Tag Archives: indie rock

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Los Campesinos! Then and Now

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

You may have gathered from our obsessive list-making that we here at SportsAlcohol.com are in love with Los Campesinos! Naturally, our obsession didn’t end with listmaking. Rob, Jesse, Marisa, and Sara went out to see the band play in Brooklyn, then sat down for a conversation about the gig, new album Sick Scenes, the evolution of the band’s sound, and how indie rock itself was faring back in 2008 when the first Los Campesinos! record came out. You’ll also find out: How do we process rumors and our own fan-fiction about band members? What was in contention for Rob’s best-ever Valentine’s Day? Which LC! albums does Marisa find underrated? What did LC! newbie Sara think of all this? And what band does Rob reveal he hates (not the Eagles) (well, the Eagles, but also another one)?

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

The 20 Best Los Campesinos! Songs (So Far): Our Post in Lists

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

You must know by now that we here at SportsAlcohol.com love a good list. And while some of our recent comprehensive career-spanning list projects have addressed legends or beloved modern masters, we also have plenty of indie rock cult favorites who we love and obsess over just as much. So when Los Campesinos! emerged from their longest band hiatus ever to put out their new record Sick Scenes and do a proper U.S. tour, the first thing we knew… well, OK, the first thing we knew was that Rob, Jesse, and Marisa were going to listen to Sick Scenes at least a thousand times collectively over the next year, and the second thing we knew was that we were going to get in the ol’ soft mosh pit for their New York City tourdate. But the third thing we knew was that we were going to enlist some fellow fans of this seven-piece English indie-punk-tweemocore band and put together a list of their best tunes. Because they have so many, and because we perpetually wish more people would pay attention to them. Then again, I won’t deny that it sometimes feels good to flat-out worship some obscure-by-top-40-standards indie rock outfit and glory in their continuing existence. As one of the write-ups mentions below: People who don’t dislike or ignore this band tend to love the ever-loving fuck out of this band. This, I think, is how indie rock stays alive – not by selling out Radio City Music Hall.

Though they’ve only been around for about a decade, Los Campesinos! have released six studio albums as well as at least an album’s worth of B-sides, rarities, EP tracks, and Christmas songs. And honestly, even if they weren’t closing in on 100 to choose from, many of their songs have such an explosion of wordflow, energy, vocal byplay, and shout-along hooks that a mere 10 or 15 would seem too few. So we decided to make this list a muscular 20 songs long. Happily, the results reflect our LC! fandom at their every stage, from the youthful brio of 2008’s Hold On Now, Youngster… to the dire break-up stories of Hello Sadness to their more reflective, but still exuberant, 2017 incarnation. So get to reading and get to listening and maybe get to weeping angrily, if that’s your thing. We also have a podcast about our experiences with this band in general and at their recent live show in particular, as well as some discussion of other indie rock that popped out back in 2008. But first, our day in lists.
Continue reading The 20 Best Los Campesinos! Songs (So Far): Our Post in Lists

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Music of 2016

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Though we’re all eager to put 2016 in the rearview mirror, Rob, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse nonetheless got together to discuss the year in music on its way out: musician deaths, long-awaited returns, scrappy little sisters, and everything in between. This is our Best Music of 2016 podcast and it’s a good one, but we are glad it’s over.

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

SportsAlcohol.com’s Top Six Best Albums of 2016

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The SportsAlcohol.com music core is small but passionate, which means rather than issuing a bloated Top 50 Records of 2016, we’ve gotten it down to a simple six. There were other good, very good, even great albums that came out last year, but these are the half-dozen that meant the most to us, that we kept coming back to throughout the year, even when said albums didn’t arrive until relatively late in the game. If there’s a theme here, it’s veteran musicians returning to the fold in new, exciting, inventive ways that validated our initial love for a diverse range of old albums. Maybe that means we’re all past our prime, looking to past favorites for comfort. But I don’t think anyone could listen to these six albums and come away thinking that any of these artists are relying on past glories. 2016 is over; let it live on in these albums (and perhaps no other ways).

The Top Six Best Albums of 2016

Continue reading SportsAlcohol.com’s Top Six Best Albums of 2016

TRACK MARKS: What the Hell, You Weirdos Are All Too Good For “Creep,” by Radiohead?

Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Gripes

I used to have a long-ish commute. As expected, sometimes traffic would snarl to a halt. On one particularly backed-up day, I looked up and realized I had no idea where I was. Even though I was overly familiar with every inch of scenery on my way to and from work, having driven the same route every day, I never really had the chance to stop and look closely at some of the things I was passing.

After seeing our Best of Radiohead list, I realize that “Creep” is that stretch of landscape. People pass by it so often that they don’t stop to really listen to it anymore.

Continue reading TRACK MARKS: What the Hell, You Weirdos Are All Too Good For “Creep,” by Radiohead?

#IndieAmnesty, or Remember When You Used to Be a Rascal

Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Gripes

Like many music fans of a certain age, I spent a good chunk of my free time yesterday reading tweets with the hashtag #indieamnesty. If you weren’t as glued to the feed as I was, it went down like this: Teenagers, music fans, band members, and even politicians confessed their supposed crimes against music and/or themselves. It was an ode to time wasted on ill-advised message boards, embarrassing  run-ins with bands at gigs, misguided tastes, and poor fashion choices.

Some of the tweets were about old, ill-formed opinions, but most of them were memories of in-person escapades. As Spector’s Fred Macpherson wrote in the Guardian, “The most important events were never really the ones the NME were writing about, they were the things happening to you and your friends on the frontline...Indie amnesty brings together thousands of relatively banal anecdotes about unglamorous people doing slightly idiotic things into something quite majestic.”

It was also extremely time-specific. Though indie music certainly has a longer timeline, the #indieamnesty stories focused on a narrower scope, and the same band names kept coming up over and over again: the Strokes, the White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, the Libertines, the Arctic Monkeys, and Vampire Weekend.

Of course, some of the SportsAlcohol.com founders were not immune to #indieamnesty fever.

I wish the #indieamnesty feed could continue forever.

I loved it because I was there. I was the one making a fool out of myself at concerts, investing a ridiculous amount of money/time/energy going to shows,  and lurking in LiveJournal communities before posting in my own blog about gigs. I may not have a framed $20 bill that was given to me by Pete Doherty, but I know what it felt like to want to preserve a moment like that. I still have signed setlists hanging in my home office.

But what’s even better is the word choice in the hashtag. It’s not #indiememories. It’s #indieamnesty.

Conventional wisdom states that stuff that happened 20 years ago is cool. That’s why we’re having such a ’90s revival now (and why Happy Days was made in the ’70s about the ’50s, The Wonder Years was made in the ’80s about the ’60s, and That ’70s Show was made in the ’90s about the ’70s, and so on).

The flip side to that is that stuff that happened 10 years ago is supposed to be embarrassing, In the ’90s, people cringed at the hair metal and shoulder pads of the ’80s. In the ’00s, bands shunned the ’90s flannel and baggy Salvation Army gear for — of all things — tailored suits.

With #indieamnesty, music fans of today say they refuse to feel bad about the music they were into 10 years ago.  In Salon, Scott Timberg writes that you should “never apologize for carrying a Weezer lunch box.” I say that, whoever confessed it isn’t apologizing—she’s declaring amnesty. She’s not requesting a reprieve; she’s taking it. And that’s what I love most about it.

I haven’t been following the indie scene that closely recently. I don’t want to entirely blame this on my infant daughter, but she’s partially responsible. After reading these tweets, I hope she grows up to be a fan of something. I hope she daydreams about it, sketches it in the margins of all her notebooks, doodles it on her sneakers, make fake tattoos about it in sharpie (but only fake ones). And, when she’s old enough to know better,  I hope she declares amnesty of her own.

 

TRACK MARKS: “False Alphabet City” by Eleanor Friedberger

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Eleanor Friedberger used to live in my neighborhood. I’m pretty sure I passed her walking down my block once. Other people I’ve passed on the street in my neighborhood include Craig Finn and Ray from Girls, which is to say I might be priced out of Brooklyn before I’m done writing this. Back when Eleanor Friedberger lived in my neighborhood, she played a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, just south of here; the vast majority of times I’ve seen her play, either as a solo act or as part of her band the Fiery Furnaces, have been in Greenpoint (here, until I get priced out) or Williamsburg (just south of here, until I get priced out). At that Music Hall of Williamsburg show, I was in the front row, and toward the end of her encore during the song “My Mistakes,” she lowered herself from the stage onto the floor, using me and the guy next to me to help herself down. Offhand, I would call that brief moment the most intimate one I’ve shared with a professional rock and roll musician, especially if that sex dream I had about Shirley Manson doesn’t count. (It doesn’t count.) That moment, combined with passing her on Calyer Street, combined with the time I saw the Fiery Furnaces play at a club a block away from my old apartment that no longer exists (before you ask: both. The club no longer exists, and the apartment no longer exists, at least in the form it did when we lived there), combined with the lyric in “Owl’s Head Park” about posing for a photo on Manhattan Avenue, has lodged Eleanor Friedberger firmly into my head as one of the New Yorkiest of indie rockers. It’s a selfish distinction; she feels like New York City to me because I know that she knows my New York City – even if most of her New York references talk about further-flung places like Coney Island, Roosevelt Island, and Owl’s Head Park, places I go maybe once a year if ever; Owl’s Head Park being someplace I went mainly because of the song.

Those New York references I shouldn’t care that much about continue with “False Alphabet City,” her new single that doesn’t appear on her new album New View. She recorded it for some kind of film-based art project (oh, New York) but it stands alone just fine, even for a New Yorker who rarely finds himself in Actual Alphabet City. The way it starts with a stuttery creep throws back to her Fiery Furnaces days; the way the guitar swings in after seconds feels like a veer away from the Furnaces’ weirdness (though their pop instincts, occasionally deployed, were not too shabby). Where it really opens it up is its New York City sentiment: “Everyone’s searching for their own letter in the false alphabet city.” She’d know better than most, having spent over a decade in the city and only recently decamped for upstate. The NYC-centric lyrics, plus the tempo and instrumentation, don’t really fit in on New View, so it makes sense that it was left off; you wouldn’t want the best song on an album to be one that sounds nothing like the rest of it.

For most of her show last night at the Bowery Ballroom, I didn’t think Eleanor Friedberger was going to perform “False Alphabet City.” She played every song on New View, and had to play some older stuff, too (impeccably chosen), which didn’t seem to leave much room for a one-off single based on an art project. But she played it, late in the show, telling the crowd it was for us. That would sound like a cheesy rock-star sentiment coming from a lot of singers, but one of the more remarkable things about Eleanor Friedberger is the way she combines real, sometimes inscrutable charisma (that voice, those mysterious bangs) with a slight hesitation – she’s not a wild dancer on stage, but when she moves with her music, it looks natural and sincere. So when she tells me and a couple hundred other people that a song is for us, I believe her, no questions asked, even if I don’t see her around anymore.

Eleanor Friedberger is out on tour in support of New View right now.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Music of 2015

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Another year of music has gone by, with all of the ups and downs that entails. In conjunction with our recent list of the best albums of 2015, SportsAlcohol.com rock and rollers Rob, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse got together to talk about the best music of 2015 — not just the best albums, but our favorite songs, each other’s idiosyncratic tastes, thoughts on Top 40 pop, and some gripes about the worst the music industry has to offer. Listen to our best music of 2015 podcast to find out:

–How we felt about this year’s high-profile band reunions
–Why we all like Belle & Sebastian so damn much
–Who among us is the biggest Carly Rae Jepsen fan
–Why Rob is glad he didn’t have social media as a kid
–What songs or albums we’d strike from the 2015 record, if we could
–What our moms think

It’s one of our widest-ranging discussions, and you don’t need to be some kind of music snob to enjoy it! So go enjoy it!

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

You can also listen to some of the music we talk about in this Spotify playlist.

The Top Six Best Albums of 2015

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Last year, we kept it concise to bring you the top five records of 2014. Not 50, not 25, not even 10. Top 5, just like High Fidelity. Well, it’s been a productive year here at SportsAlcohol.com, so our music-voting core of Marisa, Sara, Rob, and Jesse decided we’d earned an extra spot. Maybe we can work our way up to a Top 10 over the next bunch of years, and achieve full Rolling Stone bloat by the time we’re, appropriately enough, in our seventies. In the meantime, here are the six records from 2015 that we most agreed on, full of brilliant women and unexpectedly wonderful reunions. We’ll discuss all of this and more on our podcast later this week; in the meantime, enjoy our top six.
Continue reading The Top Six Best Albums of 2015

TRACK MARKS: Best of 2015 – “Sapokanikan” by Joanna Newsom

Sara

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

Our Track Marks feature spotlights individual songs that SportsAlcohol.com contributors love. Looking back at the year, we’ve selected some of our favorite songs from albums that don’t appear on our Best Albums of 2015 list.

By this point it would be fruitless to come to a Joanna Newsom record with any expectations; she’s made a career of defying them. It can make her difficult for new listeners to approach but it’s also why she’s one of our most thrilling artists. There are constants throughout her four LPs thus far: the distinctive (some would say unbearable) voice, the ornate instrumentation, the GRE-vocab-level lyrics. Tagged as an elfin maid after her debut The Milk-Eyed Mender, Newsom zigged away from her freak-folk persona by putting out the sort of five-song suite that wouldn’t be out of place in the Renaissance, and her 2015 album sees her forging down another unforeseen path. Borne from the opposite inspiration of her previous record, 2010’s Have One on Me which was a three-disc eulogy for a dying relationship, Divers finds Newsom tackling another kind of darkness: the abstract, contradictory fear of loss that comes with being deeply happy.

This thematic through-line is perhaps least immediately evident in lead single “Sapokanikan” which both begins and ends with references to Shelley’s immortal poem of power’s futility “Ozymandias.” History, as the Trump-ian saying goes, is written by the winners, though Newsom’s not interested in known quantities but what lies underneath; the title is taken from a Native American settlement that, prior to the Dutch colonization of Manhattan, was located approximately in the area known nowadays as Greenwich Village (which is also where, in the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video, Newsom cheekily frolics.) Unfolding over a vast, unpredictable arrangement that recalls ragtime with a regimental beat, the lyrics weave a tale of empires conquered and chastened, lands recorded and erased, Newsom taking on various personas whose fate was molded and cast aside by greater unseen hands. “Will you tell the one that I loved to remember, and hold me?” she pleads at one point, but there is no answer for her as there isn’t for any of us.

If Newsom is interested in darkness here she’s also consumed by cycles, particularly those imposed by time, which marched on for those before us and will do so again. “The city is gone,” she sings at the song’s end, “look and despair.” But Divers is ultimately a tribute to love manifested as an echo, the final song “Time as a Symptom” cutting off in the middle of the word “transcend.” It’s startling at first but it’s also an invitation to turn the record on again, which begins with the word “sending,” thus closing the loop opened at the end. It’s an artist reaching out her hand to bring you back into her world, and ignore the advance of time a little longer.