Another week, and another set of prime independent releases smash into the upper reaches of the mainstream charts. This past week it was Sufjan Stevens, Ra Ra Riot and The Sword with their moment in the spotlight, as all three made it into the top 50. Most noteworthy is the Sufjan EP, All Delighted People, which managed to rank #27 in spite of a previous limited release (that also trickled into the charts), and still being digital-only with no physical formats due for some time. Meanwhile Ra Ra Riot’s The Orchard on Barsuk clocked in at #36, and the Kemado/Mexican Summer crew showed that their Best Coast chart debut was no fluke by nabbing the #42 slot with the Warp Riders album from Texas face-melting metal band The Sword. Of course the real message in chart-land may be that the majors are losing ground (and sales) faster than the indies. But with the proliferation of prime independent releases hitting the charts in 2010, including the Arcade Fire nabbing the top spot, and the just-released Interpol album on Matador sure to do big business, maybe the story is now almost becoming a non-story?
Meanwhile, this week all (discerning) eyes are pointed towards the northwest. As if Stumptown Coffee, Pok Pok restaurant, the fresh air, Voodoo Donuts and the fine vinyl emporiums (like Mississippi Records) aren’t enough of a reason to make a trip to Portland, OR, the annual MusicFestNW festival is the icing on the cake. The 2010 line-up may be the festival’s best yet, featuring a heavy bias towards some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest talent, both new and old, paired with a choice selection of artists from other regions. So you have A-list acts such as The Decemberists, The National, The Walkmen and Panda Bear, combined with newbies such as The Head and the Heart, Jeff the Brotherhood and Magic Kids, making for a winning combination. Add in The Thermals, Kevin Devine, Menomena, The Dodos, AA Bondy and Past Lives and you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to spend your time this weekend.
- Cool Hand Luke
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Weezer Going To An Indie For Next Release?
Who’s signing where, and what does it mean? Indie acts going to majors, major label artists aligning with indies, and both systems vying to nab the same unsigned bands… Looking back at recent months there is a veritable mixed bag. There are artists with a history of at least a few successful indie releases under their belts, like Band of Horses and Iron & Wine, who have recently made the jump to major labels, Columbia and Warner Bros. respectively, while other acts like Spoon and Arcade Fire seem to continually be content on indies… Elsewhere new act Surfer Blood appears to have already made the move to a major; just 6-months following the Kanine Records release of the band’s debut album, the group had racked up enough sales and touring numbers to garner serious interest from multiple labels… This while unsigned acts with no real sales or tour history like GroupLove and DOM, are currently being courted by both major labels and indies, seemingly so as to not miss out on what could be… What about the reverse trend? Not counting heritage acts, or the exhaustingly-debated pay-what-you-want path taken by Radiohead and NIN among others, one could point to recent examples in Interpol and Wilco as once major label artists now leaving for an indie (their own new label in the case of Wilco). But will there be more to come (or go, as it is)? Word on the street is that longtime Universal artist, Weezer, who released all seven of their previous studio albums on DGC and Geffen, are making a move to a big indie label for their next album. Hmmm… And finally where do the two now meet? A new project to watch unfold will be The Secret Sisters, who recently finished recording their debut with producers Dave Cobb and T-Bone Burnett. A large buzz is building with the news that the first single from the duo will be released via the Jack White helmed Third Man Records, with the full-length already slated to come out on Universal Republic this fall… Stay Tuned.
Interpol parts ways with Capitol, set to release new album on Matador
Cementing the fact that 2010 is going to be a blockbuster year for independent artists, was the news last week of the impending release of a new record from Interpol. The album will be self-titled and is the New York band’s fourth full-length release. The interesting twist to the story is that the group has decamped from their major label, Capitol, returning to their original home on indie-label Matador Records, who will release the album on September 14th. Those keeping score may recall quite the melee in 2006 as a slew of major record companies tried to sign the band, with Capitol ultimately winning the derby and releasing the band’s third album Our Love to Admire. But the stay proved to be an unsuccessful one, with figures showing the earlier Matador albums greatly outselling the Capitol release, leaving the two to part ways after just one record. As to whether this is an ominous signal for other indie acts that have recently signed to major labels, such as Band of Horses and James Mercer (of The Shins), only time will tell.
The independent arena itself is not free of travails however, if rumors of the demise of Original Signal Recordings prove to be true, it will leave a number of high profile indie bands looking for a new home. Best-selling Swedish group, The Sounds, Kill Hannah, and Ingrid Michaelson are just three of the acts that had their music released via the NY-based label, and who could now be highly sought after free agents.
Finally, it appears that L.A. combo Active Child currently has at least five independent labels vying to ink the band, with suitors including heavyweights Vagrant, Glassnote, and XL. Active Child is centered around choirboy-turned-indie-musician Pat Grossi, who is also noted for his harp playing on stage. The group was among the buzz acts to come out of SXSW this year, and they recently released an EP, Curtis Lane, on Filter Recordings.
- Cool Hand Luke