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Pandering to Indie Fans: The Forgotten Indie Rock Albums

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As much as you may see yourself as an open-minded, cosmopolitan freethinker, whether you know it or not, most people see you quite differently. For myself, playing in the band that I do, I'm fully aware that I've been pigeonholed, rather superglued, to the idea of embodying some sort of one-dimensional rocker character, unable to appreciate anything that is not set within the narrow-minded confines of what others think Rock is supposed represent.

This branding comes from people who see themselves as the polar opposite. They are, in their mind's eyes, very cultured and urbane, open and receptive to all ideas. When it comes to music, their tastes seem broad and comprehensive. But when you broach the subject of Rock they spin their wheels and quickly dismiss it as music for bottom feeders; a clever trick in order to evade suspicion that they're astuteness is merely a pose.

I am fully aware that the world of softer "indie" music embodies much of today's musical ethos (even though a lot of "indie" music is housed by major labels thus nullifying the word "indie", but I digress...). Its sensitive, quieter, emotive sounds often get interpreted for pensive, mature and insightful which I find erroneous. I also consider it amusing that volume level, or lack thereof, and acoustic instrumentation have somehow managed to oddly become indicators of wisdom and sophistication.

In a world where social circles are often determined by musical taste, it's politically inadvisable to harbour a taste in Rock. Of course, as my personal history will dictate, when I'm politely suggested to not do something I stubbornly do it in spades. In fact, taking my quiet enjoyment of Rock and parading it around has been fuelled by these social dictates much to the chagrin of my more socially pliant friends.

However, I've previously written about the importance of balance and no more is it important than listening to music. In order for bands like Converge, Gojira or The Stooges to have any severe audible impact they must be offset by listening to a certain amount of disparate music and vice versa. Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night" sounds 10 times more poignant after a weekend of non-stop death metal, trust me.

Offsetting my penchant for all things heavy with softer music listening keeps my chakras aligned and over the course of time, has made me genuinely appreciate it. When I rail publicly against the endless vaunting of adult contemporary darlings like Coldplay or Mumford & Sons, it's only an attempt to square up both sides of the fence when I see other harder music comparatively play to the sound of crickets.

In an effort to pander to the passive aggressive, more compliant indie crowd, I proffer my list of Forgotten Indie Rock records that I've held close to the vest for some time. This is for the people who got into Arcade Fire three years ago but sneer when the very mention of Motorhead or Darkthrone get brought up. They are the same people who snicker and ask me what I'm doing at an Interpol show but can't tell you who wrote "Good Morning, Captain." They think "Lust For Life" was purposely written for Trainspotting. Before I come off any more juvenile, here's the list:

Weeping Willows - Broken Promise Land (Grand Recordings/1997)
There aren't enough wrists to slit when it comes to this band. Perpetually heartbroken, who can't find a little bit of solace in this band when, no matter how dejected you feel, they have you beat.

Smog - Kicking A Couple Around (Drag City/1996)
This e.p. directly influenced our band lyrically when it was released. Notably produced by Steve Albini, the songs are emotionally raw, almost shameless, with songs like "Your New Friend" and "Back In School." It's like an audible car crash in slow motion and you can't stop listening. Never met Bill Callahan but if he's anything like these songs, he's one fucked up dude.

P.W. Long's Reelfoot - We Didn't See You On Sunday (Touch & Go/1997)
Straight from disbanding his Michigan trio, Mule, lead vocalist P.W. Long up and made this solo album de jour exemplifying what Mule only hinted at on previous records -- a whisky-voiced troubadour with a knack for writing heartfelt ballads. It was this seamless transition from the punk blues of Mule that was most impressive.

Bedhead - Transaction De Novo (Trance Syndicate/1998)
I'm well aware that I'm naturally high-strung and wound up a little too tight for some. Albums like Transaction De Novo do much to take that edge off and loosen the grip. I'll forget about putting this record on but get reminded when I've reached a serene, albeit glum, state.

Sam Prekop - S/T (Thrill Jockey/1999)
With a voice that's smooth as silk sheets, three-ply toilet paper and mango lassis, Sam Prekop's voice was always the reason that drew me to Sea & Cake records. I liken this album to an Instagram filter one puts on an otherwise stock photograph.

Stars Of The Lid - The Ballasted Orchestra (Kranky/1997)
I gotta admit, the first time I heard Stars Of The Lid was watching them live when a friend's band opened. I had no idea who they were but I liked what I heard and bought The Ballasted Orchestra. Ambient drone stuff isn't exactly what I'd call a carousing night on the town but in one's headphones on deep dark nights it's a must.

Logh - Every Time A Bell Rings An Angel Gets His Wings (Bad Taste/2002)
This album accompanied me on long winter tours abroad during the years of 2002 and 2003. I'd turn this album on when the sun would start to set at 4pm, tune out my surroundings and watch the outside world while listening to this ethereal one.

Rodan - Rusty (Quarterstick/1994)
Out of all the bands that arose strictly from Slint's 1991 Spiderland album, Rodan have to be the best of the bunch. The Rusty album, produced by Bob Weston, veers from rockers like "Shiner" to their magnum opus, "The Everyday World Of Bodies." Members went on to form even more Slint-like bands (June of 44, Shipping News).

Spain - The Blue Moods Of Spain (Restless/1995)
Josh Haden pretty much hit it out of the park with Spain's debut. The title nails it on its head -- a strictly nighttime listening album. It can simultaneously seduce, comfort and haunt. Still waiting for when the timeless "Ray Of Light" ascends to its rightful spot as pop culture staple though.

Steve Von Till - If I Should Fall To The Field (Neurot/2002)
As singer for Neurosis, Von Till showcases the quieter side of his vocal prowess on his solo efforts. No growling needed when the songs get more haunting as quiet as a Mark Lanegan purr. There's an disconcerting unresolved feeling throughout the record. Perfect.