Was democracy REALLY on the ballot, or was it some diabolical plot to trap us in political season until Christmas? Never you mind…I have just the tonic to wake you up from this political fugue state. Here is a bunch of terrific November indie music you can read about and listen to all in one convenient, non-partisan package.
Let’s do this!
“Ricochet” – Preoccupations (Arrangements)
It is an indisputable law of physics that rock and roll suffers from a lack of drum solos. At what time have you ever heard someone rage on the kit and thought, “well that was loud and excessive.” NEVER, that’s when, because drum solos are self-justifying. They don’t need your permission.
Calgary’s Preoccupations, née Viet Cong, released Arrangements in September. It includes a mad percussive walkaway on the shimmering “Ricochet,” not unlike Terry Chambers violent hammering on XTC’s “Travels In Nihilon.”
Click to listen to more of my favorite songs from earlier this year…
All things considered, summer 2022 is still miles ahead of 2020. No corona…just a divided country, peak anxiety and climate change. Good times! So, for the balance of July and the torpid month of August, here are some of my top indie songs of 2022 to bump until Labor Day.…
“Carl Sagan” – Torres Satélite (Mundos y Estrellas)
How could I let more than 2 or 3 weeks go by without another love letter to Spanish-language indie pop?!
I haven’t tracked down a ton of information about Spain’s Torres Satélite. Their latest, Mundos y Estrellas has been on my “Must Buy” list since I heard it last month. At the least, here is a review of 2020’s La Ventana Discreta when Torres Satélite first popped onto the scene with the Discos de Kirlian label. And who needs much more background? Everything you need to know is wrapped inside the 2 minutes and 52 seconds of pop bliss that is “Carl Sagan.”
Download Mundos y Estrellas and follow Discos de Kirlian today!
“The Sir Tommy Shovell” – Robyn Hitchcock (Shufflemania!)
A couple of things about Robyn Hitchcock.
First, he is British rock royalty. Robyn isn’t David Bowie but he is absolutely an extension of the same conversation. Why haven’t I heard of him, then?” you ask. Fair question. He came of age in the late 70’s leading The Soft Boys, whom you also haven’t heard of. I honestly can’t recall if I’ve actually bought the Soft Boys‘ Underwater Moonlight, so I guess we’re all in the same boat. Suffice it to say, 22 albums later, REM and bunch of other musicians you enjoy today grew up listening to his eccentric catalogue.
Second, I had the occasion to meet and be gently accosted by the legend. Hitchcock, Billy Bragg and REM played NPR’s “Mountain Stage” in 1991. I don’t have a super clear memory of seeing REM that day, so I don’t recall if I was manhandled by Hitchcock after that show or a later concert. But the story goes like this: I was holding and possibly reading from a textbook at an afterparty. Hitchcock grabbed the book from me and began reciting from it and embarrassing me/secretly delighting me. Also I will never forget looking up at him, he must be seven feet tall.
Shufflemania! came out about three weeks ago and includes this delightful song you need to hear today, “The Sir Tommy Shovell.”
Side Note: The sometimes enigmatic Billy Bragg
Finally, have you forgotten where you know the name Billy Bragg? He revises the lyrics of “The Great Leap Forward” about every two years, not always to great effect. The shared humanity is in the audience sing-a-long with the chorus. Here is the post-performance of “Leap Forward” on Mountain Stage in 1991 after the national broadcast has ended. Michael Stipe makes a cameo.
“Ships in the Night” – Anthony D’Amato (At First There Was Nothing)
Let’s stay on this Mountain Stage theme, shall we?
Two weeks ago, Anthony D’Amato released At First There Was Nothing. D’Amato had moved from New York to Utah to record his fifth album with Joshua James. He appeared on Mountain Stage in October, where I got to see him in an after-show performance at Charleston’s Empty Glass pub.
At First There Was Nothing is a collection of disparate styles from folk to soft rock and, a little strangely, 70’s Blue Oyster Cult-style AOR. Here is D’Amato at his strongest, in the straight-forward American folk tradition of “Ships in the Night.”
“Neon Memories” – Death’s Dynamic Shroud (Darklife)
We’re still following a thread here, even if it isn’t obvious. I picked up on Death’s Dynamic Shroud out of Los Angeles as a recommendation from the kids at my college radio station in October. Kids these days.
I didn’t get all the way with September’s Darklife, but enjoyed the warm harmonies and Panda Bear theater-of-the-mind of “Neon Memories.”
November indie music for all ages!
Get your copy of Darklife from Death’s Dynamic Shroud!
“(Herman’s) House” – Special Interest (Endure)
We’re at that point of the night where I could just keep going and going. Need to bring this home.
What November indie music post would be complete without a review of the first week of blog buzz about Special Interest?! The New Orleans group has earned band-of-the-moment status with the terrific no-wave Endure. They’re like an angry B-52’s but with darker, roiling political statements. Original single “(Herman’s) House” tells the story of Black Panther Herman Wallace, who died three days after decades of solitary confinement for a crime he claimed he did not commit.
If it only sounds like house music (pun intended, sorry not sorry), don’t be deceived. “(Herman’s) House” is an angry song for angry times.
Get Endure today from Rough Trade.
“Greatest Hits” – Jockstrap (I Love You, Jennifer B)
Yes, I understand this band decided to name itself Jockstrap. I need to write an entire post on awful band names. But suspend disbelief for this delight.
London’s Jockstrap are Taylor Skye and violinist Georgia Ellery, who have been putting out music since 2018. Ellery in particular keeps busy. Besides finishing art school, she also performs with Black Country, New Road and Goat Girl.
Their full-length debut is I Love You, Jennifer B, on which Ellery layers sung and whispered PG-13 lyrics over the top of a fairly complex concoction of ambience, EDM, and jazz. If challenging, it is more accessible than the neurotic, halting beats of earlier Jockstrap experiments like 2018’s “Charlotte.”
Standouts for me are “Greatest Hits” and first single “Glasgow.”
Buy I Love You, Jennifer B at Bandcamp.
“Dressed in Black” – Ezra Furman (All of Us in Flames)
How about some wistful American glam rock as a closer?
“Dressed in Black” by Ezra Furman has all of the things you want from a girl group condensed into a torchlit piano ballad. Her August album All of Us in Flames is a slow burn but gets better with each spin. Furman has been at this for 15 years, but at least not on my personal radar. Furman reached greater audiences as she expanded from her solo work to the soundtrack for Sex Education on Netflix.
Here is “Dressed in Black,” and the 50’s love songs it updates in such a muscular and confident way. Love this.
You can still buy Furman’s music bundled with merch at her website!
The election is still going, and so is a great month of November indie music
The Republic will survive and at the end of this long year you’ll want to appreciate the best she has to offer. Spend a little money, love your kids and listen to the best music mankind has ever produced. It gets better year after year, if you only have the patience to find it.
November indie music is just the latest chapter….maybe we’ll do this again before the new year and another election cycle!