control, Cloud Nothings, Wild Nothing, WILD FLAG, Mountain Man, MEN, Girls, Women, Felice Brothers, Pernice Brothers, Punch Brothers, Punches, Dead Confederate, Dead Country, Dead Weather, Beach House, Beach Fossils, Crystal Castles, Crystals Antlers, Crystal Stilts, Surf City, Surfer Blood, Pearl Harbor, Pearly Gate Music, Frightened Rabbit, Pepper Rabbit, Magic Kids, Magic Bullets, Here We Go Magic, Gold Panda, Panda Bear, Bear Hands, Bear Hug, Bear in Heaven, Black Angels, Black Mountain, Black Keys… phew! So many bands, so little time! And many with names that seem to just run into each other. So confusing! Who can keep up? (even Pitchfork claimed that maybe it was in overload).  You know it is a saturation point when bands that have one 7″ release to their name seem to suddenly spawn a side-project.

Recession? What Re… Oh, yeah – that one. While some shows and tours did well, the story of the year was one of half empty rooms and promoters getting burned. Was 2010 the year that the ‘punters’ rebelled against high ticket prices or was it just over-saturation and the economic malaise?  It was grim, as some of the larger venues in Los Angeles (Music Box, Nokia, El Rey) hosted shows that were far from full - RaRa Riot, Brendan Benson/Posies and Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan to name but a few, along with the papering of more than one high profile Hollywood Bowl line-up during the summer season. It wasn’t just LA either, as stories came in from around the country of poor attendance and shows cancelled due to lacklustre presales (with even some Pitchfork-endorsed acts clocking up advance numbers in single digits).

Chillwave! Ugh. Let’s reconvene and debate at the end of 2011 and see if anyone really who cares, shall we?

Hype, what hype? All to often there seemed to be bands appearing in the media after playing one show (or in some cases NONE!), as some of the reputable outlets clamored to be ‘first on the block’ talking about the new flavor of the month. Labels signed up bands for single releases, sight unseen, and without the acts ever having played a show. More than once a slew of A&R folk were out in droves for an act’s first live outing. And as fast as they are latched on to a particular band, everyone was dashing on to the ‘next’ next big thing. The Guardian in the UK seems to be on a mission to tip a new band every day. Are there really 365 quality new artists out there waiting to be discovered? So we have press and radio and blogs all abuzz touting something new and then jumping on the latest bandwagon daily – with the attention span of a gnat. And six months later (or less) it seems the same media outlets have moved on. Career? Seems like it might be a matter on months now…

Though one band that do have a career is British act The xx, who went from strength to strength as each month went by. A 2009 CMJ buzz, great word of mouth, a landmark SXSW, an album that seemingly sold with no mainstream media or radio exposure at all, topped off by a series of jaw dropping live shows populated by fanatical fans. Oh and a little matter of that Mercury Music Prize in the UK. While many major labels acts took the path as the hare, the British trio were the tortoise that quietly became unstoppable. And hence 2010 became twelve months in which The xx took over the world.

So the year comes to a close. But look! On the horizon, it’s 2011! With tales already afoot, like will Warner Bros. actually be releasing the new Iron & Wine record next month? And of course there are new bands to be excited about and that slew of forthcoming albums to watch out for early in the new year – The Get Up Kids, Bright Eyes, Panda Bear, Wye Oak, Duke Spirit, WILD FLAG, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Mogwai, The Head and the Heart, Middle Brother

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Ten Most Enjoyed Albums of 2010 (And Then Some)…

Sharon Van Etten, Epic, indeed

The torrent of those year-end lists is still coming thick and fast from all corners of the media, with some of the latest being Amazon‘s best of, Rhapsody‘s picks, Drowned In Sound and Stereogum‘s top 50. Scanning through many of the lists, the big question doesn’t seem to be, “How many places will pick Kanye West as album of the year?” but more likely “How many places won’t?” Well, I can tell you, as much as Indie Dispatches appreciates the record, and definitely got our money’s worth buying the digital album for 99 cents on, it’s (not so) sad to say the opus didnt make our short list. Instead here are ten picks we enjoyed an awful lot during 2010 – some you may have listened to and others you may well have not…

Sharon Van EttenEpic (Ba Da Bing) – One of those ‘word-of-mouth’ records that has benefitted from the new frontier of the internet and the marvels of social media. Friends espousing their love of this Brooklyn artist on Facebook, an album purchase, and instant love. Further posting on Facebook about the glorious nature of this album – its engaging songwriting and classic feel – and the word spreads. Pure magic.

Gold PandaLucky Shiner (Ghostly International) – Ah, the joys of laptop electronica. This record seemingly came out of nowhere and set itself apart from its contemporaries (such as Four Tet, Baths, etc) with its progressive sounds, catchy melodies and infectious beats.

Avi BuffaloAvi Buffalo (Sub Pop) – A bunch of teenagers from LBC form a band, make a record, sign to one of the coolest labels around and capture the attention of music fans across the world, all led by a diminutive (and naive) guitar meastro after whom the combo is named. The lyrics express (at times in a raw fashion) the angst of being a teen, but the songs are for the ages.

Sally SeltmannHeart That’s Pounding (Arts & Crafts) – I recently rediscovered this album, marvelling at its brilliance all over again, and ended up listening to it 10 times in a row. As great as some of the much praised artists in this ‘girl singer over electro beats’ genre (read Annie, Saint Etienne), I have a feeling the sales were terrible (probably the ‘best, worst selling record of 2010′), which is criminal, despite Seltmann being the spouse of a member of Avalanches and the writer of Feist‘s monster hit.

VillagersBecoming a Jackal (Domino) – See SVE… but from Dublin, Ireland. People who ‘got’ this record fell in love and were enthralled by its majesty. Some of the best lyrics around, and coming from a country that is known for its A-grade balladeers. And whether it was just leader Conor O’Brien on stage solo, or with his band, the live shows were jaw dropping.

Dylan LeBlancPauper’s Field (Rough Trade) –  Alas, I think this release was lost amongst the blogger frenzy for label mates Warpaint and Morning Benders, which was a crying shame. LeBlanc is steeped in the whole country-soul canon with personal ties to the Muscle Shoals/Fame recordings family of musicians, which set him apart on this album from the rest of his singer-songwriter contemporaries.

SuperchunkMajesty Shredding (Merge) – A bunch of old(er) folk make their first album in nine years, and at the same time, show all the youthful pretenders half their age how it is done. Great energy, super songs and reminding the world why Superchunk was one of the best bands in the 90′s (and still are). Come back of the year and a record that more than holds its own with anything in 2010.

Best CoastCrazy Like You (Mexican Summer) – 2010 was a bleak year to be an American, with high unemployment, economic troubles, housing traumas, political turmoil… what better time would there be to throw all the cares away with an album of summery beach pop. Pure escapism, and quintessentially Californian.

PhantogramEyelid Movies (Barsuk) – An album that might have been more at home on Warp or Modular, rather than the house that Death Cab for Cutie built, but it’s 2010, so who’s discriminating. See Gold Panda… with vocals.

Holly MirandaThe Magician’s Private Library (XL) –  Who knew that the mantle of Jeff Buckley would be taken up by the former singer of a relatively average NY indie rock band, with help from a member of TVOTR? The album got made and sat in limbo for an age, before XL Recordings stepped in (thank goodness)… Anchored by Miranda’s entrancing vocals, seemingly swooping down from heaven.

And worthy of notable mention for providing great listening pleasure at various times during 2010, in no particular order… Fences Fences , Fitz & The Tantrums Picking Up the Pieces, Glasser Ring, The Head and the Heart The Head and the Heart, Surf City Kudos, Owen Pallett Heartland, Magic Kids Memphis , Local Natives Gorilla Manor, Surfer Blood Astro Coast.

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Recent Signings, Free Agents and Year End Lists Begin

L.A.'s Active Child among Vagrant Records latest signings

Somewhere along the line in the last month or two, news of a few indie signings seemed to somehow slip through the cracks. Most particularly Vagrant Records, who has been busy adding much buzzed about LA combo Active Child to their ever expanding and diversifying roster, along with inking one bona fide legend, Polly Jean Harvey, for her new album – quite a coup. The LA label has done an excellent job of branching out beyond the emo niche it was once known for, and have developed an ‘A Class’ stable of indie rock acts that includes Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Hold Steady, STARS, School of Seven Bells, and of course Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. PJ Harvey’s new album Let England Shake hits stores February 15, while Active Child’s debut should look for a release in the spring.

Meanwhile, what seems like ages ago (and probably was!), blog favorites DOM from Massachusetts signed on with EMI-offshoot, Astralwerks, with a re-issue of the band’s Sun Bronzed Greek Gods EP slated as their first release in early 2011. And now split from EMI and back in the ranks of indie, Mute Records announced that the first artists to sign to the new version of the label include Yeasayer, Londoners S.C.U.M., and Texan singer songwriter Josh T Pearson. Meanwhile in the past week, Sub Pop announced what seems be the 50th new signing for the year, indie-rock supergroup (with members of Man Man, Modest Mouse & Islands/Unicorns) Mister Heavenly…  And what of the free agents out there? Rumors are looming of an announcement about The Head and the Heart signing to a certain Northwest indie (which seems public knowledge but still hasn’t officially been announced)… Will Odd Future sign with XL Recordings, who appear to have been laying out the red carpet for the controversial LA hip hop collective (including reportedly flying their entire posse to the UK)…  What will become of Bright Eyes? This past week details of their forthcoming album The People’s Key (due February 15) were announced. Following the record, which is their last for Saddle Creek, will the project be done, or will Conor Oberst follow the path of his solo projects by bringing Bright Eyes to Merge? Or will it be another indie (such as was the case with Monsters of Folk)? And slowly emerging (and pricking up people’s ears) is the fact that critically acclaimed Seattle singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes (and the Sweet Hereafter) is in the market for a new label home, after a number of much beloved releases on Seattle’s Barsuk. Sykes supposedly has avid fans at both small and large labels, indie and major, and a with a new record in the can, chances are she won’t remain unsigned for long.

Of course, since we are now in the waning days of 2010, most of the news in the music media concerns the ubiquitous year-end lists – one of the first being NME‘s top 75 albums. There is no disputing the UK rag’s choice for their album of the year – These New Puritans Hidden – was baffling, and has had more than one pundit scratching their heads (possibly even the band’s label), but hats off to Domino Records for nabbing that top spot… Subsequent lists from Spin and Rolling Stone (and surely many others) have been released, and as to this column’s picks for the year’s favorites? Well, that will just have to wait until next time…

- Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: Orange Juice & Musings on a Life in Music

Domino Records Releases Orange Juice Boxset

Every week when I sit down to write this column in my office, one of my prize possessions is hanging on the wall over my left shoulder – a framed NME magazine cover from 1981, autographed by Edwyn Collins, the lead singer of Scottish group Orange Juice. One of my other prize possessions is sitting in the ‘O’ section of a box of 7″ singles not far away. That would be “Blueboy,” the third single release by the very same Orange Juice, Postcard Records 80-2. Actually, I have two copies of the 7″ sitting in the box. To explain the impact that single had on my life to this point cannot be measured. To a large degree, it is the reason why I am sitting here and writing this column here today, and precipitated the journey in music that has led to this point.

We all have those epochal moments where music changed our lives. To many in recent generations it may have been “Smells like Teen Spirit”. To older folk it was more than likely The Beatles. For another group of people, it was late 70′s punk rock, something that indeed touched my life. But it was this Orange Juice single that really changed mine. It all started one early Sunday morning, listening to the local public radio station. And “Blueboy” came on. I’m not sure what it was, or why it happened, but that two minutes and 52 seconds grabbed my attention, and I never looked back. Sure I had bought records before, some of them even vaguely alternative, and I had been a fan of more than one group to that point. But that Orange Juice song, with its barreling rhythm guitar introduction and the slightly off key vocals, made me an instant devotee. And it was a trigger to a world of other music. Writers compared Edwyn & co. to the Velvet Underground, and so I set out to investigate Lou and John and Sterling and Mo. A snapshot of a lyric (“I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn”) meant I was on the hunt for The Byrds. Subway Sect, Wire, The Modern Lovers, The Go-Betweens, The Triffids – the paths to new music were numerous. I collected more Postcard Records, and the Aztec Camera singles led me to Love and other gems from late 60′s LA. Al Green, Chic… the list goes on. And of course Orange Juice became the first band who’s records I obsessively collected – 7″, flexidiscs, 10″, 12″ with alternate versions, I had to have them all. A set of vinyl, incidentally, which has followed me around the world.

But it didn’t just stop there. The Postcard label was the inspiration for me to be involved in music – I started on public radio (yes the same station mentioned above), began helping out musicians, started my own label, and ended up moving across the world to release music and sign bands. When I started a record label, my guiding light was Postcard – that’s what I wanted to emulate. Later on I was privileged to release an EP of Postcard Records tracks, including an Orange Juice song – probably my most thrilling moment as a label owner. Though it wasnt just me. Talk to Creation founder Alan McGee, and he’ll wax lyrical in the same way about the influence of Postcard, and how it was the germination for his forays into music too – so without that Scottish label maybe we wouldn’t have had Oasis and My Bloody Valentine. The list of other labels influenced in the same way is endless- Heavenly, Sarah, Slumberland… And there is no doubting that Orange Juice opened up a world of Scottish music at the same time. If there was no Orange Juice, maybe there would be no Jesus & Mary Chain, no Primal Scream, no Teenage Fanclub. And more than one contemporary group, Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian being just a sampling, have gone on the record citing the lasting influence of the Glasgow four piece led by Edwyn Collins.

And so why I am writing this today? Well, for one thing to revel in the glory of music, and the profound lasting impact it can have on our lives. That is what some people in the biz sometimes forget. It IS about the music. And how much it can mean to people. You never know when that one song – albeit on radio or some crackly old LP or an MP3 – will suddenly grab someone’s life and launch them on a journey just like mine. It is magical.

I’m also writing this because on Monday Domino Records released Coals to Newcastle – a lovingly curated and expansive box set of all Orange Juice’s recordings. 6 CDs and 1 DVD of the finest in Glasgow post-punk. All the albums are there, from the sparkling debut You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever to the final force majeure, The Orange Juice, remastered and ready to be discovered, or rediscovered. Do you believe in magic? Because this collection is full to the brim with it. And “Blueboy”? Indeed, that’s in there too. What more can I say? Buy it. I will be.

-Cool Hand Luke

Indie Dispatches: A Perspective in Quotes

Some perspective on the music landscape via a collection of recent humorous, insightful and telling quotes…

The decline of the record company has had one very dramatic effect: the removal of the A&R man as a filter between artist and consumer, someone to ask the question “Where the f__k’s the single?”, means there is more utterly awful music available than ever before.
MOJO – Oct 2010

Might I suggest:
1) Write lyrics that are worth hearing.
2) Learn to sing.
Jon Pareles. New York Times – Oct 2010

What worries me most is the amount of music that is currently being put out into the world, and how people are expected to keep up and find new things to enjoy.
Chris Kaske
Pitchfork – Sept 2010

There’s such a constant, relentless splurge of stuff to sift through. What’s difficult is that a lot of it is actually quite good. But your ears can get quite numb to it after a while.
Jaimie Hodgson, NME new-music editor

Publications, radio, they’re constantly trying to be the first thing on to something. You get mainstream publications doing upfront lists on things that are just demos. It’s as though, if you’re signed and on the procession up the ladder, people don’t want to know… It’s hard for the general public to focus on anything; it’s even hard for a record company to focus. It’s my job to sit here and listen to music all day. Imagine someone who’s got a job [having all that to keep up with]. It’s just bewildering. Where do you focus your attention?
Simon Halliday, 4AD

Not that we need another Mars Volta in the world, but I’m hoping at least one labyrinthine prog-metal band or whatever emerges from the fog, too, just to counterbalance all the day-glo lullaby shit.
The Village Voice – Nov 2010

If you want to learn about music management, you put your head in the door, and then he’ll come over and slam it on you, and then stomp.
Jeff Rabhan. Former artist manager – 2010

How do consumers vote with their dollar? By not spending it at all… Someone has to pay artists, and increasingly, we’re not doing it. So who is the enemy in 2010? We are. Not the majors. Not Converse. Us.
The Village Voice – Oct 2010

Britain’s four big supermarkets—Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons—accounted for 24% of all music sales in the country last year.
The Economist

What’s called pejoratively ‘the new middle class’ is someone like, say, Calexico or Midlake, who can sell 100,000 plus records every time they put out a record; they can play to 3-4,000 people in 30 or 40 cities around the world. And they can make a pretty good living out of that, doing what they love doing, and can do it on their own terms, and that’s fantastic. We’ve got a bunch of bands like that, they’re not necessarily seeking stardom or riches. That’s incredibly healthy.
Martin Mills, Beggars Group – May 2010

- Cool Hand Luke

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