It’s important to remember that indie-rockers in the ’80s never called themselves indie-rock; the vast majority assumed themselves as part of the punk tradition. We’ve backfilled the term indie-rock on those bands that were playing their music independently. (I am as guilty of this as anyone.) But it’s no surprise that ’80s rock from the independent scene has a vastly different vibe than indie-rock as we know it now: they saw themselves in a line of rejects with no expectations placed upon them, while much post-Pavement indie-rock self-consciously views itself as part of the pop tradition. That latter trait isn’t always a bad thing, but it does curtail a certain amount of experimentation and idiosyncrasy.
Glimmermen claim to be playing Urban Post-Rock Blues (?), but I think what they’re trying to say is “we do what we want.” And with the removal of the restrictor plates, the Dublin trio is able to open the throttle wide for their four-song Satellite People EP. Their sound is tough to pin down in words, so I can’t blame them for picking an esoteric set of them to try some self explanation: the title track combines a rigid rhythm with a laissez-faire guitar tone and rambling spoken word vocals, while “I’ll Be” brings an ominous edge to the sound with some angular (but not harsh) guitar. Sounds normal until the big reveal: both of these songs have a shaker as the distinctive rhythmic element. “I’ll Be” has a harmonica. “Satellite People” sounds like bizarro Red Hot Chili Peppers or something, what with the “monkeys on the moon” reference. This is abnormal music.
Abnormal, but in the best way. The tunes have a rare pull that comes from not being able to easily classify their work. With few easy mentions other than, “that good old indie ethos, back when it was the punk rock ethos but not really anymore,” Glimmermen command attention. They reward the attention, too; this is genuinely fun stuff to listen to, partially because of its challenge and partially because they’re not afraid to yell “yeehaw!” in the middle of a song because they feel like it. Rock on, Glimmermen.
Restorations‘ self-titled album was one of my favorites of the year in 2011, and their A/B 7″ is impressive enough to be in the conversation for 2012, even though it’s a scant two songs. The tunes, appropriately named “A” and “B,” have all of the passion and power of their self-titled release while adding more creative songwriting tricks. This rock band doesn’t v/c/v; they swoop in and out with guitars, throw down raging sections of gruff sing-a-long, knock it down to build it back up, and more in the 10:17 that Restorations throws at you.
And it is hurled across the table at you; there’s a headlong fervor in these songs that comes from the fact that they’re really good at writing songs and playing their instruments. It sounds like they’ve not only done their homework, but they’ve been the homework. You can almost hear them building off old songs from their old bands, taking sudden corners that they wouldn’t have taken before, going over there when the established move is staying over here in this area. This is music that doesn’t feel like packaged, self-aware pop songs. These songs feel like an unstoppable overflow. A/B doesn’t seem calculated, it seems inevitable. How could you not want in on something that gripping?
I’m incredibly excited that I’ve finished my year-end lists actually correspond with the end of the year. Without further pontificating, here’s the first half of the year’s best.
Honorable Mention: LCD Soundsystem – Madison Square Garden Show. It’s not an official release, but it proves that the tightest live band in the world only got tighter with time. “Yeah” is an absolute powerhouse.
I love the emotive power of music. I listen to music so I can be transported out of this time and space. I go to shows to hear someone else play my heart. If it doesn’t have life running in and out of it, I’m in and out of there.
That’s part of the reason I grew out of pop-punk; I lost my connection to its heart. I still find a punk band every now and then that gets it, and I love it. Restorations, however, is a totally different animal. These guys sound like they have the same story as me: loved that punk, grew out of the four-on-the-floor charge, and started relating differently to everything. Not less passionately, but differently. Lots of people quit music at this point in their lives. Restorations didn’t, and I’m super-excited that, instead, this is where their story starts.
The band can really crank it out – be assured of that. This is a rock band. But this is the type of rock band that builds to earns your trust. Opener “Nonlocality” doesn’t blow the hinges off the door: they ease in before kicking the door down with “West River.”
The rolling snare and harmonies of “Nonlocality” make it clear that these guys have the patience and maturity to realize that the shiver-inducing first vocal entry is worth the effort. When the bass-end-heavy guitar comes swooping in 3/4ths of the way through, I wanted it there. It was a cathartic moment.
The rest of the songs have similar traits. The gruff vocals and punk energy of “Neighborhood Song” fit because the band has earned my trust. I want to know why they feel like the charging guitars are necessary (and they do reveal it). “Broken Vacuum” has a latent energy about it that makes it a joy to drive to. I can’t even explain to you how powerful “When You’re Older” is. Just go hear it.
Restorations’ self-titled album has a mature power that leaves an impact. Their restraint makes a bigger bang than other “louder” bands, because they’ve set up the big moments better than straightforward ragers. It’s like if old-school Arcade Fire had a heavy guitarist, or if Appleseed Cast let things loose a bit. It’s an incredible album, and it just keeps growing on me.
This is the sort of band that sings people’s lives. There is life after age 23, and Restorations plays it.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.