Following the release of their 2010 debut album, ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces,’ L.A.-based Fitz and the Tantrums became a band to watch. The critically acclaimed record yielded a string of successful singles and guest spots on a variety of late night talk shows, including ‘Kimmel’ and ‘Leno.’ Unsurprisingly, though, some questioned how long the band could maintain the retro soul-pop direction they established on ‘Pieces.’
Some musicians are suited for supporting roles, assisting "true artists" in achieving their goals by filling in any cracks that might prevent them from realizing their potential. Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall's trusted friend and bass player, might have seemed like one of these valuable supporting characters, but then he dropped solo debut in 2011.
Would any of us care so much about Deerhunter without the schtick? From day one, Bradford Cox has been an indie-rock provocateur (pushing buttons with his volatile stage presence, giving some of the weirdest interviews in rock history), and his unusual backstory (asexual outcast with Marfan syndrome) is as recognizable as his band's music. Given all that, it's easy to overlook Deerhunter's blemish-free track-record: Their dizzying run from 2007's 'Cryptograms' to 2010's 'Halcyon Digest' rivals that of any modern rock band, "indie" or otherwise.
It is a cruel, unfair reality that musical tastes can change in the time it takes to make an album. Just as Beach House are at their peak of popularity, fellow dream-pop acts like Chairlift, Memoryhouse and Chromatics rise to the fore, making the field seem crowded, despite their unique sounds. Into the fray come Still Corners with their sophomore album. To dismiss the band as also-rans because of their general similarity to those aforementioned acts would be unfair, but despite capable songwriting and arrangements, they add little to the conversation, and that's hard to ignore.
In the long lineage of actors-turned-pop-songwriters, Zooey Deschanel is one of the few with serious credentials as both. But her image, in many ways, precedes her and prevents any valid discussion of her musical skill. The doe-eyed former Mrs. Ben Gibbard is the tabloid it-girl heartthrob of indie culture, and She & Him, her partnership with classic-pop troubadour M. Ward, has naturally been a bit overshadowed by her celebrity.
Music fandom has many peculiar aspects, but the the desire to lay claim to a band or an artist is among the most ridiculous. Rarely can one single source rightfully claim to have discovered a new artist, and many times, it's not the discovery that people want credit for, but rather the long-term backing they've given bands, even before they were cool.
Andrew McMahon’s ‘The Pop Underground' may be the singer-songwriter's first effort under his own name, but it’s certainly not his first contribution to the indie-pop and piano-rock scenes. The four-song EP comes less than a year after the former Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin frontman retired the latter moniker. In interviews, McMahon has explained that Jack’s Mannequin was a means to create something new following Something Corporate’s hiatus, but the name soon became associated with his own battle with cancer. With ‘The Pop Underground,’ he's forging a new path.
You may have heard Colin Stetson before. The saxophone auteur is a touring member of the Arcade Fire and Bon Iver, and he’s recorded and performed with the likes of Tom Waits, Anthony Braxton, Fiest, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, David Byrne, TV on the Radio and LCD Soundsystem. Hopefully, you know a few of those names. With the 2011 release of his third LP, ‘New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges,’ Stetson carved a place out for himself as a solo musician as well, showcasing a viciously unique approach to his trademark bass saxophone, recording sprawling, multi-layered solo tracks in a single go.
In the introduction for their fifth LP, !!! reveal that they did, indeed, mean for something to be inferred by the album's title. Just as that other record called 'Thriller' represents a high-water mark, both creatively and commercially, for its artist and genre (Michael Jackson and pop), this record marks a peak for the California dance-punks. The cleverly placed exclamation marks might have been the deciding factor, but !!! think this is their 'Thriller,' and it's pretty hard to disagree with that.
Those without the surname Pop may do well to step aside after the age of 65 and let the young blood through. Iggy, however, keeps going. The 66-year-old Godfather of Punk is back with the Stooges for a new studio album, 'Ready to Die,' which may please the sector of fans simply looking for a familiar fix of the iconic group's patented raw power.